5 Tips for Successful Playdates
Playdates offer enormous socialization benefits for children, and they can be a blast for the parents too! However, organizing a successful playdate for children requires some planning and preparation to ensure a fun and positive experience for everyone involved. In this blog, we will share five valuable tips to make playdates safe and enjoyable for both parents and their little ones.
1. Consider the Timing
No one is at their best when they’re tired and hangry. For children in the 0-5 age group, nap time is crucial. Ask about the other child’s nap schedule and plan the meet-up accordingly with both children’s awake windows and meal times in mind. For length of time, aim for 60 to 90 minutes, to avoid overtiredness and overstimulation.
2. Limit the Guest List
If it’s your child’s first playdate with a new friend, it may be best to keep it to just the two of them. However, if siblings are in the picture, consider their ages and their potential impact on the playdate dynamics. Three can be a crowd, leading to feelings of being left out – but certainly not in every scenario.
Depending on your child’s age, they may or may not have an opinion on their friendship circle yet. Most toddlers will be amenable to playing with just about anyone, but sometimes that changes as they grow. For older kids, ask them who they play with the most at school, or ask their teacher for recommendations. Be sure their parent or caregiver knows they’re invited, too. If you have questions about playdates that are kids-only (with just one parent present), visit Healthy Children’s blog.
3. Choose a Venue and Prep Accordingly
Whether you plan to meet at a local park, children’s museum, or in someone’s home, be sure to consider all factors.
Playdates at Your House
As the playdate host, you can help ensure both families have a great experience by considering the following:
• House prep – Don’t feel pressured to clean every nook and cranny in your home, just the general areas that will be used on the playdate. Most likely this is the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and possibly your child’s room. It doesn’t have to be spotless, but clean floors and tidy spaces make for an inviting and safe play space.
• Safety first – Double-check that outlets are covered and other baby or child-proofing measures have been considered. Also, supervise the children closely, especially when they’re engaged in physical activities.
• Pets – If you have pets, ask about allergies and/or fears the other child may have. Keep in mind you may need to keep furry friends in the other room depending on their answer.
• Snacks – As the host, it’s customary to provide some type of snack at some point during your playdate. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but if you want some fun ideas, check out the “conquer snack time” section of our blog on healthy foods for growing children. Always check for any food allergies or dietary restrictions the other child may have.
• Toys – Take a look through your child’s toys ahead of time and remove anything that may spark sharing or jealousy issues. Be sure to set out toys that encourage collaborative play, such as Legos, building blocks, art supplies, and/or toys that have multiples. If your child has a special attachment to a certain lovey or other toy, it may be wise to keep it put away for the duration of the playdate to avoid meltdowns.
• Activities – Free play is great for kids, but if you want to level things up for children entering preschool, pre-K, or beyond, consider doing a fun art project or science experiment. If all else fails, suggest a simple game of tag or hide-and-seek. If weather permits, go outside!
• Prep your child – If age-appropriate, mentally prepare your child to help play host. Remind them to be welcoming and generous with their toys and space.
Playdates at Their House
• What to bring – Before the playdate, ask if you can bring anything to contribute. More than likely they’ll say no, but it’s always nice to offer. If you feel inclined to bring something, a snack to share is usually well-received.
• Allergies – If your child has a severe food or pet allergy (or fear), be sure to alert your host in advance.
• House rules – When entering their home, ask if they are a shoes-off or shoes-on household. Stay alert to any other rules that may catch your child by surprise.
Playdates on Neutral Ground
If you’re meeting at a park, kids’ museum, library, or other neutral ground area, be sure to prepare yourself by double-checking the following:
• Parking – Is there a large lot, parking garage, or street parking?
• Weather – Dress accordingly and bring appropriate accessories (sun screen, bug spray, winter gear, etc.)
• Cost – If there’s an admission charge, mention it when coordinating your plan. Keep in mind, while many people assume each family will pay their own way, some subscribe to the tradition of the inviter paying for the invitee.
• Hours – Double-check that the venue will be open on the date and time you plan to go.
4. Actively Monitor and Redirect as Needed
Playdates are an excellent opportunity for teachable moments. This is a chance for you to witness your child’s social skills “out in the wild” and help guide them if needed. Consider your child’s age and ability and give space accordingly, but intervene as needed. You know your child best.
Young children are still learning how to share and take turns. Encourage them to share toys and take turns with different activities. Offering praise and positive reinforcement when they do so will promote good social behavior. Check out our blog on sharing for more tips.
Keep in mind that playdates might not always go as planned, and that’s okay. Young children can be especially unpredictable, and their moods can change quickly. Stay flexible and patient; be prepared to adjust activities – or bail completely – if needed.
5. Enjoy Yourself!
Remember, playdates are an ideal time for parents to interact and bond too! This is a great opportunity to make friends yourself. Modeling friendship is very beneficial for your child, and if you have a fun time, you’ll be more likely to set up more playdates in the future. Win-win!
Schedule a Tour at Kiddi Kollege
Playdates are much more than just a way for children to spend time together. They contribute to kids’ social and emotional development which helps them build vital skills that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Here at Kiddi Kollege, we strive to create an atmosphere that fosters high-quality education while nurturing each child’s individual needs. As a local, family-owned, accredited early childhood education center, we go far beyond traditional daycare methods. We have classes for children from six weeks all the way through pre-Kindergarten, and we offer afterschool care for kids 5-12 too. Interested in learning more? Visit our homepage to schedule a tour at any of our eight locations throughout Johnson County, Kansas.