Playdates can simultaneously be the most fun experience and the most daunting — for both kids and parents. It all seems great at the time, but crying kiddos who won’t share, parents who drop off and pick up late, and huge messes made by children you can’t exactly discipline are all potential scenarios that have to be dealt with when hosting a playdate for your little and a friend.
To help you keep your sanity and make things run a bit smoother, we’ve come up with 12 tips for hosting the best playdates so you can keep your kiddos happy and social without going nuts.
1. Talk to your child about what they want to do.
If your kid has a vision or something that would really make her happy, test it out! She can do the planning for herself and her friend, and you’re basically guaranteed a smooth playtime that inspires your child’s creativity and is hopefully boredom free.
2. Leave favorite toys in the bedroom.
If your child has a favorite toy that you just know he’s going to get sensitive about sharing — rather than force him to share or deal with a potential breakdown — put them away. After putting away his favorites, discuss sharing everything else equally and fairly with his friend.
3. Limit the number of kids.
Even though it seems like more kids would mean more fun and more to do, small-group play is easier to manage. This means less fighting over sharing, hopefully no one is bored, and with two, no one is left out!
4. Strength in numbers.
If every once in a while you decide to have a bunch of kids over, invite their parents too — the more adults, the easier it is to supervise a group of crazy kiddos.
5. Get rid of screens.
Sometimes screens can be awesome, but at a playdate, screens can take away from the personal interactions between children. Turn off the TV if you can, leave gadgets off, and avoid an hour of two kids staring at screens, not talking, or worse — fighting over who gets to use the screen to play.
6. Have great snacks planned.
The best part of a playdate can be sitting down for an awesome snack — not only are they delicious, but eating together can facilitate some great conversation. So whip up something fun — or have the kids help you make something — like s’mores or popsicles, and enjoy*!
*Don’t forget to always ask other moms about allergies!
7. Make an indoor playdate exciting!
Even if it’s cold or raining, a playdate inside can be a ton of fun. Instead of sitting in the playroom the whole time, try some of these awesome ideas!
8. Talk about discipline with other moms.
Hopefully you’ll never feel like you need to have another mom’s kid in timeout, but situations arise — like biting and hitting (yikes) — so it’s important to know how the other child’s parents feel about discipline. If they’re totally against any type of repercussions for their child’s misbehaviors, be ready to separate the kids with two different activities to give them some time to cool off.
9. Set up a quiet space.
Every playdate has the capacity to get a little out of control. For your sanity, and to keep the kids happy and calm, set up a corner of the house (a fort, perhaps, or outside, a hammock) that is inviting and fun for the kids to go to when you need them to calm down. Put books or coloring supplies in the area — any quiet activity will do — and give yourself a minute to breathe before they start jumping up and down again.
10. Don’t use your child’s playdate as an excuse to “check out.”
While having another little in the house definitely keeps your kiddo busy, depending on the age of the children, they’ll still need you, or you’ll still want to be around. Be there to observe, resolve conflicts, praise them for good play, and hand out the inevitable endless flow of snacks.
11. Set a pick-up time.
The best part about sending your kid to a drop-off playdate is getting a chance to run errands or get some work done, so there may be moms who take advantage of you hosting for that reason. Set a pick-up time to stick to, because the longer the playdate, the more chance you’ll have cranky, bored, and tired kids on your hands — it’ll make life easier for everyone.
12. Give a fair warning for goodbyes.
There’s nothing worse than having an awesome afternoon with your kid and their friend, only to have the both of them completely melting down at the end. Give time warnings, make a game out of the guest putting their shoes and coat on, and talk about all the fun things you did and can do next time.