Playdates are a great way to get kids together so they can have fun with someone their own age, and to practice interacting socially with their peers. They can also be great for parents too, in that when the playdate is going well, they can sit back and enjoy some adult company without having to worry about entertaining the kids.
But playdates can also cause stress for parents, especially when planning one with someone unfamiliar. Some questions may arise such as: Will the kids get along? Will they be bored? Will I like the kid's parent? If you're planning a playdate and want to take the worry out of it, here are some tips that should help you stay calm.
10 START WITH A FAMILIAR FRIEND
A good way to ease into the playdate scene is to start with a friend that your child already knows well. Hopefully, you'll know the parent pretty well too. This will make you all feel more comfortable and will keep the playdate relaxed.
Once you've had a few playdates together and you feel more confident, you can try inviting over kids you don't know as well.
9 CONSIDER THE TIME OF DAY
In order to make sure everyone will be happy and well-rested during the playdate, strategically choose a time of day you know the kids will be at their best.
Playdates earlier in the day often work better, as everyone is still feeling fresh and there's less chance of crankiness. Mid-morning generally works really well. Don't forget to ask the other child's parents what time will work best for them, too!
8 LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
When setting up a playtime, you'll have to decide on a location. Weather permitting, a great option is to hold the playdate outdoors. Kids love playing outside, and they'll get more exercise if you hold the playdate at, say, a park, rather than in your living room.
The benefits of getting fresh air are bountiful, both for the kids and the adults. And, bonus, they'll probably be exhausted later for nap time or bedtime!
7 DESIGNATE A "PLAYDATE ZONE"
Maybe it's a rainy day, so the playdate will have to take place at your home. In advance, designate a room or area of your house to be the playdate zone, and tell the parent and kid when they arrive that you will be playing there.
This will help prevent kids running around the house when you'd much prefer them not enter certain rooms. Make sure the area isn't overrun with toys - some toys are okay, but too many can be overwhelming and there should be space for the kids to move around and make their own games.
6 SET AN END TIME
As well as setting a start time, it's just as important to set an end time for the playdate. This will ensure that the other parent and child won't linger around longer than you're comfortable with, and you won't have to come up with an excuse to get them out of the house.
Depending on the children's age, choose a time frame that you're comfortable with. Every child is different, but a one to two hour playdate is generally a good amount of time for most kids.
5 PINTEREST IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
If you're struggling with ideas for your playdate, you may be one of those parents who reaches for Pinterest to get a little inspiration. This may not be the best idea. You will find hundreds of magazine-worthy photos of kids creating intricate crafts in spotless homes with huge smiles on their faces, and decorating perfect-looking homemade vegan cupcakes.
An easier, less stressful route is to keep it simple, and don't aim for perfection. Remember the goal is just for your child to have some fun social time, and you don't really need anything fancy to achieve that.
4 STICK BY YOUR RULES
It may be tempting, especially if this is your first time hosting a playdate, to let your normal house rules slide a little. But if the sight of your child's friend grinding goldfish crackers into your white carpet is setting your teeth on edge, don't be afraid to step in.
Sticking by your house rules will not only settle your nerves and save your white carpet, but it will benefit your child in that they will see you being consistent with the family rules.
3 THINK ABOUT SNACKS
At some point during the playdate, one of the kids will inevitably say the words "I'm hungry". So make sure to have on hand some healthy snacks that are quick and easy to prepare.
Some great options are cut up fruit, hummus and veggies, or granola bars. If you would prefer to save the hassle of thinking up snack ideas for your child's friend and their parent, consider asking the other parent to bring along their own snacks.
2 LET THEM PLAY
Remember that during a playdate, the goal is for your child to interact socially and play with their friend. This means that you as the parent shouldn't micromanage everything they do, or constantly come up with suggestions of what they can play next.
Let them decide what they want to do (within reason of course) and try to work out their own battles. You may need to step in occasionally to enforce rules such as no hitting, or reminding to share. But try to back off as much as possible and let them do their thing.
Finally, keep in mind that playdates are supposed to be a relaxed affair. If you are stressed out about it, that energy will rub off on the kids and dampen the spirit. Try to let the kids be kids and enjoy themselves.
Hopefully this will give you a chance to sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy some adult conversation, and the luxury of not having to entertain your kid for a couple of hours. Enjoy!