How to host a great play date
Not sure what to do or how to prepare for a play date in your home? Here's an easy and fuss-free guide on how to be a good host and how to plan a fun time for your child and his friends.
Play dates are a great way for your child to develop his social skills, learn how to share with his friends and just have fun in the comfort of his own home.
If you are hosting your very first play date but not sure where to start, or you had one before and it didn’t turn out very well, here’s an easy guide to how you can host a great play date with (hopefully) no tears from the little ones – and mums!
Even though play dates should be fun, there are still a few basic rules you should set to avoid any unecessary stress on your part.
1. Limit the number of kids
You might be tempted to invite more than a handful of your child’s friends over for the afternoon, but remember that this is not a birthday party.
Depending on your child’s age, even just one friend can be plenty of fun.
2. Drop-off or parent-accompanied?
Be sure to make it clear with the other parents whether or not they will be staying for the entire play date, or if they will be dropping off their child and picking him up later.
This is not a free babysitting session, so don’t feel shy to discuss it beforehand.
Toddlers (one to three year olds) will still need their mum or dad to stay close, but some preschoolers (four to six year olds) should already be ok with being dropped off, depending on the individual.
3. Set an exact time
Schedule the play date around the kids’ nap times to avoid any crankiness or total meltdowns. Also, agree on an exact timeslot so that you don’t have any guests overstaying their welcome when you need to start cooking dinner.
The duration of the play date should be the same number of hours as your child’s age. So for example if your child is three years old, then the play date should be about three hours.
Now that you’ve invited a few of your child’s friends and their mums to your house for a play date, what else should you do before all the guests arrive?
1. Tidy up a bit
You don’t have to scrub the floors, polish the furniture or clean the windows – this is a play date, not an open house for potential buyers.
Just tidy things up a little bit by clearing any clutter away, wiping up the trails of cookie crumbs on your sofa, and hiding the mountain of laundry you have yet to get around to folding.
You don’t have to impress the other mums and dads with your perfect cleaning skills, but do prepare a safe and hygienic space for your child and his tiny guests.
2. Remember your pets
Not everyone is comfortable with an over enthusiastic dog leaping on them and licking their whole face, some may even be scared of cats, or perhaps a child might have a pet allergy.
It’s probably better to keep Fluffy or Fido in another room from where the kids will be playing, or at least give your guests a heads up so you know if they’re ok with a furry four-legged pal roaming around.
3. Prepare your child
Talk to your child about the play date, tell him what to expect and remind him how to behave when his guests are over.
If he has a favourite toy which he might not want to share with others, avoid any drama and just put it away for the time being.
4. Plan some fun activities
You’re not Mary Poppins and the other parents don’t expect you put on a puppet show to entertain the kids. But it’s a good idea to have a few activities planned out in case the children don’t want to play with the toys anymore and need a few ideas to get the fun started.
Something simple like blowing bubbles outdoor, or a play dough corner with lots of cookie cutters, or even a bucket of crayons and a large sheet of mahjong paper for the mini artists to create a masterpiece together.
Your guests are here, so what happens next? Besides letting the little ones have the freedom to play and explore together, there are a few final touches to make this play date a great one.
1. Offer snacks and drinks
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a mixed fruit salad, some cookies, juice or milk is fine for hungry little tummies. Accompanying parents will also appreciate a hot cup of tea or coffee.
But remember to ask first if anyone has any dietary restrictions or allergies.
2. Don’t ignore the kids
It’s understandable that mums and dads might get a little caught up in chatting with each other and excited at the opportunity to finally having some proper adult conversation, but it’s important to still keep an eye on the little ones at all times to make sure they’re not doing something dangerous.
Not only that but for young children, playtime with parents is still important and they crave for their parents’ attention, so the adults should stay close and occassionally interact with the kids as well.
3. Have fun!
Ultimately, the goal of this play date is for your child and his friends to have fun while you enjoy the company of the other parents.
Don’t feel too stressed about it having to be the most perfect play date in history – as long as the little ones had fun and can’t wait to see each other again at the next meet-up, you know you did a good job.
Do you have any other tips on how to host a great play date? Or would you like to share any disaster stories of a play date gone wrong? Tell us in the comments section below!