How to arrange a playdate

Although this article isn’t just about the issues stay at home dads have with arranging play dates I feel there are more difficulties for men in this regard. I was recently contacted by another stay at home dad asking if I had managed to arrange playdates for my daughters. I have managed to arrange some, but they’re mostly piggybacking on my wife’s friends from when she was on maternity leave.

The importance of playdates for toddlers

Playdates can be a very important developmental aid for toddlers. Especially those who do not go to nursery or attend toddler classes as it teaches important social skills such as sharing. It is also nice for the children to make friends they see on a regular basis. Even though it’s especially important for children who do not attend nursery and/or toddler classes I feel, it is also a good aid for children who do go to nursery and classes. This is because it teaches important social skills on a smaller scale than withing  a big group setting.

The two main issues for stay at home dads

  • The male – female dynamic: Most of the potential playdate options will be a child with their mother. It can be difficult for both the mum and the dad in this scenario to arrange a playdate. There is the potential for a request to be taken the wrong way and sometimes it just seems easier not to ask for the playdate. The mum will have plenty of other mums to ask, but the same can’t be said for the dad.
  • The delay in looking after the child: What I mean by this is that usually a stay at home dad takes over the child caring duties after his partner has finished their maternity leave. In a lot of cases this will be after a year. By this time most mums will already have made a circle of friends, so there is not really any need or incentive for them to add another person into the mix.

How to overcome these issues

  • The male – female dynamic: To avoid any confusion and embarrassment it’s a good idea to invite a group of mums at the same time. Maybe casually mention about meeting up sometime and just seeing what the reaction is. You will probably find it easier to at least arrange the first few dates in a group setting until you become more comfortable around each other. Another suggestion is to have the playdates in a public place rather than at someones house as they might feel uncomfortable with that. Soft plays are a great option for this.
  • The delay in looking after the child: This is a more difficult situation to overcome if you’ve already taken on the role. However if you’re in the planning stage I would recommend that you start piggybacking on your partners playdates. What I mean by this is arrange to go along to some playdates she has with her friends. Maybe specially arrange some playdates for the weekend  if you are working. In that case partners can come along as well. That way the mums get to know you and will accept you into their group. It also helps if their partners get to know you a little so they don’t see you as a potential threat. If you have already taken over the reins from your partner then it might be an idea to get her to arrange a weekend catch-up with some of her mummy friends so that you can meet them.

Conclusion

Whilst it is definitely more difficult for men to arrange playdates I feel it is worth making the effort to arrange them. I think the first time is the awkward, difficult time, but after that it should get better as the other parents realise it’s mainly about the children and not about them. Having said that whilst it is about the children it’s also important that the parents get on as well.

I’m going to try and follow my own advice and arrange a few more playdates, this is especially important once my wife goes back to work from maternity leave and I’ll be looking after two young children. It will be important for my sanity to get out of the house and have some adult conversation.

Your thoughts

I would be appreciative of any feedback and or comments about how you feel about playdates and how best to arrange them.

 

 

The Dad Network

 

Time without the children, time to chop down a tree.

So this week my wife has taken both children out for the day twice. This is a first for either of us and has given her a lot of self confidence which is good. I haven’t managed to take a trip out on my own with both my daughters yet as the youngest is exclusively breastfed and is still unpredictable with timings of her feeds. However, I was quite happy to get on with some task that have been out on the backburner.

Time to get out the chainsaw!

With this free time I have been able to do a lot of gardening which has been necessary for quite a while. This includes cutting down a pretty large sycamore. It felt rewarding to get the chainsaw out and cut down the sycamore which had been blocking light from an old oak tree.

It was hard work, but it felt really good being able to do something without having to worry about rushing in to attend to one of the children. I think my wife also really enjoyed her alone time with the children and will hopefully have gained some confidence to take them both out in future.

Especially as there is a big list of jobs that need doing, that will be difficult to do whilst looking after children.

  • Dig up a flower bed and plant it
  • Lay a patio
  • Protect and stain 2 garden sheds
  • Put a new felt roof on one of the sheds
  • Clear, chop and chip the wood from the sycamore tree
  • Check the guttering
  • Strip and re-varnish the exterior window frames

And this list is just for outside!!! my wife might have to take them away for a month or two to let me finish this list and get all the interior jobs done.

 

 

Can you move a sleeping baby or toddler?

Or in my case try and move them from the car into bed

My eldest daughter has been rebelling against her naps for the past few weeks. What has made it worse is that since the last week or so she has figured out how to open doors.

This means that not only will she get out of bed, she will get out of her room and explore the whole upstairs.

