With warmer weather ahead and the chance to get outdoors, you might feel ready to get a playdate for kids on the calendar. Whether you have a tiny tot or a busy preschooler, playdates are a great way for your little ones to work on their socialization skills and have fun while doing it. They’re also a great opportunity for you to meet other parents and possibly even form some friendships.
There are many versions of playdates from just one other child to a hoard of them. We suggest starting small, as a few kids (versus a dozen) is honestly more manageable anyway! Here are some tips to get you started planning a playdate for kids.
1. Plan for your playdate
Maybe this goes without saying, but don’t commit to attending or hosting a playdate on a whim. You want your child to be ready to play. If they’re sleepy or hungry, things could get interesting. For example, if you have an afternoon napper, try planning a lunchtime playdate. This way you can enjoy lunch with a friend, get some good playtime in, and still make it home for that afternoon nap.
I can’t tell you how many times I learned this the hard way before I finally found our perfect time to schedule extracurricular activities and play time with friends. I know it’s not always possible to work around nap schedules, but if you can, I’d highly recommend it. A tired, grumpy toddler is no joking matter.
Another thing to consider is your child’s temperament. Will the idea of a playdate be distressing? Some kids like to know what to expect. Giving them details like who will be there, where you’ll go, and what you’ll be doing can help ease any stress your child might have over the unknown.
I have one son who likes to know what’s going on ahead of time so he can prepare himself for it. But his little brother? If I tell him about something coming up, he gets angry because he’s so excited he wants it to happen right now and not a few days from now. Ha!
2. Take advantage of public spaces
City parks, the beach, the zoo … there are so many places to meet when the weather cooperates! There are some big perks to having a playdate at a public place too. For one – little to no clean up for you. No dishes to wash or toys scattered across the living room floor. Two – it’s a neutral space. No risk of getting territorial over a favorite stuffed animal, or getting into your fingernail polish during a trip to the bathroom.
Most public spaces also have room to roam. Think parks with big, open spaces to run and roll around. You want them to get their wiggles out – where can they go wild?
Avoid public places that are overcrowded and could make it challenging for you to keep an eye on your child and their friends. You don’t want to have to worry about someone getting lost, and it’s not very relaxing or enjoyable to have to watch your kids like a hawk.
3. Set some ground rules
We all have different methods and mottos for parenting, so if you have boundaries that you’d like everyone to adhere with, make sure you communicate them up front – to the kids and their parents. If everyone is on the same page from the get-go about what kind of behavior is acceptable (and what kind is not), you’ll hopefully be able to avoid a sticky situation if somebody falls out of line.
It’s also a good idea to have everyone’s phone numbers on hand, especially if other parents will be dropping their kids off for the playdate instead of joining you.
If snacks or a meal will be part of the agenda, make sure you check with everyone’s parents on whether anyone has food allergies or aversions. Many younger children may not know they have a peanut allergy. And it would be the pits if you ordered some pizzas only to find out after the fact that your guest list is lactose intolerant. Once you find out what everybody can and cannot have, you can brainstorm some ideas that will work for everyone.
And one other thing – try to avoid filling kids up with sugar. Nobody wants to deal with the aftermath of that.
5. Have a backup plan
We can’t always expect everything to play out exactly as we’d like. There are always outside factors that can throw our plans for a loop. If your plan is to meet a few friends for an adventure at the zoo, but the forecast doesn’t look great – it doesn’t mean you have to cancel. That’s what backup plans are for. Think of something else you could do ahead of time in case you find yourself in this situation.
I hope some of these tips will be useful, whether you’re planning your little one’s first playdate of the season, or their first playdate ever.
Looking for playdate ideas? Check out Pinterest for all kinds of inspiration. Whether you’re a crafty mom or not, there’s something there for everyone.
Tell us more about your successful playdate ideas in the comments below!