Center For Pediatric: Introducing Children To Play Dates

Kids Health The Newsletter About Taking Care Of The Ones That Matter Most

“Has Your Child Asked For Permission To Bring A Friend Over?” INTRODUCING YOUR CHILD TO PLAY DATES


Once upon a time, children roamed neighborhoods and played on street corners. The rules were simple: Be home before dinner, or in some cases, before it grew “too dark.” For better or worse, those days now elude us. In their place are scheduled events, aka playdates, with a whole new world of etiquette and expectations to follow. Whether you’re playing host or your child is heading elsewhere, here is a comprehensive look at ways to make it more successful -- for both of you.

• Introducing Your Child To Play Dates • 4 Reasons To Play Outside With Your Special Needs Child

• Staff Spotlight

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Kids Health The Newsletter About Taking Care Of The Ones That Matter Most

“There Are Guidelines To Being A Successful Host For Your Child’s Friends!” INTRODUCING YOUR CHILD TO PLAY DATES

The Rules of Engagement Find that sweet spot of numbers

all make for popular replenishment. A full pitcher of water is helpful, too. Choose the right time There are good times -- and there are awful times. If your child turns into Jekyll and Hyde at 1:00, give yourself room on either side to avoid a meltdown. Keep in mind nap schedules and meal times. Likewise, if you’re going to need to rush your child to another activity at a certain point close to the playdate, allow for some downtime between events. If you’re planning hang time away from the house, consider when that place will be the most packed and try to avoid it then. Prepare the space Not all toys are created equal. If you know your child will throw a fit if forced to share, say, her favorite Hot Wheel, keep the car tucked far away. That is unless there are two of that toy, in which case display them prominently. Playdates aren’t necessarily the best time to try to enforce concepts like sharing if you can thwart the issue well in advance. If the little fry does get into a

quarrel over a specific toy, consider giving the toy -- not the children -- a time out. Keep in mind that visitors don’t know the rules of your house so it’s important to put away belongings that are untouchable and clarify rules that other families may not follow. For instance, if the idea of children jumping on your couch sends you railing, it’s best to tell the parents and children ahead of time. After all, couch-jumping may be perfectly acceptable elsewhere. Know when to say goodbye If children are miserable or can’t be consoled, it’s time to call quits on the playdate. For babies and toddlers, an hour is usually a good landing point. Most preschoolers can handle two or three hours, but a watchful eye can determine if that is too much. Successful playdates are important for children and parents alike. A little attention and preparation go a long way. As with all things child-related, knowing when to change course is just (if not more) as important.

Depending on the age of the children and their abilities, knowing how many to include can vary. For babies, it’s really an opportunity for parents to congregate. Since infants don’t actually play together, the more may be merrier. For older kids, however, the term ‘three is a crowd’ is applicable. Try to distract any younger siblings with a friend or toy of their own; avoid situations where one child will be left out while the other two play. The least tricky number is, of course, one-on-one. Around age 4, children can often handle a few more in the mix, according to Parents magazine, though that does mean closer supervision is necessary. Take your role as caterer seriously No one runs well without food, and there are few places where this is truer than on playdates. Low blood sugar is a recipe for a terrible hang out time, so be prepared to keep the mood elevated with plenty o’ grub. If parents will be lingering, make sure there are snacks for them as well. Fruit snacks, popcorn, and veggies with hummus

4 Reasons to Play OutsideWith Your Special Needs Child

Children with special needs are still children above all else. That means they savor the breeze blowing in their hair, the vivid colors of nature splashing in their eyes, and the textures of dirt and sand under their fingertips. While outdoor play brings challenges for some children, the necessity for it cannot be overstated. The benefits, including physical, psychological, and intellectual, are remarkable. Here are four reasons why your child with special needs should head outdoors every day -- or as frequently as is manageable. 1. Playing outdoors promotes creativity and imaginative play. The unstructured methods of play that occur outdoors allow children to interact with their environment in natural, meaningful ways. For many children with special needs, days can be incredibly limiting with rules governing every aspect of time. Being outdoors allows them to think more freely and direct their play in ways of their own choosing. Playing pretend can open windows into how children think and feel, even if they have limited verbal skills in ‘real life.’ As an observer, you can watch your child transform sticks into people, swords, houses, and animals, or leaves into fairy houses and food. If you pay close attention, you’re apt to recognize in your child a whole world of thoughts and emotions that you wouldn’t access if you stayed inside. 2. It improves physical fitness. Children of all abilities often have limited opportunities to enjoy physical activities. Video games and television are the contemporary jump ropes and tree houses of years past. This is particularly true for children with physical or behavioral limitations. To be sure, only one in three children are physically active every day, according to medical professionals specializing in pediatrics. Throughout the nation, 25.6 percent of persons with a disability reported being physically inactive during a usual week, compared to 12.8 percent of those without a disability. Yet people of every age and ability still need to engage in activities that promote body wellness. Being outdoors is a natural way to encourage these behaviors. Children can see improvements in flexibility,

muscle strength, and coordination. Active outdoor play can increase body awareness, balance, cardiovascular efficiency, and motor skills. Even 15 minutes of physical activity can lengthen a person’s lifespan. 3. Outside time reduces fatigue and stress. One in three adolescents suffers from chronic stress, according to a 2013 survey from Stockholm University. Eight percent contend with stress so much that they would qualify for a clinical diagnosis of burnout if they had been adults. So while young people’s lives become more stressful due to heightened expectations, conflicting responsibilities, adult pressures, and unrealistic goals, they have fewer outlets to cope. According to Attention Restoration Theory, urban environments demand focused attention, thereby leaving people exhausted. Going outdoors can significantly help with these concerns.There,childrencanpracticeaneffortlessformofconcentration called soft fascination. This mode of being promotes happiness and health rather than stress. Children with ADHD demonstrate the greatest improvements in concentration and behavior when heading outdoors, and soft fascination is often to blame. 4. Outdoor play increases confidence. It’s an unfortunate fact, but many children with special needs and those who require pediatric physical therapy struggle with issues of self-esteem. Rather than being differently abled,theyareperceivedasdisabledandthatdoesn’tmakeforconfidence boosts. However, going outside to play can help. There are infinite ways to interact with the environment that don’t rely on prescribed rules. Children can dictate how they play, which leads to increased success. Naturally, success leads to confidence. Likewise, there are no judgments in nature. The ocean, trees, rocks, and grass don’t tease. If your child struggles with cognitive, physical, or sensory limitations, pediatric therapy may be the solution. A trained physical therapist can help increase independent living skills while tending to children’s psychological, social, and environmental needs as well.

Staff Spotlight


Tiffany is licensedbytheCommonwealth of Virginia to provide physical therapy services under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Tiffany graduated from the physical therapistassistantprogramatJefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Virginia. Prior to attending Jefferson College, Tiffany earned a Bachelor of Sports Medicine from Averett University in 2007. During her clinical education, Tiffany gained experience in a variety of

different locations, ranging from public schools, to the hospital, to outpatient settings. Tiffany was inspired to work in physical therapy after a teacher talked to her about the field in the third grade. Her clinical areas of interest include pediatrics, aquatics, and orthopedics. Outside of work, Tiffany enjoys taking care of her two children, going hunting withherhusband,and teachingAWANA’s at her church. She is also a member of the APTA.


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