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Our Blog: October 23, 2013

How to Host a Successful Playdate

Great playdates make for happier, healthier children. In our first article in the series, we discussed WHY. Today, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of HOW to host a simple, fun, and smooth-running playdate.

A little planning goes a long way when it comes to hosting a great playdate. My tips:

  • Parent Planning – Talk with your little guest’s parents to cover pick-up and drop-off details, plus contact info. Ask about their child’s likes, dislikes, any food allergies, and potty issues. Get a sense of the child’s personality and temperament, too. After the playdate, debrief with your guest’s parents, emphasizing the fun times and good behavior.
  • Kid Planning – Help your child be a great host by planning which toys will be shared – and which precious things will be put away ahead of time for safe-keeping. Let your child help plan the snack and activity choices, too. At the beginning of the playdate, greet your guest and go over simple house rules, and the flow of the playdate. For instance, “First, you guys can play in the play room. You can play jumping games inside if you want, but not on the furniture.  We’ll wash hands and have snack in a little while. Let me show you where the potty is. And please come to me if you need any help. I will be checking in on you to see if everybody is having fun.”
  • Activity Planning – Consider the time of day and age of the children, remembering to build in transitions for new activities. Offer non-competitive play options like dress-up, building, and crafts. Running around outside is always a great way to blow off steam (and prevent indoor messes). Baby playdates just need an open, safe area to explore with plenty of interesting toys to play with, plus adult supervision. And don’t let the playdate drag on too long – 1 to 2 hours is plenty.
  • Planning for Meltdowns – Arguments and tears happen. Prevent conflict by spending a few minutes down on the floor with the children at the beginning of the playdate, coaching them on taking turns and sharing. If someone gets upset, take care of anyone who got hurt first. Coach the children to talk it out, review the house rules, and help them apologize to each other. Then, offer a more supervised activity (like washing the veggies for dinner, putting away toys and games, or rolling cookie dough) to boost cooperative play.

Don’t forget to come back for more tips on how your child can be an excellent playdate guest. And please share YOUR great playdate tips below!

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.