Sometimes it can feel like our children have better social lives than we do ourselves! Between the birthday parties, the trips to the park, the toddler groups and, of course, the good old classic play dates round a friend’s house, our kids’ social calendars fill up fast. We were asked by the lovely people at Aptamil Growing Up milks to host our very own play date and to have a watch of how our little toddlers play for their Science of Play campaign. This advertorial is brought to you in association with Aptamil Growing Up milks.
Aptamil Growing Up milks have created a series of observational videos on the ‘Science of Play’, which look at all of the amazing skills that toddlers are learning every time they play – even though we might not realise it – and which explore the fascinating changes that are taking place in toddlerhood.
I have to say, play dates at a friend’s house, or hosting one at our own house, is probably my favourite activity to do with my toddler. You see, she’s at the age where she causes absolute carnage when we are out and about so anywhere I can take her where she can roam free a little bit more, is a winner for me. Play is such an important aspect of a toddler’s learning, which reinforces the fact that play dates are a great activity to engage in. They are also great for parents as it gives them an opportunity to have social interaction with other parents and learn from each other.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to round up what makes a perfect play date in our eyes! Let’s start with what the toddlers might think is the number one factor that makes a perfect play date. Lots of fun and interesting toys to free play with.
We have accumulated quite a range of toys in the 2.5 years Little I has been on this planet, and I’m sure it’s the same for any parent. I’ve noticed that it’s good to have a wide range of toys left out because some toddlers are less likely to go rummaging around in someone else’s toy box, and you want them to feel as comfortable as possible in their new environment. Especially if they’re a bit younger. Little I has always been an independent little thing and has gone off to play by herself quite happily, but between 15 and 20 months toddlers are just starting to play independently from their parents. And usually for about 15 minutes at a time. So it’s definitely important to make them feel happy and safe.
The next thing that makes a play date that little bit more fun and engaging for the toddlers is music.
Who doesn’t love a little dance around to a fun, upbeat tune? You can just pop on a good, child friendly playlist and see what the toddlers make of it. It was so much fun to watch them react to the music and start moving around. My daughter loves to dance so doesn’t need any excuse to lead her friends round the room waving her arms about. It was also really interesting to see the difference in reaction to the music from Little I, who is 30 months old and her friends, who are a little bit younger, at 23 months and 21 months old. Little I was trying to sing along and do certain actions the music, the younger ones were happy just to bop about. I didn’t realise that toddlers start to use pitch from around 24 months onwards.
Advertorial video from Aptamil Follow On and Growing Up milks.
I think the next element boils down to who you are with for your play date. It’s all about behaviour.
Of course you can’t particularly control how your toddler feels on a certain day, but you can guide their behaviour towards what you believe is socially acceptable. The main example I can think of is encouraging your little one to share with their friends. This is a tricky concept for toddlers though. They are typically quite egocentric little creatures, which means they don’t see how their behaviour affects others. Little I is now 30 months old and so is starting to show some signs of being able to share a bit better. She likes to hand things to other children and go ‘there ooo go’ (there you go) at the top of her voice!
The last aspect of the perfect play date, in our opinion, is all about the activities and having enough of them up your sleeve to distract the kids away from any tantrums or fall outs over toys!
Having lots of books to hand is always a great idea. Toddlers love books and they are great for their learning. They really help with getting them talking too. I had no idea toddlers can understand 150-200 words when they are between 1.5 – 2 years old. They then have a vocabulary of 150 words at the age of 2. And by the time they are 3 that’s doubles to 300 words. Crazy! I’ll look forward to that!
We’re also big fans of stickers and crafting as activities to keep your play date fun and interesting. There is one last thing that makes a perfect play date…a good cup of tea or coffee (and maybe a biscuit or two) for the parents!
To find out more about the ‘Science of Play’, and how toddlers learn through play, visit the Aptamil Growing Up milk’s ‘Discover Toddlers’ section of the Huffington Post. Here you will be able to see all of the Science of Play videos and additional information about toddlerhood.
What makes the perfect play date in your eyes? Do you like hosting play dates?