How to have happy and successful play dates?

As of 20171004, Little Prince has been to four different play dates (at three different families) in this autumn 2017 as planned. We look forward to more happy play dates that allow us to learn and make more friends. Little Prince enjoyed playing toys of his friends (especially given how minimalist we live), we also learned about ways of living and useful survival/thriving tips from other people [1].

By the end of Spring 2018 before we head back to our home country to spend Summer 2018, I am thankful that in Abu Dhabi, Little Prince has experienced play dates with little friends of the following ethnic origins/nationalities (in an alphabetical order): China, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Philippines, Singapore, USA, Vietnam.

To have happy [1.1] and successful play dates:

  1. remember that play dates should be mutually beneficial 
    1. I encourage Little Prince to give something to his hosts, from tangible gifts (toys, drawings, healthy food e.g. fruits) to intangible ones (stories, kind words, e.g. “Thank you for having me here”).
    2. check for the expectations of others (we don’t want others to think of us as the unreciprocator, but we must also remember that what others think of us does not matter as long as we have done our best to be kind people and friends). With our current accommodation and my work demands, it’s impossible for us to play a host in autumn 2017.
  2. optimize every opportunity to meet with and get to know parents of potential play dates [2].
  3. parents of only children may be more keen on play dates (socialization) [4]
  4. I appreciate diversity in ages and cultural backgrounds.
    1. Play dates with younger children seem to be safer as they are less likely to bully Little Prince [3].
    2. Play dates with older children allow Little Prince to learn more things e.g. more sophisticated toys, independence, etc. It also allows me to learn from more experienced parents.
  5. I prefer to keep the number low so that we get to know the other child(ren) and their parents well. Similar to this idea, an expert in early childhood education advised that limit playdates to one friend at a time.
  6. be specific in proposing a play date that others can simply accept or decline e.g. “Little Prince would love to play with Little M, will [insert a timing] on [insert day, date] until [insert an end timing] be good for you alll?”
  7. for friends whom we are especially interested to play with and learn with, propose 3-4x (三顾茅庐 is also applicable for the search and acquisition of friends) then move on to a different family.
  8. be a good guest e.g. insist on helping with cleanup, bring gifts.
  9. prepare our child(ren) to appreciate that house rules vary and to wisely deal with sharing toys, taking turns, choosing activities, and winning (and losing) games [5].
    1. Instead of saying, “Don’t eat in there!” for instance, say, “We only eat in the kitchen at our house.”
  10. be a good host. For items that our child(ren) cherish and do not want to share, allow him to keep them. Everything else is fair game. Disciplining is always reserved for the behaviorally challenged kid’s parents.
  11. while we pray that we will not have to deal with naughty kids or bullies, if we encounter ones, try the art of distraction (e.g. snacktime, etc).
  12. wait until we have had 1-2 successful play dates before bringing up the ideas of dropping our child off solo.
  13. Give fair notification, when the end of the play date draws near. “Ten more minutes, boys. Time to wrap up your game.”

***

[1] On 20171003, Little Prince heard from the mother of his friend M that changing of weather (e.g. sand storms) can cause many children (including teachers) to fall sick. Thus, it’s important to have enough rest and water intake. Today (20171004) after school, he proudly shared with me that he refilled his water bottle! Yes, drink water!

[1.1] While the play date experience of Little Prince hitherto (until 20171004) has been positive as he told me that he wanted to go for another play dates, I remember my own play dates which were self-arranged since I was merely 6 years old.

Unfortunately, I encountered some unpleasant experiences (e.g. unknowingly drinking using a cup used for massaging, a school mate who asked his father to rudely – using vulgar words – chase me away after I lent her my homework), that made me feel uncomfortable leaving Little Prince alone unless I have no choice at all. I am forever and tremendously thankful for his solo play dates with a beautiful Vietnamese girl in spring 2017. He made her a toy castle (with my assistance) as the last gift before each of them flew back to their home countries.

[2] In autumn 2017, while I rarely went to Little Prince’s school due to my work commitment, I tried to get to know new people there. I also had arranged play dates with parents whom we met at a dental clinic/hospital. Other activities to try include sports, arts, music events, etc.

[3] I am thankful that Little Prince still enjoyed his 20170929 play date in spite of not playing much with the little girl (several months younger than him), but with her toys, and attempted to build something for the girl. He could indeed self-entertain himself and others. We only learned later that she had a speech delay and her mother was worried that she had an autism.

[4] As of Spring 2018, mothers of 3 children hailed from my birth countries did not respond kindly to my request for play dates. In contrast,  it seems that parents of a single child are more interested in play dates, as shown through the kind hospitality of the parents of a single daughter/child whom he played with.

[5] On 20180421, I taught Little Prince that the real win is not winning the games they played during the play dates, but it started from before the play dates (receiving an invitation, receiving a Yes to our proposal of invitation), to after the play dates (feedback that the host parents and friend(s) were happy). I am thankful that little girls like Little Prince for his gentle demeanor, and their mothers like him too for his polite and presumably non-threatening attitude, unlike some rough or rude boys!

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