A language play date is a great way to add more exposure and create a need for your kids to use the target language! There is something just magical about bilingual kids seeing their peers actively engaging in the same target language.
Bilingual play dates been very useful for our language journey. It is a great way to show my kids the value of communicating in Spanish.
But often times, if we want to get a language play date started, we have to create it ourselves. The planning process can seem daunting and you may be wondering if it’s worth the hassle!
It must certainly is but let me share with you some ideas on how to make it manageable for you and productive for the kids.
Play date management tips
Keep it short
You want to find that sweet spot to give kids enough time to warm up but to wrap it up before there is any arguing. Kids get tired from stimulation so you want to make sure to end on a happy note. I recommend establishing an end time with the other parent before the play date begins so everyone is on the same page.
Plan for snacks
Make sure everyone is well-fed before the play date starts to make sure no one is hangry. Have snacks handy but check in with the other parent in case there are any food allergies or preferences.
Invite a small number of kids
The less kids you have in the group the more manageable it will be. This is particularly important for language play dates since we want to make sure that the kids are interacting in the target language. If you have a large group, I can almost guarantee it that they will end up speaking the community language. A small group of kids will allow you to keep them focused on what language to use when communicating with their peers.
Plan it out!
Children have varied cognitive abilities depending on their age. We want to make language a focus in the play date without the kids even noticing. This means you will likely have to plan ahead to incorporate some form of play that will provide quality exposure and keep the kiddos entertained. I know for some the idea of planning out the play date sounds scary. But don’t overthink it.
Kids learn A LOT by just playing! Think about what YOUR kids loves to do most? How does he or she like to play? What is their favorite toy/game/activity? Reflect on that and then just do the same thing you would with your child but with one or two more play mates. It really is that simple.
Start with a book
A great way to break the ice and to send a signal of what language we will focus on for the play date is to read a quick and simple book in your target language. Make sure not to make it too long as you can lose the group’s attention.
Add water to the mix
Children of all ages generally love to play with water. If you are out of ideas, take out some containers and a few objects. Kids can spend a lot of time interacting with good old H2O just make sure to have some towels handy.
Older and younger kids
You don’t have to invite kids that are the same age as your children. Kids of different ages can play very well together and learn from each other. Older ones are patient and younger ones learn from their bigger peers.
Now that we have broken down some easy ways to manage the play date, let’s talk a bit about how children of different ages play. This will help you with your planning and to make sure that you are meeting the needs of your participants.
Are you feeling ready to plan your next play date?