Ahh playdates! We know that they are great for our children, but they can sometimes be stressful to host. If your child has been at school or preschool all day, there’s the worry that they will be too tired. On weekends you might feel obliged to pack in the entertainment.
My advice? Keep playdates simple and short. Here’s 5 tips that will help you achieve this.
5 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Playdate at Home
First things first, you need to establish whether the parent of the child intends to stay – sometimes assumptions can be made about this and you can be left hosting a parent as well as a child! This more commonly happens if it’s the first playdate.
Once you know how many people you are hosting, check any requirements upfront. If, for example, the child has a nut allergy then it’s really important to know this in advance!
On the day, try to get any snacks and play invitations prepared upfront so that everything is ready for the play date itself.
When the child arrives, let them know where the amenities are – the closest bathroom is important. Young children often feel shy about asking to go to the toilet, particularly if you don’t know them all that well.
Also be clear on the areas that both children can go: the play space, your child’s bedroom and the garden for example.
3. Simple invitation to play or create
At some point during the playdate, your child and their guest might be stuck for ideas. This is where an invitation to play or create can be introduced. Keep this really simple until you know the guest child well enough. Play dough is a good choice because it allows for plenty of creative exploration.
4. Avoid organising everything
Whilst it is a good idea to have one activity to hand, avoid organising all aspects of the playdate and let the children play! Having a play space with open-ended toys is one way to encourage this along with plenty of time outside.
On shorter playdates, keep the TV OFF. One of the main aims of a playdate is to help your child interact and socialise with other children – they cannot do that very well if they are watching screens.
If things get flat and the children don’t know what to do, direct them towards the invitation you’ve created or bring the snacks out so that there is a new focus.
5. Keep it short
Be very clear on how long the play date will last. I recommend no more than 2 hours after school – this is ample time for children to have a snack and play together. Any longer than this and children can start to get really tired, especially if the playdate comes after a long day at school or preschool.
Some parents can be a little blasé with pick up times so if you need to, explain that you have another appointment so that they do stick to the recommended times! From experience, I found that the more you let late pick-ups slide, the more parents will take advantage of it.
I post daily ideas for invitations to play over on Pinterest. Follow along here.
If you want help with a simple after-school rhythm, read this blog post.