[By Claire Chadwick]
For fulltime stay-at-home parents organising and attending play-dates is almost a must. The days can be long and repetitive …and even lonely. I know from my experience with my stay at home days, I started to yearn for adult conversation.
Putting aside our needs as adults to interact and get out of the house, play-dates are also important for the social development of our little ones. Being around other children is vital in their understanding of the world around them. Giving children the chance to experience conversation, play, turn-taking and public experiences from a young age, plays a large role in their personality development and their social skills.
When my firstborn was a baby, I found play-dates easy to organise in regards to venue, because the bubs just lay there. Through the local health centre, I joined a Mothers’ Group and we organised amongst ourselves weekly catch-ups. It was usually at someone’s house and we all brought a plate of food to share. The bubs would lay on little mats and play with toys while we, the adults, got to chat, cry, laugh and connect. As the babies got bigger and busier and louder, we had to start being creative with venues and play-date ideas.
For some, the idea of organising and attending a play-date is overwhelming. Even us grown-ups have social fears and anxious emotions. If this is you, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. A lot of mothers, stress about the ins and outs of social get-togethers with other strangers. But something I’ve learnt during my adult years is that usually good things come, when we take a leap of faith or creep outside of our comfort zones.
Start simple – team up.
Maybe ask a family member if you could come along to her playgroup for a visit. Having a familiar face who can introduce you to the group definitely takes the jitters away. Or ask a friend and her children to come along with you. Having a go and showing up, is always made easier with a friend by your side.
Join an organised group.
If the concept of a ‘play-date’ scares the bejeezus out of you, then let someone else start the process for you. Take your little one to an organised playgroup, KindyGym, ballet lesson, swim school, music class or art and craft group and meet other parents that way. Once you’ve attended a few classes and started to get to know the other Mums or Dads, you can then broaden out to organising other play-dates with them.
Relax. We’re all in the same boat.
Although some other parents look like they have it all together as well as a huge dose of social confidence oozing out of them, remember more than not, they don’t! We’re all in the same game of life – trying to give our kids the best start to life, whilst also attending our own needs. We all have fears and nerves and hesitations. Try and step out of that scared zone and realise we’re all paddling that same parenting boat. Having other parent friends with kids similar ages to yours, can be a very connective and special bond. Breathe. Enjoy a new friendship for what it is and take away the pressure to be perfect or to fit a certain social mould.
Once the children are crawling, walking and interacting, start getting creative with your play-dates. Both adults and children can gain so much from a fun day with friends.
- Head to the park or beach
- Attend the local library’s reading sessions or craft courses.
- Take the kids to a fruit farm where they can pick their own.
- Organise a trip to the local Fire Station – some stations will take you on a tour – boys LOVE this.
- Keep up to date with what’s on at the local art galleries or museums. These organised activities are usually free of charge. The kids get educated whilst having fun and you too can experience this magic with them.
- Walk around the markets, buying fresh produce and then take the kids to a playground for some relaxing fun.
- Find out if your local gym or PCYC offers open sessions, where you can take the kids for some energetic play.
- Go to a kids cooking class.
- Enjoy a day at a proper, Council run, bike riding park.
- Have a picnic in a forest or State park.
- Go on a nature walk / bug hunt.
- Invite the children and their parents over for some structured play – have some playdough out, some basic art & craft materials, construction toys and a water trough etc.
- Have them over to make pizzas and watch movies.
- Host an evening disco.
Spruce up your play-date experiences so that both you and your children are getting the most out of these friendships and social situations.
Claire Chadwick is a mother of two, a wife, a children’s Author and a life lover. She was a Primary School Teacher for ten years before she embarked on Motherhood, and freelance writing. She is a lover of summer, coffee, the colour pink and hearing her children laugh. Claire blogs daily about parenting and life from her Brisbane home at www.claireeverafter.com and has recently launched a successful and fun children’s book called So Many Sounds. You can find out more about Claire and her book at: www.clairechadwick.com.au Claire believes in living a wholesome life full of rich memories and cherished moments. Her weaknesses: designer handbags, good champagne and a jar of Nutella.