Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Playdate purgatory

I have a confession to make: I have come to dread hosting 'playdates'.

Oh, it was fine when the boys were little, and little friends would come round accompanied by their mums, who (hopefully) were my friends too, and we could gossip and drink tea while we supervised our offspring's play. And to some extent it's still fine with Littleboy 2, whose friends still find it exciting to play with Lego, scale the bunkbed ladder and spend hours bouncing on the trampoline.

No, the problem is with Littleboy 1's friends. Sweet boys, generally, but many of them seem to have the attention span of gnats. Primarily, they are usually dismayed when they find out that we have neither a Wii or a 'DS' in the household. I am starting to feel almost cruel for not having this equipment, but then I have to remind myself that my son is only six and actually, he's quite happy without it.

We do, however, have an iPad, and sometimes I relent and let Littleboy 1 play Angry Birds with his friends (although he's only supposed to have one prescribed play on it after supper). But I don't want them to spend the whole playdate on it, so I restrict the time before kicking them outside or suggesting they play something else. But this is easier said than done. We had one child recently who wanted my son to open every single board game we own, only to announce after two minutes of each that he was 'bored of this now'.

The kids here always want to 'see the basement' too. This is because many of them have large, converted basements which are like extra playrooms. I have to explain to them that yes, we do have a basement but it is grotty, spider-ridden and home to only the washing machine, tumble dryer, ancient TVs belonging to our landlady and some random storage boxes. But sometimes they are so determined that we have to venture down there, at which point they look horrified.

The trampoline usually keeps them amused for a while, but then it's back to mooching indoors. Littleboy 1 doesn't help by constantly asking them if they want a snack. I'm happy to give them food, but what do you do if a little guest keeps asking for more and more glasses of milk and more and more pretzels? I'm sure his mother won't be pleased, but on the other hand I don't want to become known as that mean British mother who keeps the food under wraps.

I've always had a rule that there is no TV on playdates - why go round to someone else's house to watch television? - but the other day after two hours of 'I'm bored' I gave in and let them watch cartoons. I felt terrible, but there really did seem to be no pleasing this particular friend.

I don't know. I think I'm fairly hopeless at this playdate business. If anyone has any tips on how to make it more bearable without being the kind of mother who does wonderful creative crafts and painting when other kids come round (I am just not that woman), please advise.

23 comments:

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Oh poor you, dare I say it sounds like some *spoiled" children are on the scene? I think it's good you are trying to encourage the kids to play and do something fun that is not hooked up to an electronic box. I'm sure your boys have better attention spans for this. Sure, that stuff is fun but it is just part of the mix. What about bicycles or balls or water pistols? Or are you not allowed to give kids water guns to play with these days?

Kit said...

There's nothin wrong with you - kids of that age should be able to play happily in the garden for hours! Six isn't too old to be content with a trampoline and a sandbox and maybe a football for variety! I was worrying about 12/13 year olds' need for electronic entertainment...

Home Office Mum said...

I feel your pain. I can just about cope with playdates when the mums stay (although I do find that it's even harder to stick to your house rules then - particularly when the visitor demands food and never says please or thank you and the mother does nothing about it resulting in my own children having to prompt the friend to say please.)

But I've stopped inviting other kids over. The vicar's child is the absolute worst. Wild, exceptionally noisy and a glutton, hoovering up all the food in the house.

I tend to instruct them to get out of the house and play football - or I present them with army kit - foam swords, nerf guns and walkie talkies - and they play gangs

Metropolitan Mum said...

I am ok as long as the weather is fine. I just plonk an easel and crayons and chalks out in the patio, give them buckets with water and bubble mixture to play with, make sandwiches and let them have a picnic... But when it's raining. No idea.
Being not allowed to watch much TV when I was a kid, I remember the best playdates always then ones where we could do just that. No need to feel bad at all!

Iota said...

I agree that some of those children sound a bit spoilt... though that sounds very judgmental of me.

I seem to remember that there was an age that was tricky, when each child wasn't old enough to entertain friends, but too old to be entertained all the time by me. Perhaps you're in that tricky stage. I think you have to do a certain amount of playing with, until Littleboy #1 has developed his own skills. But that won't be too long.

