Play dates are a great way to break up the monotony for both children and adults. Play groups are also fun and they help children learn to socialize well with others, share, and take turns. Getting your child involved in an existing play group or starting one of your own is a good way to help your child prepare for school. For children that have not attended preschool and are going to start Kindergarten in the fall, this is a great tool for teaching them how to interact with others and make friends.
To avoid having a play group or play date become chaotic, it helps to plan ahead and structure the time. You can try this plan or adapt it to suit your children and the other kids.
Circle time is often used in preschools, day care centers, and even Kindergarten classrooms. It gives children a chance to settle in and settle down once they arrive. Gather all the children and have them sit on the floor and form a circle. You can have them sing a song, or have each child take turns telling everyone what’s going on in his or her world. This is especially good for the first meeting of the group, so children can introduce themselves or share a little bit about themselves, for the kids who don’t already know them.
After circle time, the children should be fairly calm, so this is a good time to work on a craft project. Choose from some of the ideas provided in this column, search other websites, or come up with your own ideas. It’s best to choose simple projects that will keep kids busy for a while, but don’t take too much time. Make sure children help clean up afterward.
Kids may be growing antsy by this point, so it’s a good time for a physical activity. Take them outside if the weather is good. You might want to plan organized games. If the weather isn’t cooperating, play organized games that are not too rowdy for indoor enjoyment.
Have the children wash up. While they are washing up, prepare and serve snacks and drinks. Children should remain seated during snack time and should help clean up when finished.
Before parents arrive to pick up their children is a good time for free play, since there are no other structured activities to follow. It’s also a good time in case one of the children has to leave early. He or she won’t miss out on planned events or projects.