Today was so much fun. We had a friend over for an educational playdate. It’s a day where we take a break from our normal learning, the boys practice sharing and mom gets a glimpse of what it will be like when we add another little one later down the road. These playdates are right up my alley. If you want to do an educational playdate instead of the usual let all the kids play with toys, then here’s an idea of how it flows. For your playdate, have fun with different activities.
The morning started with burning off some energy. Three active boys, they needed this before they could settle down to do anything that required focusing. I blew up my jumpalene and let the boys go wild. I have a rule that only soft balls are allowed in the jumpalene and I told all three boys the rule. So my boys started throwing the balls in with abandon while our guest was just as passionate about the balls being outside the jumper. A little ball war ensued, but that was ok as long as no one was getting upset. A bit of rough jumping and rolling around happened before all three were playing chase around the jumper. This calmed them down some so we could move on to the educational activities.
I love science. I do. I don’t like math, but science is my thing. So we did some science today. I pulled out the goggles because every science experiment requires safety goggles, at least that’s what I heard in class, but these just helped make the project fun. Yes, this is an engineering house, we do have three sets of goggles that don’t even include the ones from my work.
Before our friend arrived, I had set out a broiler pan, put some baking soda into a small cup and then fashioned a quick volcano. Yes, it only took 2-3min to make so you can do this. I took foil, crumpled it up, spread it out, crimped it around the edge of the cup and let it sorta flow down to the pan. I set that out on the kitchen table. I told them that volcanoes were big mountains with hot liquid in the middle that sometimes erupted. I let the boys look down into the volcano and I explained that the white powder was baking soda and it was alkaline. Then I poured three cups with several drops of red food coloring, several squirts of dish washing liquid and some vinegar. I gave each boy a glass and said it as an acid. Not that I expect them to remember this, but I said there’s a big line with acid on one side and alkaline on the other end with neutral in the middle. I spread my arms out wide to demonstrate a long line and I pointed to the left several times towards the alkaline and had the boys say alkaline and did the same things to the right with the acid. Oh and I did this all in a cheesy cheerleader fashion which I’m sure helps with the retention. We let each boy pour in his vinegar and watched the lava flow. I pointed out the little bubbles that were rising to the top and everyone could see the big bubbles rising and popping. I quickly said that was gas escaping from the reaction. We pushed the tray around several times so everyone got to make it erupt more than once. Like I mentioned, it’s not the remembering of the details that I want the boys to grasp, but rather hearing the words so that they aren’t foreign and making it fun so the boys will cultivate a love of learning science.
After each educational activity we try to let the boys just play with toys because the attention span of sitting and listening isn’t that long at this age. When we rounded the boys up again, I had scattered laminated alphabet letters all over the floor and I had already tacked up a coconut tree to the closet door. We started with A and let each boy find the next letter. I put putty on the back of the letter and the other mom helped the boys stick the letter to the tree. Occasionally we had the boys give the letter’s sound that they were holding. After all the letters were up, I read through the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
Our last activity, after a bit more free play, was working with playdo. Each boy got to pick which color he wanted to work with, that way there would be no color mixing. When the playdo first came out in a ball, I stuck a pipe cleaner in each one. I showed the boys how to thread cheerios onto the pipecleaner. This helps those fine motor skills. Our friend did a few then ran off to play, Lance did about 8 then just played with the playdo and James stuck with it longer before he played with just the playdo. Obviously this wasn’t a big hit.
Sometimes the activities will last a long time and others will fizzle right from the beginning and sometimes just one kid will love it while everyone else moves on, but don’t be discouraged. It’s not a personal failure on the moms if everything isn’t exciting and fun. This playdate is about letting the kids learn in a group environment, which includes sharing, taking turns, working around distractions, listening to other adults give directions and still having fun. If your kids aren’t in official preschool or daycare, these types of experiences will help them gain those socialization skills. It’s also comforting as a mom to try some of these things with the backup of another mom there to help out. As I heard in a parenting class, practice is what happens at home so look at this as a time of practice. If someone yells, grabs toys away, throws a tantrum or is easily distracted, it’s ok because it’s just practice for a latter time when you are out in public. Believe me when I say that plenty of disobedience and disruptions happened. This type of playdate takes planning but the learning and fun is worth it. We our blessed to have really good friends to play and learn with.