front of you. Or try sending a note in your child’s school bag for them to pass on to the other child. The note might say something like, “We’d like to have Johnny over for a playdate! How would Tuesday afternoon work for you?” Be sure to include your contact details. Nine out of ten times, other parents will also see the value of a playdate for their child, and will jump at the invitation!
Setting up for the playdate As you already know, children can be unpredictable! – It is impossible to entirely predict how an interaction between two kiddos might go. However, there are some things we can do to set our playdate up for success. 1. Keep the playdates short to start with – aim for 45-60mins. 2. Host the playdates at your place – at least initially. This can help your child feel most confident and comfortable as they learn about playdates. 3. Consider your child’s interests – can they be turned into a shared activity? Or not? Your child’s interest in building or construction may be more helpful in achieving shared play than their favourite computer game, for example. 4. Consider the other child’s interests – ask the child’s parents what these are; can their interests be incorporated into shared play somehow? 5. Avoid or modify the use of electronic toys or activities – electronic or screen-based activities (eg TV, iPad, computer games, noise making toys) can be too overloading or consuming from a sensory perspective. They may derail engagement and shared play, particularly for young children. For older children (mid primary school and older), interactive software that involves movement (eg PlayStation Eye Toy, Dance Mat, Wii Sports) is much more conducive to shared play than sit-down screen activities.
6. Use simple, sensory-motor games to foster shared enjoyment – games or activities that get their bodies moving in purposeful ways. If indoors, use cushions and blankets to build a lounge room cubby house; make a pillow or soft toy ‘road’ to travel along between rooms; build a block ‘city’; or try a treasure hunt. If outdoors, blow giant bubbles; play trampoline games; play simple ball games like catch or tunnel ball; make chalk art on the pavement; play hopscotch; or try an outdoor obstacle course. The Learn Play Imagine and Hands On As We Grow websites have some great ideas. 7. Pack away most of the small toys as well as ‘special’ toys that your child may not want to share – this helps keep the environment less visually-distracting, and reduces the likelihood of fights. 8. Keep up regular playdates with the same peer over a period of time if possible. This allows the children to develop shared history, which can foster confidence and playdate success. 9. Make friends with other parents who have a positive, accepting attitude to kids with developmental differences, and who share your values. Discuss with the parents your need to facilitate the play in order for your child to play successfully, and discuss with the parents whether you need them to be present at the playdate too. 10. Develop relationships between your families – suggest outings together, to the zoo, beach, aquarium, swimming pool, or nearby park or playground, or go on a train/bus/ bike ride together. In the meantime, you can continue to build your child’s playdate skills with the help of your occupational therapist, speech therapist or psychologist, or by involving your child in a social skills group program. By Alyssa Mann, Speech Pathologist, Sensational Kids Moonee Ponds. www.sensationalkids.com.au