There has been a lot of buzz lately about this blog post by DadNCharge, regarding banishing the playdate. I completely agree with his premise of these “organized play times”. To understand where I am coming from, I have been and always will be a full-time working Mom. My husband is home during the day since he teaches at night and online. My kids never really had a lot of “playdates”. There are times we meet some kids at the park or swimming pool from preschool or some school friends are invited over to play, but we have never engaged in regular, organized play times.
My husband and I both grew up in neighborhoods where we had friends to play with daily. They weren’t necessarily our “school friends” but they were friends we could play with on a fairly constant basis. We believe in the “open door” policy, if you are home and your garage door is open, come be neighborly. This means, come over and talk with us, bring your kids over to play, have a drink as we watch our kids ride bikes and play tag, anything like that. We do not believe you need to “make an appointment” to get together and have the kids play.
We are extremely lucky to live in a neighborhood where several families hold the same premise to be true. We constantly have impromptu cookouts, bonfires, glasses of wine, and while this is taking place the kids play in whoever’s yard this happens to commence in on that certain night. As my boys are getting older (5 and 8 now), they are able to play with the neighborhood kids without their parents physically sitting and watching them. This is when I encourage them to, “Go knock on the neighbor’s door.”
This past Sunday, my boys played all afternoon and evening with the neighborhood kids. They came home for a quick dinner break and then went right back to playing with them. None of this was preplanned, it all came about when a neighbor kid knocked on our door and asked to play. It continued when after dinner my boys went down and knocked on this same neighbor kid’s door and asked to play. I love this spontaneous play and giving kids the courage to build and develop relationships on their own. The best part? We know all the parents and I know they are a simple text message away to say, “hey the boys are down playing, you can send them home when you need to.” I did not need to “entertain” my children for the entire afternoon; they did that by themselves by running and playing outside!
While I am sure there is a time and a place for playdates, there is also the need to teach our children to be independent young men and women who can be assertive and form their own friendships. I believe this helps their social skills in the school setting and eventually in the workplace. Finally, it gets kids out of the house and unplugged. Yes my kids use electronic devices to entertain them, but a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the summer is NOT the time to sit inside and play on the iPad!
The impromptu Friday night kickball games have definitely been a highlight of this summer, even to the point of the adults playing along with the kids. Go out and be neighborly; you have nothing to lose but to have some fun!