We are finally at the stage where playdates lessen the parent involvement required at my house (most of the time).
Especially in the winter, when it’s hard to get outdoors here in Boston and we have to bundle up just to get to the car, playdates are the easiest way to mix things up for me and the kids. We can switch up the activities and the snack, but just having new kids in our apartment makes the winter hours seem to pass more quickly.
Sometimes little friends come over and the three of them hide off in their room for half an hour, showing off toys and making up games! Listening to their sweet little chatter from the kitchen is one of my favorite things.
Today I’m talking all about hosting stress-free playdates – how to prep, what to do, and how to pull them off.
I’d love to hear your ideas at the end – leave me a comment and let me know how you make playdates stress-free.
Tips for hosting a stress-free playdate:
Have healthy snacks on hand!
Have healthy snacks on hand! Be sure to ask about dietary restrictions and check with the other mom beforehand about what you plan on serving. I love using snacks as a break when kids are starting to get bored or restless and nothing staves off a meltdown like some calories. I also know I need snacks on hand for me (especially if so many kids in a small space starts to feel overwhelming).
Don’t share everything
Let your child put away one or two toys he doesn’t want to share. It’s okay for him to keep his prized teddy bear out of the hands of friends, but help him think through it before hand and put those toys out of sight before friends arrive. Explain that all the other toys will be things to share for the next hour or two – this prep is key.
Gather info before the other parent leaves
Take care of a few things before the other parent leaves. Be sure to ask for emergency contact information. Check how comfortable the other mom is with TV or electronic use. If you haven’t checked, stay away from it entirely (but really, stay away from it anyway – this is a time for them to play together!).
Avoid a party of three.
Depending on the ages of the kids, avoid a party of three. With young toddlers, this doesn’t seem to be a problem, but as they get older, threesomes almost guarantee an odd one out.
Pick the optimal playdate time.
Pick the optimal playdate time. Work around nap schedules and find a time when children will be the best rested (we love morning playdates or those right after afternoon naps).
Consider feeding your child before.
I know we talked about snacks, but also consider feeding your child before. The last thing they need is to be hungry. Hosting a playdate can be stressful even for a child host. A quick snack before friends arrive can ensure that they aren’t famished (and cranky) waiting for snack-time or lunch.
Try not to micromanage
Try not to micromanage, but do stay nearby and help when needed. I love using the same approach when trying to navigate disputes with my own two kids; acting as a translator and then asking them for solutions. It often looks something like this, “Lincoln, it sounds like you’re unhappy because you were playing with that toy before Adelaide took it. Is that right? And Adelaide, it sounds like you really want to play with it? What could we do about that?” Usually they come up with their own solutions,
Have a backup activity plan.
Have a backup activity plan. With playdates, I usually assume the kids will play with toys together without a lot of guidance from me, but I like to have something in my back pocket if people aren’t getting along, there is too much fighting over toys, or someone is starting to get tired. My go-to is a dance party with our favorite music for toddlers (use the list of action songs from the post). The kids love moving around the house and following the instructions in the songs.
Now I want to know – what things do YOU do to make playdates go more smoothly? Any tricks?
P.S. and a few more pictures