I have a seven-year-old daughter. This means I am well and truly entrenched in the world of play dates.
Admittedly, they don’t always go to plan. But through all the hiccups, I am starting to work out a few handy guidelines to stop me from falling into the abyss of play date pandemonium! Not to mention my Small Person.
So, from one mum to another, here are 7 smart rules for surviving your next kids play date.
1. Plan Ahead
Yep, whether you’re the play date holder or your child’s the ‘play datee’, parents need to know in advance there’s a rendezvous taking place. My little one now knows that if she wants a friend over, asking on the spot in front of said friend simply doesn’t cut it.
Everyone’s busy, so try to ask if your kid’s friend wants to come over at least a few days to a week in advance. If you’re the invited party, RSVP with time to spare. It’s simply good manners.
There’s that unspoken thing called the ‘Parental code of conduct.’ If your child is invited over all the time to one particular home, it’s a sure bet their mum or dad would love for you to return the favour. Who doesn’t want some kid-free time?
All in the name of keeping the peace, on all fronts, right?
3. Less is More
It really is. More than two kids at a time can cause utter play date bedlam. Three really is a crowd and you don’t want to be picking up the pieces when one of them is in tears because they’ve been left out of the group. And think of the mess!
Some days I’ve felt like the Pied Piper, collecting kids along the way to ‘come on over for a play date!’ It never ends well.
Tip 4: Confine the Critters
Ok, so maybe not to one corner, but if you can teach your child to keep their play time to one room, instead of carting things from one end of the house to the other, or starting up a pillow fight in the lounge room, they’re much more likely to get another play date sooner, right? Oh, and I like to stick to the rule, no wardrobe changes!
5. Feed Them
Yes, they will be hungry, most likely starving (of course), and if you don’t have a steady supply of snacks on hand, you will spend the entire play date fending them off in the kitchen, instead of enjoying the peace, like you intended to. I like to give them a few treats, but make sure you add something healthy — because it’s a sure bet the other mum will ask exactly what they ate! If your child has allergies, make sure you let parents know and provide some suitable snacks.
6. Pick Ups and Drop Offs
There’s that little thing called taking turns. If the parents hosting the kids play date pick your child up and take him or her to their home, offer to go and collect them later, at a time that’s suitable for the hosts.
Experts say it’s usually best to keep play dates to around two hours, so the children don’t get overtired. We all know how that ends.
7. Manners Maketh
Make sure your child uses please and thank you. If they’re under someone else’s roof, remind them it’s important to play by their rules. Of course, ensure they know to tell you straight away if they ever feel uncomfortable.
Bonus: If your child helps to clean up after the play date, you can guarantee they’ll get a future invitation.
Whatever happens, try not to stress, play dates are good for your child. Experts say they provide children with opportunities to practice important social and emotional skills. Oh, and you get to linger in the background to see how your little person really interacts with other kids.
And yes, no matter how much you detest it, there’s guaranteed to be a ‘show’ at the end of the play date, you’re required to sit down and watch, with all the patience and enthusiasm you can muster. It’s non-negotiable.
If you’re tempted to reach for the wine, make sure the bottle’s unopened when the parents arrive for pick up, unless you’re inviting them in, of course!
Oh and if you’ve got toddlers, we’ve got some play date rules for them too!
Happy play dates!