One of the things that keeps me sane as a mum who works from home, who’s with her kids almost 24/7, is the play date. The good old play date is a chance not only for kids to catch up and learn those all-important socialising skills, but (possibly more importantly) a chance for mums – or dads – to connect with another adult and chat about something other than Peppa Pig.
When we first moved to Devon I remember being worried that my then three year old would miss out on play dates. And, if I’m honest, at first she did. I tried really hard to break into a clique of pre-school mums in the town we first lived in but it just wasn’t happening. Every morning I’d plaster on my biggest smile and hope that one of them might invite my kid round for a play but I was a newbie and, for whatever reason, it took a while before someone accepted us into the fold.
Back then, I didn’t know anyone where we lived. It might sound a bit desperate but I recall scribbling a note with my phone number down on a scrap of paper and asking one of Frog’s pre-school key workers to pass it onto the mum of the little girl Frog loved so much. That mum took pity on me and texted me, arranging a play date for the following week. Sometimes bravery pays out.
Anyway, fast-forward three years and we’re now living in a little village just up the road from that first town we rented in when we relocated down here. School has proven a great resource for mates – not just for my six year old but me and my husband too. Play dates are now littered across the calendar like my daughters’ hairbands and My Little Ponies across their bedroom floors. This brings me relief.
This Easter holiday we’ve had multiple play dates. The only difference with these ones is that they’ve included both children and often the husbands too. Being at home over Easter has been a chance to catch up with friends and plan days out together with multiple families, evenings where the kids get to play and the parents get to party (i.e. barbecue sausages and drink prosecco) and, despite the odd toddler moment of one-up-man-ship, everyone’s been happy.
This morning I took the girls solo to a garden centre nearby. It was a Wyevale one – the same chain we visited back at Christmas for a Father Christmas breakfast – except this time we went to the one a bit further down the road. One of my antenatal group friends had booked the Easter breakfast, which proved to be BRILLIANT. Full-on Easter room decor, dressed up staff Alice in Wonderland style, cooked English for adults and kids, cookies to decorate, an Easter egg hunt, meet the Easter bunny and then toys for the children at the end. Winning on all levels.
This play date was added to the beach picnic play date at the start of the holidays, the impromptu barbecue party we hosted and the hot tub barbecue evening at our lovely friends’ house last weekend. Even though we haven’t gone away anywhere it’s felt like we’ve been on holiday partly because South Devon is like that at this time of year and partly because we’ve always had things to do and people to see.
I’m not telling you this to brag. Our life is a perfectly imperfect mess of disorganisation, chaos and hilarity just like every other family I know. But I wanted to share with you the huge pros of getting together with other parents and their kids – particularly if you’re a new mum and feeling a bit intimidated about getting out there (as I did when I first became a mum).
You could argue that if kids have siblings they don’t need play dates, but I disagree. My girls thrive on time together but they also thrive on time with their friends. In fact, Frog loves hanging out with Baby Girl’s friends just as much as vice versa. Yeah we get toddler dramas and issues over sharing and one child will inevitably want to play a game that another doesn’t, but that’s all part of learning to be a human isn’t it?
If you’re after any more persuasion that play dates are the way forward, even when they’re chaotic and involve arguments, then here’s a video I made recently with my buddy Sarah from The Unmumsy Mum. It IS possible to have a play date where your toddler announces she “hates” her friend, and still be smiling at the end of it… I promise!