Being a parent during a pandemic brought about a slew of challenges most people could never have anticipated, but perhaps one of the hardest aspects was seeing your kids go without the joy they experience on playdates.
The benefits of play for children can’t be overstated, from reducing stress to improving brain function and developing both socially and emotionally. And for adults, play can also help reduce stress, fuel creativity, and enhance well-being.
As kids relearn how to play and share in groups again, we’ve teamed up with Fisher-Price to ask two Canadian parents to share their top tips for successfully organizing and hosting an exciting playdate — whether you’re hosting for the first time or simply dusting off the cobwebs.
Mar Ward (@toandfro21) lives in Toronto with her husband, dog, and three little girls. She shares everyday adventures of raising little ones in a big city while maintaining a connection to the outdoors. Out in BC’s Fraser Valley, Codi Lynn (@creativecodilynn) is a lifestyle and motherhood blogger who shares candid moments of her family and their lifestyle. Here’s what they had to say.
Tip #1: allow kids to be themselves
“Not all kids are the same. And because of that, no playdate will ever be the same. Some kids will handle new people, new situations, and new surroundings differently than others. And that’s ok. Allow them to be themselves,” Ward tells Daily Hive.
For toys that bring back feelings of nostalgia, consider tried-and-true favourites, like the Fisher-Price Giant Rock-a-Stack. Pretending the rings are a crown or a bracelet, or, stacking them in an upside-down tower are just a few of the ways to play with one toy at any age.
Tip #2: utilize the toy archives
If there are toys your kids haven’t played with for a while, Codi Lynn says take them out before a playdate. “We separate our toys in different bins and have different toys on rotation. Bringing out a new box of toys just adds that much more excitement for play on your playdate for each kid.”
Tip #3: step outside of your comfort zone
“Meeting people and making friends as an adult can be hard. But ‘playdates’ for parents are just as important as they are for our children,” notes Ward. She suggests joining a local mom/parents’ group. “To find one, talk to your neighbours/friends/family with young children to see if they know of any, do a quick search on social media, or start your own. Step outside of your comfort zone for your own benefit and the benefit of your kids.”
Tip #4: reschedule if unwell
“If you or the kids feel a little unwell, always reschedule,” says Codi Lynn. “There is nothing worse than starting a playdate, and someone complains about not feeling good.”
Tip #5: stock up on snacks
Codi Lynn’s biggest tip? Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. “I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are always asking for food. Easy, kid-friendly finger food [makes] kids [and] their tummies happy… as well as everyone happy.”
Tip #6: consider outdoor playdates
“If you don’t want to worry about your house being turned upside-down, dress for the weather, pack up some toys, and plan to meet at a local playground, field, or water hole,” says Codi Lynn.
Tip #7: talk about sharing
Before a playdate, Codi Lynn suggests talking to your kids about sharing. “Sometimes, reminders are needed depending on your child’s personality,” she notes. “You may want to ask them if there are any toys they don’t want to share as they feel like special toys and suggest putting those toys away — so that they know everything else is to be shared.”
For dynamic play that can help with sharing, consider toys that give each child a role to play, like the Fisher-Price Little People Serve It Up Food Truck.
Tip #8: arrange a timeline
Codi Lynn makes sure to note the importance of planning a timeline for your playdate, ensuring to mention an end time — especially if it’s a new friend, and you invite the parent to stay. “If you don’t have an end time, you may find them overstaying without intention,” she adds.”
Tip #9: take some breaks to reset
Ward reminds us that kids don’t have attention spans like adults do. “Taking breaks, whether it be a potty break, drink break, or snack break is important,” she says. “Kids can lose focus, get frustrated, and become overstimulated and overwhelmed very quickly, so it’s good to mix in some breaks in order for everyone to reset.”
Tip #10: take part in the play
As we come to the end of our interview, Codi Lynn shares: don’t forget to get in on the play yourself! “It’s great to connect with our kids on their level and enjoy play through their eyes,” she says. “Let’s be honest, toys may have an age range, but with the right mindset, we are never too old to play.”
Toys that offer multiple ways to play can be a wonderful way to keep everyone entertained, like the Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Ultimate Learning Bot that’s suitable for a broad age group.
It’s time to reignite play for kids, especially before we head into the holiday season. Playing with toys provides the perfect medium for children to connect and experience the joys of sharing, and Fisher-Price — a company that has been crafting toys for little ones for almost a century — wants to teach children about this.
To learn more about the benefits of play and find toys for your child’s next playdate, check out fisher-price.ca.