Most moms would say that a play date involves the kids playing together, while the moms sit and catch up. I would say the same, although in our world there is anther kind of play date. This one includes me, Cali, Ava, and one friend. Not two friends or three, just one and no other moms. Why no other moms? Well, Cali has a difficult time staying with the group and attending to her friends, so if another mom were present, I would inevitably be distracted and thus forget about helping Cali learn how to play. I usually plan out my week on Sunday nights and figure out which days are going to work to have our kind of play date. I plan ahead because, well, let’s be honest, I’m nuerotic about planning and being organized, but…also because it allows me to prep the day before to know what activities we are going to be playing during the play date. For example, a few weeks ago we had a cute little friend named Coco come and play. Before she came I knew we were going to first play hide and seek, then animal shadows in the closet, next was dress-up and last would be free time for them to do what they wanted. Seems a little extreme, I know. But let me remind you that if I allowed them to have free time the entire time, Cali would be off doing her own thing and Coco would probably approach Cali on one or two occasions before giving up on her. During “normal” play dates, this is what I see every time. Oh and I can’t forget about Ava…she will usually be in and out of the play, but mostly stick to being my side kick:) I also, use one of the most “powerful tools” to transition us from one activity to another (more on transitioning to come…). The timer on my phone! The timer helps Cali, Ava, and the friend be able to anticipate when the activity is coming to a close. If the activity is something they prefer, the timer helps to ease them out of it without any meltdowns, to prep them. Let me put it this way: I LOVE watching The Biggest Loser. When it is scheduled to come on, I look forward to it all day:) Now, if someone were to come into the family room, where I sit and watch, and quickly tell me its time to stop watching while abruptly turning off the TV, I would NOT be a happy camper. I would much rather have some kind of prep to this change. The same goes for kids. Don’t they deserve some prep time too?? There is a chance the activity will not be preferred and they would rather move on to something else. This actually was the case when I told the girls we were going to play hide and seek first. But again, the timer helps. It motivates them to actually engage in the activity. This is because they know there is a definite start and stop time. Let me give another personal experience to drive in this thought. I don’t prefer running long distances. Let me rephrase…I hate running long distances. So with that, the only way to make it bearable is to have a definite length of time I am going to run. Whether I gauge it by time or distance, doesn’t matter. As long as I know when the stop point is, I can make it through.
Once I establish what we are going to be doing during the play date, I make sure of a few key things, along with using the timer, while we are playing :
Keep the girls playing together. If Cali starts to lose Coco or whoever, I bring her back and tell her to “play together”
Stay with the group. If Cali starts to wander off, I tell her “stay with the group”. And I remember to use this same phrase EVERY time I want her to stay with the group.
Making eye contact when talking. If Cali is doing her usual, talking to the air, I will remind her to look at the eyes of the person she is playing with, and tell her ,”look at her eyes when you talk”.
If your child is similar to Cali and has a difficult time playing together, try doing this kind of play date. Oh, and make sure you get enough sleep the night before! Why is it that playing like a toddler so exhausting!!!!