Tuesday, 11 August 2009

We can take turns, can’t we?

Yesterday, Rosemary had her first play date. Well, it was the first time she had a friend round to play, rather than a cousin or a younger child of one of my friends. N goes to the same playgroup and lives round the corner, and they’ve got on extremely well ever since they first walked up the hill together. N and her one-year-old sister and mum came to Rosemary’s birthday last week (the only other child there was Rosemary’s cousin, due to my being very disorganised), but yesterday was a proper play date (I think, unless I have the definition wrong!), where N came round to play on her own.

They played very well together. I was able to get the dishwasher filled, a load of washing on and caught up on the recycling. I even managed to sit on the stoop and catch up on my Google Reader items, while they played in the new sandpit. There were a couple of incidents, where they were both going for the same thing – for example, I was reading a book to them and dropped it and they were both trying to be so helpful that they bumped heads and both cried about the other one picking up the book; my solution was to drop another book for Rosemary to pick. But, for the most part they were very nice to each other, and I heard lots of ‘We can share, can’t we?’ and ‘You can use the rolling pin now and then I can use it when you’ve finished.’ and ‘I’ll play with this baby, and you can play with this one or this one, if you like’ and ‘We’re best friends, aren’t we?’ N was very polite, asking me (“Rosemary’s Mummy”) if it was OK to play with things before getting them out and was fine if I said we couldn’t get something out.

They did a fair bit of imaginative play together – babies, doctors, picnics, going to the beach, shops – and they played in the sandpit, played with the playdough, did some sticking and had some stories. There was pretty much no floor visible by the time N’s mum arrived to pick her up, but it was worth it to witness such lovely co-operative play. N didn’t want to go home when her mum turned up, and Rosemary didn’t want her to go. They both started to get a bit grumpy, then, arguing over some stickers and a few other little things – but clearly because they were disappointed and a bit tired by then. Rosemary will be going round to N’s house on Thursday.

All in all, it was very successful and did only take me about 15 minutes to tidy up the living room after Rosemary had gone to bed. I hope there are many more play dates to come – with N and with other children from playgroup. (As an added bonus, N’s mum is very nice, too, and I think she may be my first playgroup/school mum friend. So it is possible, after all. Though it was actually Chris who got her phone number for me.)

Do you enjoy having your children’s friends round to play, or is it a nuisance? Do they have local friends you can call at the last minute to suggest a play date, or is it all organised months in advance? Do you have any tips for continued play date success?


  1. Ooh, I haven't done a real live play date yet - another thing to look forward to when monkey is a bit older! I'd be interested in others' responses - it feels like there are some mysterious 'rules' and etiquette I will be initiated into at some point as mo key gets nearer school age...

    Glad you all had a good time.

  2. I love my children having their friends round to play! They tend not to get so bored and will happily play with toys they ignore when they are alone.

    We have last minute playdates but most are organised well in advance - that's partly because I have four children and we have a busy social schedule.

    If I like the mum she often comes too - I am often cooking for eight children while a friend and I chat!

    I think the key to play date success is having something organised to do if it all starts going a bit wrong - like the playdough and stories you did, or cooking - something to take the focus off the 'friends' bit if it's not going too well or they're fed up and it's not pick up time yet.

    I usually invite friends for play and a meal - it breaks up the playdate a bit and encourages my children to eat other things when they go to other people's houses, although I think that is perhaps better for slightly older children (school-age). I also encourage the children to tidy up (a bit at least) usually before we eat. For little ones, I make a game of it and we usually sing a song, they like it and I think it's a good precedent to set. It also saves my sanity as I don't have time at the moment to tidy up in the evenings.

    The only real problem I've come across on playdates is the boys or their friends asking (and in some cases demanding!) to watch television or play the playstation. I'm still negotiating what's best on that score - so far I say tidy up then half an hour of playstation before we eat.

    It sounds like your playdate when really well and I'm so glad you have found a friend for you as well. I think when children are small it can be quite difficult to make friends with other mums but it gets SO much easier when they are at school, especially as most mums want their own children off on playdates at least some of the time so everyone has an incentive to make friends.

  3. Most of the time it's great, especially the 5 year old. She goes off with her friends and they get lost in a make believe world of baby dolls BUT enter the 3 year old who can't understand why the 5 year old doesn't want to play with him and the arguing starts.

    I feel his pain as she drops him like a hot potato at the sniff of a friend to play and suddenly enforces a 'no boys' rule.

    I end up playing with him to distract him.

  4. Playdates : the saviour of the single child mum! Yes encourage them, some will go well, some won't. Some kids you will enjoy having again and again and others once had will be discouraged from coming again for ever more.

    I agree with having a fall back plan - mine was always baking cup cakes or biscuits - because it takes a lot of time to have them weighing out, mixing up, filling cake cases or cutting biscuits, decorating paper plates to put them on while they cook and then washing up - what a mess but what fun. If they play happily without your help - let them; it's a lovely break for mum and good for the kids. By the age of 7 weekend play dates started to turn into sleepovers. And as they get more independent in play it gets to be more and more fun.

    I made 2 very good friends starting from mum chats over coffee at pick up time.

    so pleased it went well for you

  5. playdates are fun from here too.

  6. Keep them short! Most play dates go fine (generalising here) till the children get tired, and that's when the arguing and bad feelings start. If they do get tired, don't hesitate to put the tv on, and give them something to eat/drink. It doesn't all have to be full-on playtime.

    And don't compete. This is about children having fun. It's not about whose mummy does the most exciting craft activity with other people's children. You'd be surprised how many mums see it that way, though most are just very happy to have their own child entertained so they can get on with other stuff - as you did.

  7. Meme'd (if that's a word..) you at mine!


  8. Platespinner: Well, I have no idea about the rules and etiquette, but you're right, there probably are a whole bunch - will let you know if I ever find out.

    Ella: Goodness, you sound so organised! Can't imagine having 8 children in the house at one time. Your tips are very useful, thank you, and I shall come back to this post next time Rosemary has a friend round to remind myself of what to do!

    Laura: Oh, I can imagine it could be very difficult for him when his sister suddenly has someone different to play with. I imagine I will find out what that's like in a few years!

    Keloggsville: Ooh, baking! That's an excellent back-up plan. Rosemary and I do a lot of baking, so it wouldn't be difficult.

    Grit: So do all three of them have a friend each over, or do they share?

    Iota: Mums compete over craft activities?! Goodness. Hope I can avoid them!

  9. Platespinner: And thanks for the meme. Will try to fit that in soon!

  10. I'm always happy if a child has a tantrum when they leave - it shows they've had a great time!! We're always having people over to play here - and the house is always a complete tip. Unfortunately I let them play is every room (not to be recommended) so I often have about 4 rooms to tidy when they leave. The real problems I get are when a friend of Renée's comes over and Edie wants to play too - obviously...but three is more often than not a crowd and they have such different needs at 2 and 4 (or 5 now)!! Never easy, but it gets much easier as they get older. x

  11. Play dates are now getting a bit grown up in my house but the garden is always great fun as we have a tub full of newts and frogs. I've always like to have lots of kids around, especially as I've only got one. Cake decorating, putting toppings on pizza, Lips on Xbox, karaoke and dressing up always work. I've given up on laying a table out and always do a 'picnic' - I mean, it's going to go on the floor anyway isn't it. Oh and NEVER any food or painting upstairs...that's a big rule due to past experiences x