Planning a Play Date

Gone are the days when we used to roam our neighborhoods freely socially with our friends until the streetlights came on or we were called in for dinner. Now, it seems that more often than not our kids visit during “play dates,” having friends over at predestined days and times. One of the best things about play dates is that they are assisting kids in learning how to get along with each other. If a playdate is going well, moms and dads can get a bit of a break as the kids in turn entertain themselves. And play dates are a great way to connect with other parents. Playdates however also have the tendency to turn ugly at times, as kids learn to share and utilize practicing building their social skills.

Here are the top tips to planning and ensuring that your next playdate goes as smoothly as possible:

Send Out Invites: There are a ton of online evite options out there. Of course, that includes Qualla. Facebook is also an excellent source to utilize for sending out invites to your play date, but snail mail is still a fun way to spread the word! And kids love getting mail!

Let Your Kid Pick: With toddlers, playdates are more about getting the parents together, so it makes the most sense to invite parents you like or want to get to know. When children can be dropped off, it’s best to consult your kids on playdate picks.

Avoid Odd Numbers: You’ve heard the saying, “two’s company, three’s a crowd” and this really holds true with your little ones. Avoid one child being eliminated by grouping kids in even numbers.

Invite the Parent In: Especially if the playdate is a first, his/her mom or dad will appreciate getting a chance to meet you first-hand and get shown around.

Note Important Info: Always be sure to get a good contact number and find out if your little guests have any food allergies or special issues. Remember to set a pick-up time, typically about 3 hours from drop-off time. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, like taking the kids swimming, always get the parents okay before.

Keep Personal Things Organized: Designate a spot for all of the kids’ personal items. A good idea is to put all of their items into paper shopping bags and label them with the child’s name. That way when it’s pick-up time, you can just grab the right bag and the little one is ready to roll!

Set Rules: Remember, it’s okay to tell the kids what they can and cannot do, but try and keep the list short (stay out of certain rooms, no climbing on furniture, no hitting, etc.). Children under the age of four, must be supervised and managed more closely. But older kids should be allowed to play independently and come up with their own fun. Be sure to check in often, just to be sure the kids are safe (and staying out of trouble!).

Snack Time: Play dates should always include snack time! Popcorn, pretzels, finger sandwiches and fresh fruits and veggies are all great options.

End on a High Note: Even if the kids have argued for the majority of the playdate, if it ends and they’re having fun, that’ll be what sticks in their minds. Do something silly like having a dance party, or making a “science project” with condiments from the fridge!

Accept Invites: If the other parent picks up her child, thanks you and says she’d love to have yours over. Accept the invite! Set a date and keep the playdate rolling. It’s great when you can take turns hosting. However, it’s also important to be understanding if the other parent doesn’t offer to host the next one. These get togethers sometimes just don’t fit well into many families schedules.

Keeping kids occupied for a span of 2–3 hours may seem overwhelming, it’s actually really quite simple when you break everything up in an organized fashion. Here is a mock schedule for a three hour play date:

First 10–15 minutes: Greetings, introductions, getting comfortable (taking off jackets, shoes, etc.), showing the kids the play area.

15–30 minutes: Free play! This allows the kids to feel each other out and just have a really fun time.

30–60 minutes: Your first hour is up! This is a great time to organize some form of craft or option to get their hands and mind moving. It the kids started arguing during free play, this is also a good time for them to have some time to themselves.

60–90 minutes: Snack time! Use this ½ hour block to get the kids back to social time, but with food to refuel them!

90 minutes to 2 hours: Your playdate is already halfway done! This is a good time to have some more free time, or if the weather is permitting let the kids go run and play outside.

2–3 hours: The final hour of your playdate is a good time to start settling the kids down. You can put on a movie, read or tell stories or encourage a board game for everyone to get involved in!

It’s super easy to plan activities for kids. They basically appreciated anything that they don’t typically do at home on a daily basis. Here are some great activity ideas to inspire you:

  • Play hide and go seek
  • Play freeze tag
  • Make crafts (you can find countless ideas on Pinterest!)
  • Get cooking, this may be messy but kids love to be hands on, even something simple like making sugar cookies is a fun way to change things up.
  • Read stories
  • Fingerpaint or go outside and play with sidewalk chalk
  • Go on a nature walk

Planning your next (or first!) playdate may seem a bit unnerving, but with some careful thought and organization, you can be sure that you’ll earn your title as the funnest parent on the block!

You can jumpstart your playdate planning with this handy checklist at Qualla.

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