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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

The advice in this book comes from Candi Wingate, President of Care4hire.com.
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Playdate Challenges

Playdates are wonderful social opportunities for children.  However, playdates can come with some challenges.  These challenges are discussed below in question-and-answer format.

What are the most common challenges that parents and nannies experience associated with playdates?

  • Coordinating schedules with others associated with the playdates
  • Activity planning
  • Communicating adequately with the parents and childcare providers of the other children involved in the playdates
  • Transportation of children and the items needed for their playdates
  • Supervision and discipline
  • Mess control
  • Post-playdate follow-up

What is the best way to manage social anxiety during playdates?

If your child has social anxiety, begin socializing the child by taking him/her on small social outings.  Perhaps you and your best friend can periodically have lunch and your child can accompany you.  Include your child in the lunch-time conversations.  Once your child becomes comfortable with this level of socialization, introduce another person into the group.  For example, perhaps your friend can bring her child with her to a luncheon.  Introduce the children and structure their time so that there is something to keep their minds occupied throughout the luncheon.  Awkward silences can increase a child’s experience of social anxiety, so keeping the children engaged in activities and/or discussions can ease the anxiety.  As your child develops comfort with this new social relationship, you can continue to expand your child’s social group.  Before long, your child just may be enjoying playdates with a social circle of young friends.

Concurrent with this process, teach your child relaxation techniques, social skills, and positive self-talk.  Relaxation techniques include deep breathing exercises, going to a “happy place” in the child’s mind, and thinking of peaceful music.  Social skills include the art of small talk, saying please and thank-you, and asking appropriate questions to engage and understand others.  Positive self-talk includes, “I can do this”, “it’s ok to be nervous about this because everyone feels nervous about social stuff from time to time”, “I am a fun person to be around”, and “this other person will probably like me when I let them get to know me”.

What do you do if your invitations to a person are always rejected?

If you have repeatedly extended playdate invitations to a child’s parent or caregiver, and those invitations have consistently been politely rejected, you have two best responses.

  • Privately and politely speak with the parent or caregiver: state your observation that the playdate invitations are consistently rejected.  Ask if there is simply a schedule mismatch, if you have said or done anything to offend him/her, or if there is something else that is the basis of the consistent rejection.  State a willingness to resolve any problems that are then discussed.
  • Without inquiry or resolution-seeking behavior, choose to stop issuing playdate invitations to this child’s parent or caregiver and simply find others to involve in playdates.

How do you handle cleaning up a big mess after a playdate?

First of all, the messes created during playdates can be controlled by wise choices regarding locations, activities, and materials used.  For example, a location with white carpeting is not a wise choice; a better choice is a location with dark, low-pile carpeting, vinyl flooring, or perhaps an outdoor venue.  Finger painting will likely create a bigger mess than a field trip to the zoo.  When serving food to children during a playdate, paper plates are a better choice than fine china.

Second, the children involved in the playdate should be tasked with maintaining a reasonable semblance of cleanliness.  If they make a mess, they should be tasked with cleaning up the mess they have made.  Further, the final activities of a playdate should involve each child returning toys to their original location, putting his/her personal possessions back in his/her backpack, etc.

All that having been said, there will still be clean-up to do after a playdate is over.  Little fingerprints may need to be wiped off windowpanes.  The carpet may need to be vacuumed.  Garbage bags will need to be taken to the garage or dumpster.  If you have chosen to rent a venue, the venue will likely have housekeeping staff perform this clean-up.  If the playdate is in your home, you will be responsible for this clean-up.  If the playdate is in someone else’s home, you should offer to help with this clean-up.

What do you do when a child (not your own) misbehaves during a playdate?

This is one of the biggest challenges associated with playdates.  Ideally, you and the parents/caregivers of the other children involved in the playdate will have a pre-playdate discussion to develop an agreement on how this matter will be handled.  In practice, though, this seldom happens.  Therefore, when such misbehavior occurs, you are well advised to handle the matter in an understated, conciliatory manner.  For example, if Janie takes Susie’s toy and refuses to give it back to her, you may say in a friendly tone of voice that sharing is good, that it’s nice of Susie to share her toy with Janie, and that Janie can have the toy for a little while, and then Janie should return the toy to its owner (Susie).  If the misbehavior escalates, it may warrant a call to Janie’s parent or caregiver.  A polite, understanding, non-accusatory explanation of the situation along with a request for guidance on how that parent or caregiver would like Janie to be handled may be appropriate.  For example, you may say, ”Hi, Jim.  This is McKenzie.  I’m watching the children at their playdate today.  We’ve had a bit of a bump, and I’d like your guidance.  Susie and Janie are having a typical childhood disagreement about sharing toys.  I’d like to take the toy away from both of them and speak with them gently about the benefits of sharing, but I want to make sure that’s what you’d advise.  I don’t want to step on your toes as Janie’s dad.”

For all the challenges that can be associated with playdates, they are still wonderful social opportunities for children.  Work to minimize the challenges so as to reap the benefits of playdates for your children.

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