Domestic Goddess

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Hafsa Shayan on how to set up a memorable play date for your little ones

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It’s that time of year again. Summer is in official swing, and your kids holidays have officially begun (queue Hitchcock’s theme from Psycho). Okay, it’s not as bad as that, but still, what exactly are we supposed to do with our bundles of joys, day in-day out for give or take 88 days? That’s over 2,000 free hours but who’s counting right? Anyone with young children will probably agree with me when I say: play dates are an absolute must! Not only are they a great way to get your kids used to the concept of socializing, but it’s a fantastic way to ensure that they get to release some of that pent up energy that comes with having to stay home all day.  That being said, anyone who’s ever thrown a play date will also agree with me when I say, it can be tricky. I’d like to call what follows my ‘Parental Guide to Summer Sanity’ or to be slightly less melodramatic, here are a few tips and ideas to help your kids blow off some steam and turn your next play date into a fun filled event for all!

GUEST LIST GUIDELINES

When planning a play date make sure you think about how many kids to invite.  This is paramount to the success of any play date. Once you know how many children will be attending, you will have a better idea as to which activities will suit the event.  Sometimes, the more are not the merrier; if you are going to have a kiddie play date without moms, try to limit the number to six kids.  Any more than that, and you will definitely require additional back up.

FINGER FOODS

FINGER FOODS

When planning the menu at a play date you want to make sure you keep it simple.  Kids are notoriously picky eaters, so try to stick to safe, ‘fun’ foods like pasta or pizza or sandwiches or burgers—steer clear of aloo gosht.  Cupcakes and cookies are always a good idea, too.  If you’re hosting a larger group of children with their mothers, you might want to consider having a one dish potluck—remember, you are going to have your hands full entertaining, so it might be a good idea to share the load.

TIP: When serving popsicles and ice creams in this heat, run the stick end through an empty cupcake liner. This catches all the drippings and prevents sticky fingers!

SET UP LIKE A PRO

SET UP LIKE A PRO

My husband often teases that I just need an excuse to set a table, and he’s probably right.  But trust me, this is worth the effort.  You won’t believe how much your tots will love being treated like mini adults! Invest in a little set of mini chairs and tables and some melamine plates. Throw in some colourful napkins and if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, use infant sized bangles as napkin rings. (I know, I know… I like to go overboard! But hey… Why not?) Then watch in wonder as the kids will sit and eat their food in peace with their mini napkins in their mini laps. Works like a charm!

PERPETUALLY PRE-PLAN

PREPLAN

You want to make sure that there are at least two different activities for the kids to pick from. These can be anything from putting on a puppet show to swimming to playing football, to painting and art activities, to classic games such as pass the pillow and dancing statues (always a hit). Another activity that kids love is story time. Use funny voices and expressions – they’ll find it hilarious. Feel free to get as creative as you want! My own personal favourite activity has to be making GIANT BUBBLES! I stumbled upon this recipe a few years ago and confess that it pretty much serves as the holy grail of all play activities. It’s easy, affordable and so much fun. Plus, the bubbles literally get to about two meters in size! It requires a little bit of prep work but it’s definitely worth it.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 12 cups of water
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup green Fairy dishwashing liquid (No other brand will do here.  Sorry, I’ve tried.)
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 3 oz. tube of Personal Lubricant (no, that’s not a typo)

PREPLAN (BUBBLES)

Pour all of the above ingredients into a large plastic container.  Mix gently so that bubbles don’t form, then set aside for one hour minimum. In the meanwhile, make your bubble wands. Using duct tape, attach any non-woolen, strong string to both sides of two 10-inch long bamboo sticks. You should end up with something that looks roughly like a rectangle. This can all be done in advance. Once you’re ready to make your bubbles, gently re-mix the bubble mixture, making sure to scrape any cornstarch that might be stuck to the bottom of the tub. Then don your super mom cape and get ready to enjoy the squeals of excitement. Note: This activity is best for outdoor play dates.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

LEAD BY EXAMPLE ((PLEASE CROP PIC FROM RIGHT SIDE)

I can’t tell you how many play dates are mellowed by moms who are too shy to sing and dance. Your kids look up to you. They will not judge you (unless it’s a teenager), they don’t care if you are tone deaf; they are just going to be ecstatic to see you getting down to their level. This extends to ‘mommy and me’ play dates too. You’ll be surprised to see what a difference it makes in your child’s confidence to see their parent letting loose in ‘public’ so to speak. Not only does this set the tone of the play date, but it also ensures that all the kids participate and have fun – not to mention you’ll feel less like Barney.

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