Here’s the thing about the word playdate, sometimes the “play” part goes well, and sometimes, well, it just feels like a date. An awkward, stressful, when-will-this-afternoon end date. In the toddler years it’s usually a double date with the stranger mom or nanny in tow and then you have to make conversation, which in New York City usually centers around the awful school process, the teachers at your current school, or the kid who still isn’t potty trained or picks his nose and wipes it on other kids.
Thankfully, my daughters are almost eight years old so we are now in the drop off playdate stage. These playdates have their own set of expectations. I used to know what these rules were – give a snack to stave off any hunger related meltdowns, keep the playdate to an hour and a half maximum, and basically leave the girls alone with a bin full of Polly Pockets. But, this year something changed. This year everyone got a Wii. And somehow, I have no idea when, the Wii went from a playdate taboo to a playdate must.
I was against the Wii as a playdate toy on principle. Exactly what that principle was I’m not sure, but I did think that screen time is not interactive together time and isn’t that the point of a playdate? Especially for my daughters who are identical twins, creating these one on one playdates with friends individually was something that I thought was really important. How could playing on the Wii compete with the friendship creativity that arises from playing with their American Girl dolls and stuffed animals? But then the inevitable happened. We had a playdate with a girl who didn’t want to play anything. She wasn’t shy, she just wasn’t interested in doing anything and it was making my daughter crazy trying to please and entice her into a game – any game!
Then this girl noticed the Wii sitting there on the floor winking its little yellow light at her. At that point it was either the Wii or calling her babysitter to pick her up early. So I struck a deal with my daughter, she could play the Wii but only if they did something active and together. We plugged in the two Disney Dance, Dance Revolution Mats and they had the time of their lives dancing together. And when my daughter let her friend create her own Mii at our house her friend exploded with happiness. She couldn’t believe we would have a virtual version of her living forever on our TV. Seriously, this was the tech equivalent of giving someone one half of a “BFF” necklace, and it had the added bonus of implicitly saying, yes, you will come over again.
After that playdate I have allowed the Wii as long as the other parent approves too. We’ve worked out new rules now for these playdates – they can’t be all Wii, they have to be active, and everyone has to be able to play. And I’ve come to realize that playdates have to evolve, not just because my daughters are older but because the toys at their disposal have grown up too. Although my poor downstairs neighbors would probably much rather my daughters and their friends stuck to playing with the dollhouse instead of dance, dance, dancing on their heads.
This post originally appeared on nycmomsblog