The weather in the Midwest can be distilled down to one word: snow. And while school has been canceled and traffic has slowed, my kids have kept going (and going!).
I have one secret to keeping the sanity when school is out and my kids are looking for entertainment. And that secret is play dates.
I’m pro-play dates for so many reasons.
There’s something about adding in another personality that breaks things up and adds a splash of fun to the everyday. I love watching my kids in the role of host and I’m grateful for the glimpse into how they play and who they’re playing with.
I keep play dates simple, with the focus on play, but I do plan ahead for the sake of keeping things smooth.
Here are five tips for hosting stellar play dates.
I have three kids at three different ages. When I let one kid have a play date, I plan ahead for the other two. Either they get to have a friend over as well or I keep in mind what they can do while their sibling is playing with someone else. If it works out, it actually tends to be easier to let everyone have a friend over. But when that’s not a choice, I make myself available to the other two.
There are so many benefits to just letting kids play. Unplanned and unstructured time tends to lead to the creativity and bonding that solidifies friendships. “Go play” is always my first answer to “What should we do?”
It is nice to have something planned in your back pocket if they just can’t figure it out. Board games, art projects, baking together or science experiments are fun activities to have in mind. Make sure you have the ingredients you need for these on hand!
Snacks are an important part of any gathering, and play dates are no exception. I always plan for something simple and healthy to eat and drink that will keep everyone’s energy up, and something fun that feels like a treat.
I begin with snacks such as string cheese, apple slices or almonds served with milk, water or juice. My kids love the bold flavors of Mott's Fruit Punch Rush and Mott's Wild Grape Surge, I feel good about the 40 percent less sugar than fruit juice and no artificial sweeteners and the 8-ounce six-packs make serving and cleanup so easy.
And as for the treat, I love simple snacks that pack a powerfully fun punch. Party Popcorn is one of my kids’ play date favorites and it’s so very simple to make. Kids love helping with this one. It can be quickly prepared in advance or it can be fun to make together during the play date!
Taking a cue from the ever-popular movie Frozen, my last play date tip is to let it go. Remind your kids to be kind hosts and include their siblings if they can. But if things get a little noisy or messy, remember that your goal has been met: Your kids have had fun and have practiced socializing and hosting. Messes can always be cleaned up. I sometimes ask kids to clean up big messes from one activity before they move onto the next, or I end things 10 to 15 minutes before pickup time so they can clean before our play date wraps up.
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