Swimming didn’t work

So today we went swimming as she always gets really tired after that. It worked to a certain extent. She fell asleep five minutes before we got home. This is unusual for her as she has pretty much stopped sleeping in the car.

Last year when she used to fall asleep in the car we could easily carry her in and even if she half woke up most of the time she soon settled back down. As we didn’t want to leave her asleep in the car we decided to try and move her. This turned out to be a big mistake, she woke up straight away and flat out refused to settle after that. She got straight out of bed and out of her room every time we tried to put her down. In the end she didn’t have a nap and she was overtired towards the end of the day. 

Double trouble

To make matters worse her younger sister also woke up when we carried her carseat out of the car. Between the two of them they certainly kept my wife and myself busy this afternoon. So should we have moved them or just left them to sleep in the car? Is it ever okay to potentially wake a sleeping baby? Please let me know in my poll.

 

In hindsight I think letting them sleep in the car might have been better, however at the time I was pretty sure they would settle back down if they did wake up.

Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox book review

I was really excited to be win a copy of this book through Toppsta as my two year old daughter really loves the Julia Donaldson books she already has. These include the Gruffalo’s Child, What the Ladybird Heard and various books from the Acorn Wood series.

She especially likes the illustrations and the ways the words flow in rhymes.

As a consequence we were both disappointed with Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox. I think it is probably just a bit too old for her.

Synopsis

A little girl Ellen has chicken pox, when she looks in the mirror and starts scratching her reflection tells her off. Her reflection jumps out of the mirror and introduces herself as Princess Mirror-belle and she has dragon pox. Princess Mirror-Belle starts making a cure for dragon pox which leaves a big mess in the bathroom. Just as Ellen’s mother appears Princess Mirror-belle jumps back into the mirror, leaving Ellen to explain the mess.

The bad bits (for a two year old)

  • The story didn’t flow that well and there were more words than my daughter is used too. she often tried turning the page before I had gotten halfway through reading it.
  • The book could encourage bad behaviour. In the story Princess Mirror-Belle squirts a whole bottle of bubble bath, a whole tub of toothpaste, a whole can of shaving cream and a whole bottle of shampoo into the bath as a cure for the dragon pox. They also splash this water all over the floor making it soaking wet. My daughter has a tendency to copy things she hears so I would not want to give her the impression that any of this is acceptable behaviour.

The good bits (for a Two year old)

  • My daughter really enjoyed the illustrations. There was so much going on on each page she enjoyed pointing out various objects and animals on each page. In that sense it helps build her vocabulary.

Conclusion

All in all I would say this book is not a good book to get a two year old. However I can imagine an older child getting a lot more out of the book and enjoying it more. After all it has some great reviews on Amazon, but these mainly seem to be from parents/grand parents of four and five year olds.  In which case I’ll have to try it out again in a few years to see if it is more suitable for my daughter then.

Toddlers have half term too!

Do you think half term is only for school aged children? If you do think again. Half term has a major impact on my two year old and five month old.

 

Impact

For our own sanity we try and get out of the house as much as possible so toddler groups and classes are a real godsend. However at half term the majority of them don’t seem to be running. This means that you have to entertain your children in other ways. That’s not easy though.

We went for our weekly swim last Monday and the swimming pool was really busy with older children. There was lots of splashing from the older children, who often didn’t look where they were swimming. This meant that we were often getting bumped or having to take avoiding action. In addition there is a real scramble for the changing rooms with a baby changing unit as older families use them as well. All in all this means the experience is not as relaxing as it normally is. I imagine the same goes for other activities which will also be busier than during term time.

Our solution

Our solution was to pack our bags drive 180 miles and visit some family and friends. We did this on the Tuesday and thankfully we had an excellent drive up both girls were either asleep or passive enough not to stop so the journey was very good. We had enough time to get unpacked, settle in and let our eldest get over the excitement before it was time for bed.

The next day we had arranged to meet friends at Gulliver’s world in Warrington. I did a detailed review here, but suffice to say our eldest daughter loved it and even today a full five days later still talks about the ladybird ride that she went on. The next few days involved seeing family and going with them to a garden centre with aquarium when it was raining, and visiting Tam O’Shanters farm when it wasn’t. At Tam O’Shanters my eldest daughter got to stroke an owl which she really loved. Other activities included house visits to friends and family and getting windswept on the beach.  The days were really jam packed and fun, with family taking a bit of the pressure off having to constantly entertain a two year old and five month old.

