A playdate can teach important life skills like sharing, taking turns and navigating arguments. But how do you keep the peace during a playdate?
- Because kids can handle only so much stimulation and get along for a limited amount of time, set start and end times. Tresa Cope, a mom of two preschoolers, says, “Just like you might only have coffee on a first date, keep a first-time playdate short—no longer than two hours.” Most school-age kids probably can handle an all-day playdate after a trial.
- Take turns hosting playdates and don’t forget another option to change things up: meeting at a neutral location like a park, the pool or an indoor play area at a fast food restaurant, community center or church.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to parents in advance if your child has any issues or if you have concerns (e.g., Are there guns in the house? Do they have an extra booster seat if they plan to go somewhere?). Eva Gavin, a mom of four boys, says, “My boys have a friend who goes into full-on freak-out mode when any dog (even a Chihuahua!) comes near him, so his mom reminds me ahead of time to please put up our dogs.”
- Serve or bring snacks and drinks, but first check for kid food allergies or no-sugar moms. Snacks like cheese crackers, pretzels, cut-up fruit or string cheese are usually a hit.
- Lay down the law. Kids need to know the rules (e.g., no hitting, no throwing the hamster, no cussing, no internet usage, etc.) at either house as soon as they are dropped off.
- Your child should put away any extra special toys before friends arrive unless he’s willing to share. You’d be amazed at how many arguments this cuts out.
- If things go south at your house, switch gears. Julie Dorset, a mom of one, says, “If the kids aren’t getting along–for whatever reason–I pull out art supplies and have them sit at the dining room table to do something quiet.” If the kids are routinely not getting along, you might want to make yourself unavailable for a few weeks.
- When playtime is over, have your child help pick up, and don’t be shy about having the other kid pick up at your house. Learning to clean up after himself is going to come in very handy when you start teaching your child about the fine art of chores.
- Be considerate. Don’t always expect other parents to pick up AND drop off their child at your place so you don’t have to get out. If you’ve just had a baby or have some other issue going in, you get a free pass for a while, but then make sure you return the favor.
Kerrie McLoughlin (TheKerrieShow.com), mom of five, loves having playdates at her house so she has a reason to clean it up a little!