Having friends over to play can be a great boredom buster and can also help your children learn a host of important social skills like sharing and empathy. It’s easy to plan a playdate that’s both fun and safe for all involved. All you need to do is follow this simple advice.
- Put together a good group. Try to choose children with temperaments that are likely to complement each other, for example, one shy child in a group of loud, assertive kids may not be the best fit. It’s often better to stick to an even number of guests to avoid one child being left out. Also, consider the kids’ interests. A child who’s not a fan of crafts probably won’t enjoy a playdate where the main activity is craft-related.
- Get to know the parents. If you’re not already friends with the parents of the children you plan to invite to your playdate, taking a little time to get to know them can make both of you more comfortable. On the day of the playdate, invite the parents in and let them hang out for a bit to get comfortable. If they seem reticent about leaving their child with someone they don’t know well, you can ask them if they’d like to stay and lend a hand.
- Let the kids know what they can and can’t do. It helps to let your guests know the house rules before the playdate gets going. In some families, jumping off the furniture or drinking grape juice on the couch are OK. If that’s not the case in your home, outlining the basic dos and don’ts can reduce stress.
- Put safety first. Ask the parents of your children’s playdate friends for a cell number or other number where you can reach them if there’s an emergency. Find out if their kids have any food allergies or health conditions like asthma that might require medication during the course of the playdate. Especially for younger children, make sure you provide adequate supervision so no one gets hurt. For older children, you don’t have to hover, but do check in from time to time to make sure everything is going smoothly.
- Don’t make it a marathon. The best playdates are the ones were the guests don’t wear out their welcome. Depending on your child’s age, a good rule of thumb is that a playdate should last no more than two hours. Make sure to let the parents know when you expect the kids to be picked up at drop-off time.
Give the parents a recap. When your guests are picked up, share a short description of what the kids did with their parents. This can be especially important if the kids got into an argument or someone bumped their head or cut their finger. You want the parents to know that they can trust you to be honest and upfront.