The children not being in school gives you a little more flexibility with regards to travelling. For example we decided to travel back today, on a Monday, when children were already back at school to avoid the traffic. If we had had to travel back on a Sunday the traffic would have been chaotic and we wouldn’t have had such an easy trip.

We left this morning and to tire out my eldest daughter, as well as to give mummy and daddy time to pack the car in peace, she went on a bus ride to the local beach with family. She really enjoyed it and it definitely did the job as she was asleep soon after we left. Again the journey was really good. Our youngest slept the whole way and although our eldest did wake up about an hour from home she wasn’t that restless that we needed to stop so we managed to get home at a decent time.

 

Upcoming holidays

Both my wife and myself think this past week has been a huge success. Our eldest daughter hasn’t been missing her classes as there has been so many other things going on. She has had plenty of distractions without taking up all of our time. We have already planned to visit family and friends again at Easter time. Hopefully that will be just as successful. I’m not sure we will be wanting to go away every holiday, but probably we would for a good portion of them. Alternatively it might also be worth timing relatives trips to see us around school holidays so that there is an extra distraction for the girls.

I also think late spring and summer holidays will be different anyway as there are a lot more outdoor activities that we can do and we don’t feel like we have to be cooped up in the house or having to drive to expensive soft plays and theme parks.

All in all I do think that doing something different like taking a trip to see family and friends during school holidays is a great idea. .

 

Have a great day out at Gulliver’s World Warrington.

After travelling up north to see family and friends we decided to visit Gulliver’s World in Warrington to meet up with some friends.

Gullivers-Logo-

I was a little sceptical at first as our eldest is only two and under 90cm so I wasn’t sure how much there would be for her to do. However my wife went on the Gulliver’s website to have a look at the list of rides  available to children under 90cm  and saw that there was plenty of rides that she would be able to go on.

Getting there and in

The good bit

The sign posting on the roads was very good, which was a bit of luck as our sat nav decided to lose it’s GPS signal just as we were approaching Warrington. Having arrived we were caught up in a bit of a queue for parking as it was very busy. However there was ample parking and what’s more the parking was free. This is very good compared to lots of places where you buy entrance tickets and you then have to pay extra for parking.

The bad bit

The queues were pretty bad and we had to endure two of them. First of all we had to queue up to get our tickets. You can buy tickets in advance and print them off.  We however had decided not to do this in case we had to cancel our visit, as the tickets are non-refundable. Next time we might try and book in the morning before we set off just to avoid the ticket queue. Unfortunately you cannot by-pass the second queue, which is the queue to actually get into the park. However it did start to move when they opened some more gates and we didn’t have to wait too long in the end. It probably just felt like longer with an impatient two year old.

Inside the park

The good bit

There were lots of rides and activities to choose from even for our daughter who is under 90cm. Quite a few of them were indoors so that if the weather had been bad there would still have been plenty to do. There also seemed to be different playgrounds everywhere from an indoor shop, to an outside sandpit, a play fort and lots more. Everywhere you turned there seemed to be something to do.

The staff were very friendly and patient, especially when our daughter was taking her time to decide if she wanted to go on a ride or not.

She especially liked the train, the ladybirds and the merry go round, as well as one particular slide in one of the playgrounds.

There was plenty of benches as well as comfy seating for my wife to breastfeed. There was also lots to look at as you were walking round, from mirrors on walls to ducks on the lake. My daughter didn’t know in which direction to go as there was excitement everywhere.

The bad bit

Some of the rides and attractions looked a bit tired and could have done with a lick of paint. This isn’t something that bothers the children, but it was something both my wife and myself picked up on.

As it’s not the peak season not all the rides were running. This could be annoying if you have come for a particular ride, but it was fine for us.

Some of the larger rides had very long queues, up to an hour for the log flume. Again this didn’t affect us too much, but it can be annoying if going with older children.

Other items

As it was off-season and not all the rides were operating, entry was reduced to £9.95 per adult and child over 90cm. The normal price is £17 if bought on the day or £15 if bought online at least two days in advance.

Mothers day special deal: On the mothers day weekend of 14th-15th of March, mums go free with one other paying person. This could be a great day out. For full details visit the Gulliver’s world website. This deal is also valid in Gulliver’s Land in Milton Keynes.

Definitely worth a visit.

All in all I would definitely recommend a visit to Gulliver’s World for age ranges between 2 and about 11. I think my eldest daughter would also enjoy it even more when she is a little bit older and taller and can go on even more rides. It would also be nice to go when my youngest daughter is a bit older so she too can enjoy the atmosphere. Today my youngest daughter was either in her buggy or in her sling. She did look like she was soaking up some of the atmosphere though.