I think a bit of tv is fine, so long as it isn't the whole time. And re the iPad, I tend to have a rule that they have to play something else first, and then after that, they can go on the playstation. Otherwise, you have the challenge of getting them off the electronic device to play something else, and that's a big challenge.

Sherilyn -Dominee Huisvrouw said...

I'm in the same boat as you. I've had a few times where the visiting child has claimed boredom at all my suggestions until I offered to take him back home. Suddenly he found something FASCINATING in my son's room!

diney said...

I feel your pain also! When my 11 year old was younger I got to dread play dates as girls together always seemed to fall out over dolls or whatever and then would come to me complaining instead of just getting on with playing and having fun while they had the opportunity!!! Stressful times, but easier as they get older! I always found with my son that a football, rugby ball and rounders bat and ball kept them amused for hours, but it's just different kids like doing different stuff. Maybe shove them out and lock the door!???!! Don't stress too much - you will probably never see them again once your son leaves scho which may seem a long time away now, but when it happens you think why did I spend so much effort entertaining that kid?!!

A Confused Take That Fan said...

I have avoided doing playdates for just that reason - 'I'm bored' or 'I don't like this food' and it not being a relaxing few hours, but rather stressful instead. The best ones are where they go and play imaginary games or sit and draw a nice picture for mummy/daddy, but I do sometimes put a film on and popcorn - I don't think that is so bad. Or I make buns before they come that they can decorate, gingerbread men they can ice (then eat), or rope them in to helping you make supper - fruit kebabs, veg sticks. Also have made shortbread mixture before they came so they could cut biscuits - go and play whilst they cooked, and then ate after tea. (can you tell I have girls) But it's tricky, you'll find that there are some kids that are a pleasure to have on playdates and some that you will never invite again. I tend to restrict playdates to a minimum because I think it's too much like hard work! Plus my daughter was always in a foul mood afterwards anyone. I think they find socialising pretty tricky after a full day at schoo. And mine are happy playing with each other or neighbours children. Good luck with the next one!

QldDeb said...

Let them watch TV. It's a treat and not letting them can turn into punishment for you!

We had movie playdates for my daughter. Special bowls of popcorn, drinks with curly straws, ice cream sunday at the end. And if they help with picking out the movie, cooking the popcorn (microwave, of course) and snacks, setting up the lounge room as their own private movie theatre etc. They love it and you get some peace. Then throw the little darlings outside. Usually takes up about 2-3 hours.

Conuly said...

I'm in the camp of "kick them out and lock the door". Give them some apples for a snack, tell them there's nothing else, and restrict your interaction with them to holding a hose so they can run under it. (Yes, even if it's raining out. They're kids, not candy. They won't melt.)

Alternatively, try to only ever meet up at a playground or the beach or something. Bring some books for yourself, and a ball for them, and ignore them until it's time to head home.

Emma said...

I hate playdates with a passion... My daughter goes to an international school and it's so fascinating what children from each country want to do after school... My biggest tip for the most difficult children is baking (you might hate me for that)... but I find that if it's something we can all do together, it passes the time quickly until hometime and they are all happy! Also agree with the outside thing, with chalks, bubbles, sand etc... Emma :)

Muddling Along said...

That sounds like hard work - fortunately mine are at the stage where a sandpit and a trampoline provide enough excitement and when they flag we can get a football out and they can kick that around

Not looking forward to that stage

nappy valley girl said...

Tanya - my boys are fine when it's just them...they can spend hours playing outside, but some children seem to much prefer the house.

Kit - we have all three of those - it's a bit sad isn't it when six year olds find a sandbox 'boring'.

HOM - giggling at the thought of awful vicar's child hoovering up food! Army kit is a good idea.

Met Mum - I think I watched TV at people's houses when I was a bit older. But I don't really want the other child's mother thinking I am a lazy cow who just switches on the box....

Iota - as always wise words. Yes, should probably save up the iPad for the end, (although I know that would cause whining of 'when is it time to have it?' for the first two hours.....)

Sherilyn - haha. Yes, worth a try.

Diney - we have all the balls, although the garden is rather badly shaped for a proper game of football/baseball - maybe next time we'll just go to the park!

CTTF - it's so nice to hear from you again! I agree, we don't have that many playdates for precisely that reason. But now it's the summer holidays and they need entertainment. I always breathe a sigh of relief when someone else offers to have one of my children over. (and I just pray they are well behaved there).

