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Home >  Information A-ZAll Kids Information Articles > Pros and Cons of Play Dates

Pros and Cons of Play Dates

When your children are younger they don't really play so it may never occur to you to think about scheduled play dates. But, as your children get older, especially around the time they start kindergarten or first grade, you may find yourself swamped with play date invitations. Before accepting these invitations, or issuing the invite yourself, it might be a good idea to consider the pros and cons of scheduled play dates.

Many experts praise the idea of scheduled play dates stating that in today's society children rarely have the opportunity for spontaneous play. With numerous after-school activities, families living farther and farther apart, two-income families and new safety issues, parents find themselves unable to devote time to just letting children play and children find themselves without close play mates. The answer to this dilemma, it seems, it to schedule play dates for your child. These dates, either arranged by your child or by another parent, seem to solve all of your child's socialization problems. Your child gets to spend quality time with a friend, it is scheduled into the planner so it won't be missed, parents get to enjoy another adults conversation, it seems like everybody wins.

Unfortunately, sense these date appear to be such a great idea on the surface, many parents do not contemplate their downside until it is too late. The following is a list of things to watch for or think about before planning your child's first play date.

• Scheduled play dates can start to feel like requirements. While a scheduled play date can be fun, it can eventually start to feel like a scheduled requirement to a child if it is followed to stiffly. For example, Thursday might always be play date day but if your child has had an otherwise busy week and doesn't feel like going, you may have a problem. If you can't cancel and you force him or her to go anyway, your child may begin to see the date as something to be dreaded.

• Scheduled dates take away from the spontaneity of play. Remember back to when you were a child. You would be outside playing and soon other kids from the neighborhood would come by and ask to join you. You could then decide to play a group game or decide instead to keep playing solo. Whatever you chose to do, it was left to chance and whim. Scheduled play dates take that option away from your child. On a scheduled date they either have to play or lose their chance.

• Too many scheduled dates can keep them from playing naturally. If your child becomes too accustomed to scheduled play dates, they may start to feel as if that is the only time they can play. This attitude can cause them to be unable to entertain themselves and lead to boredom when not at play dates.

• Dealing with parental conflict. Another downside to scheduled play dates has more to do with the parents than the kids. Many parents find that their parenting styles just do not mesh with those of the parents of their child's favorite friend. This discrepancy can lead to uncomfortable dealings between parents. Many times, parents have different rules than you, different snack and diet guidelines and maybe just different personalities that inhibit you from becoming friends. In the case of parental clash, you can either choose to find a different friend for your child to play with, attempt to endure the scheduled play date or even arrange for a child only play date. In any event, it is best to go over the basic rules before agreeing on a play date.

With the proper planning and balance, play dates can be a great way for children and parents to get some extra socialization. The key to a successful play date schedule is to make sure that you balance it with spontaneous fun, keep the schedule light and flexible, and agree to stop the activity if any problems arise.

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