The more the merrier? Well, not always, especially if ‘more’ refers to a bunch of restless preschoolers and kindergartners. Yes, it is wonderful to kick up your feet and catch your favourite movie (or at least a part of it) when your child is out on a play date. But, when the tables are turned, it’s best to prepare yourself for the invasion of the little monsters! Here are a few handy tips to help you and the little kids come out unscathed.
Do some number-crunching
When it comes to a group of children having to spend time together, ‘even numbers’ are a safe bet. If two’s company, three is a crowd. Two of them want to play house but the third wants to play with the building blocks. With three kids, it’s more likely that two of them will pair up, and you will be left to deal with the third child bursting into tears or throwing a full-fledged temper tantrum. That said, don’t stretch it by inviting six or eight kids, unless you want the roof brought down on your head.
Children basically go to town when they are in ‘active-play’ mode. You will end up having to deal with spills, cupboard explosions, torn-up paper scattered all over, and all sorts of mess. To save yourself the trouble of having to mop the whole house, limit the kids’ mania to one room. Now, that’s some kind of a planned damage-control. If your child has his own room, nothing like it. Otherwise, try to pick a room that’s out of the public domain. After all, you want the choice of leaving some of the clean-up for the next day.
Set the ground rules
Whether you are inviting children over, or sending your child to someone else’s house, it is important to sit down with your little one and lay out some ground rules - ‘Mommy’s room is for mommy, not for your friends’, ‘Washroom is not meant for playing with water’, ‘We sit on furniture, not jump on them’. Be firm, yet kind with your little guests. Explain to them why certain things are a no-no, without becoming the wicked witch of the party.
Love thy carpet
With all the shouting, running and jumping, toddler tummies need the occasional snack! Be prepared with dry snacks as they are less likely to create a mess. You wouldn’t want to be running behind a carpet-cleaner. Seat the children at a table, or lay a newspaper on the floor before serving the snacks.
Avoid handing out drinks along with the snacks; little hands can only handle so much at a time. If you plan on giving out juices, opt for individual packs with straws. They are handy and less likely to end up in spills. Check with other parents if they are okay with the snacks you plan to serve.
Don’t be too ‘sweet’
We all know children bubble with energy. And there is nothing like sugar to turn active into hyperactive. So, as much as you would like to play the ‘best auntie ever’, stay away from serving sugary foods, fizzy drinks or chocolates. Good alternatives are biscuits, fruits and juices. Freshly-made popcorn is always a big hit!
Let them have fun
When you have children in the house, you need to be all eyes, ears and toes. But that doesn’t mean you get into their pillow fortress or dollhouse to check on them. Settle the little ones in a designated play area and retreat to a safe distance. Children tend to play better without an overprotective adult hovering around. Keep your eyes and ears open for possible signs of trouble, but allow the children to play by themselves and sort out small tiffs on their own.
Stick to the allotted time
When children get together, it is all fun and games, but not for long. Children tend to tire of each other sooner than you think. Imagine your restless little kindergartner stomping her feet, demanding to know when her friends will arrive. To have a successful and stress-free (for most part) playdate, set a time limit. Speak to the other parents and fix a time for them to drop off and pick up their kids. After all, it is a playdate, not a babysitting service.
Safety and precaution
Where there are children, there is bound to be trouble. When you are entertaining your child’s friends, the responsibility for their welfare is yours. Don’t be alarmed! Exercise a little prudence. Stow away sharp objects, and keep cleaning liquids, medicines, matches and other unsafe materials out of reach. Keep a close eye on them if they are near water bodies or playing with water. Lock the doors to the balcony and be aware (even from a distance) of what the children are up to.
Most importantly, stay calm and be reasonable. Kids will be kids. Enjoy watching the little ones have a rollicking time and be proud of yourself for playing the perfect host!