QldDeb - good idea and definitely the way as they get older.

Conuly - yes, playground is definitely the way forward. And hose - my kids love it.

Emma - I hadn't considered baking, I do it with my sons sometimes but wasn't sure other 6 year old boys wouldn't turn their noses up at a 'girl' activity. Maybe we'll try it.

Muddling - my boys on their own are still happy with that. It's just when you add another one to the mix.....

Bush Mummy said...

I don't do them often.. I am always reaching for the wine by 5.30pm..

Water always seems to work in our house, ideally in the garden attached to a sprinkler or a paddling pool.. that seems to keep them quiet for hours..

and a picnic, or make pizzas? or chocolate crispie cakes - something easy to assemble with minimal opportunity to trash the kitchen.

phew, I'm tired just thinking about it.. where's the wine?

BM x

Circles in the Sand said...

Omg, there I was looking forward to the stage where my LB1 could go to playdates by himself, and it hadn't even occurred to me what it would be like returning the favour! I can see it'll be exactly the same here - i think i'll only be able to do playdates in winter so i can throw them outside! Brilliant blog, as always Alex, and it sounds like you're doing really well hosting. It's so hard to stop them getting on the iPad- I left the boys downstairs for a while the other day and was amazed there was no fighting - then discovered they 'd taken nearly 1500 photos on the iPad!

Jenny said...

Short playdates are the key. One and a half hours seems to be the sweet spot for me.
Of course, as I write this 6 eight-year-old girls are just waking up from a sleepover during which there was very little sleeping so I feel your pain.

Almost American said...

We have a no TV rule too and fortunately the boys who come over to play with DS (age 8) don't seem to mind. I also have a 30 minute limit on electronic games and that' a little harder if they're in the middle of a game - but I start watching and make sure they quit fairly soon after the 30 minute limit. We don't have a trampoline or a pool, so DS mostly wants to go over to the neighbors who have them. The basketball hoop keeps them entertained for a while, not matter whose house they're at (EVERY house around here has one! They all have 'finished' basements too though but we don't!) Offering to take a kid home usually ends their claims of boredom.

Belgravia Wife - sort of said...

This may sound counterintuitive but I find doing a mass playmate ie having a load over at once takes care of things. There are usually siblings to entertain siblings and they get on with it and make up games....and don't go neat the gadgets - six is a touch young to my mind.....xx.

nappy valley girl said...

BM - all great suggestions (including wine by 5.30!) thanks.

Circles in the Sand - 1500 photos! Aargh. We don't have ipad 2, so luckily no photos. They have had a jolly good go at changing our password, though.

Jenny - sleepovers, aagh, there's something I won't contemplate for a while....

Almost American - Hmmm, think it may be time for that baketball hoop....

Belgravia Wife - mass playdate? You're a braver woman than me....unless of course the parents can come and help.

About Last Weekend said...

Oh I love that expression "attention span of knats" I saythat too. Went somewhere the other day and two boys said to the mum, that If she was going to take the computer away from them, she had to find them something else to do! (cheeky)

Mwa said...

I think I feel just as uncomfortable with the whole situation as you do, so I don't think I'll be much help. My son has just turned seven, so we're at the same stage. I tend to just shove them out the door with a ball when they get too bad, but we do have a Playstation which I don't think they should use, but I have on occasion given in.

About Last Weekend said...

I know exactly how you feel. I remember years of that mooching around and constantly preparing snacks. Also I never allowed video games so our house for purgatory for many kids. Once they get past age eight they start to get a lot better at it and only invite people they can laugh with for hours. THree of mine have sorted out friends who prefer to have playdates at their house and sleepovers, not ours - score!!!

angelsandurchinsblog said...

I'm a horrible mum when we have children on playdates. It's either our (ie. my) way or they can sit and sulk. One child brought a DS which I promptly confiscated until home time. Usually the children scamper off and find something messy to do until teatime. Lego often works. If not, then I send them out to the trampoline. If they hate that I give them a trowel and ask them to dig for treasure. This might not work once the children get a bit older, but it seems to work for now. Apart from the occasional ticking off when I send a bedraggled child home covered with mud and arguing about Lego.