Nanny 101: Creating a Successful Play Date
By: Greta Schraer
Welcome back, nannies, today’s class should be a fun one. As nannies we are lucky, we love children and we spend a great amount of time playing with kids in the best of places. Often I have thought, “this is my job!?” While not every moment is filled with play, we are offered the flexibility to create fun days with our kids. There are many reasons to create play dates – adult interaction, developing child relationships and their learning about social interaction, and even to experience new things. Today we are going to talk about some elements of a successful play date!
Lesson 1 – Keep in Schedule
I believe that routines and structure provide children with the basics for happiness. Eating and sleeping are priorities, and nannies and families who can recognize that, will have greater success in all the challenges a day has to offer. It is important to make sure that play dates fall in the prime time, scheduled around the regular nap and meal times, especially for young children. Sometimes it may be tempting to stay too long just because you’re having fun, but I believe these regular necessities are the priority.
Example: Nanny Joann is excited to finally get out of the house with the 2 year old twins. She just recently got permission to drive the children and has planned their first play date. Around 11:00 a.m. they meet another twin nanny of kids from the local multiples club. They enjoy the indoor play gym and freedom of being out and about. As Nanny Joann leaves at 12:30, she notices that she has already missed the twins 12:00 lunch time. She figures a half hour won’t affect them too much, until the both fall asleep on the 25 minute car ride home. Turns out the kids didn’t nap, were grouchy and didn’t eat a great lunch. The day was rough from there on out, and the parents began to wonder if they were too young to head out on play dates.
Lesson 2 – Choose Wisely
Think specifically when you plan a play date. It should always be safe, fun, age appropriate, and comfortable for all those involved. If you are just starting out, stick with just one other family to keep things simple. Be leery of trying something that is brand new to the children or you; familiarity will bring ease to the whole experience. I am a huge fan of close-to-home parks and simple picnics. In the winter, think about sticking with your kid’s favorite location. As you become more comfortable, you may think of planning a group play dates. Make sure to take into account multiple ages and schedules. As you are planning, be sure to include the children’s parents in your plans. They may feel uncomfortable with certain situations or locations. It is always better to over-communicate beforehand.
Example: Nanny Sadie heads off to meet her nanny friend, Cara at her work place. Their kids are both just 3 years old and the nannies are excited about getting the kids together. The early summer weather seemed the perfect time for some backyard play and picnic snack. The day was fun, safe, and easy, and Cara and Sadie were excited about the young little friendship that they had formed. Later that day dad relieved Sadie and asked about the day. First thing the next morning, both parents sat Nanny Sadie down and asked for more specific communication regarding play dates. While Sadie had told mom she was meeting a friend, she did not share that it was at another families’ house. The parents were worried about liability in case of an accident. They next time the would want to talk with that family before Sadie took their child to a house.
Lesson 3 – Encourage Success
On a child’s first play dates, we have the opportunity to engage children with other children. This is such a great opportunity to teach and model interaction with others. While it is greatly dependent on the age and maturity of each child, think about preparing the child before the play date. I love the take the time in the car to explain what is happening next, what they can expect and what I expect of them. If there are certain rules for that location I may discuss, “the museum has a big parking lot with lots of fast moving cars, so we will all holds hands until we get on the elevator”. Within the play date I may encourage interaction with children, by starting a game. Depending on the situations, play dates can be a great opportunity to learn about sharing food or toys. If you have been the child’s only “friend” to play with, this may be a great time to encourage him to only play with the other child. Children will learn and be challenged by other children too.
Example: Nanny Erica joins her local nanny group at a neighborhood park. She is very excited about meeting other nannies and giving her children opportunities to interact with other kids. The nanny that preceded her was older and didn’t feel comfortable getting out with the kids. She was anxious to see how they would interact with other children. Max was very shy, but blossomed immediately as a girl took his hand and led him to the slide. Harriet was a little more unsure. Nanny Erica began playing space shuttle with her and another girl her age. She began playing, simply, and offered a few story lines for the girls. As both were engaged, Nanny Erica turned to Harriet and said “I am going to go check on Max, but why don’t you be the pilot now, and play together”. The girls continued to play and Nanny Erica was encouraged by these first steps.
Play dates have the possibility to enhance your day with your children – a new context to practice and develop things that you are already working on with your children. What will your next play date be?
1. Think about a time where a play date was not successful, can you link a schedule change that may have influenced it?
2. Where are your kid’s favorite and comfortable places to go. Which of these could be a great play date location?
3. What milestone or development are you hoping your kid(s) will have? How might a play date encourage that to happen?