How to prepare for a diversity sensitive play date
Building and Sustaining Relationships
If your child is new to the group or does not have spoken language yet, ask educators who your child enjoys playing with. The younger a child is, the less the game or family language plays a role. Sometimes your child may also enjoy having a play date with a child who speaks a different language, has a different temperament, is a different age, has a different gender or shares different interests. Embrace the range of different friendships your child may make. Every friendship offers new and unique experiences for your child!
Birthday parties are a great opportunity to bring the whole group together. Parties can happen in a playground or other spaces life children’s cafes, theatres, museums, neighbourhood houses and invite the whole group. It is a great opportunity to connect with other parents and get to know each other. By celebrating together, everyone feels included, and new families quickly become part of the community.
For play dates, food and special diets should be clarified beforehand. Diets may be culturally specific or preference based and it is important to show acceptance of others choices for their children. This means offering vegetarian options and foods with lower sugar content. Be understanding if parents and children bring their own food and if you are not sure if your dietary needs will be met, feel free to ask the host!
It may be helpful to plan for a settling-in period in preparation for a play date. This time varies from child to child. Some families will expect to drink tea or coffee still drink coffee or tea before leaving their child alone with another family, while others will simply drop their child off at the door. The age at which a child stays alone with another family varies from culture to culture, but especially from child to child. If parents leave their children alone with another family, they should always be available and leave an emergency number. If children do not want to stay alone with other families, this time can be used so that parents can get to know each other. It is helpful to communicate in advance whether a play date with or without parents is being considered and whether this is in the best interests of all children.
A child should not be brought to a date very tired or hungry and not stay so long that they get extremely tired, especially on the first occasion. Going home at the right time helps, because then the children look forward to a next time.
It is important to always create a safe environment for the children. Rules in the household should be discussed at the beginning and the environment should be child friendly. The role of the host parent is to be available to the children when needed and to communicate where the children can find them. Feel free to discuss any areas that your child is struggling with, for example, in road traffic or testing boundaries, these should be clarified beforehand and communicated by parents.
Tidying up at the end should be initiated by all adults at the same time and could happen together as a game. For example, playing a tidy up piece of music, counting how many toys can be put away, or collecting toys of a certain colour can make the process fun. It also helps to give a five minute warning so children are prepared to approach the end of the appointment and start tidying up. If a child does not want to go home because he or she had a wonderful time, it is sometimes helpful to lend a toy or, if the host helps, to help put on the jacket and shoes.
It is a good idea to arrange play dates with different children and take turns with other parents. Being open, fair, respectful and empathic are the key in these arrangements. Working in partnership with educators and other families is an important part of not only your child’s integration into the new kindergarten community but is also important to develop your own community in the new environment. Play dates can also facilitate your families’ sense of community, which can in turn help to foster a feeling of belonging in the community. Remember to focus on your own sense of well-being as well as that of your child. Parents who feel confident and happy in their environment are more capable of ensuring children are equipped with the tools they need to thrive.