A new school year means new friends. And new friends means new kids to invite for playdates. When it comes to hosting a playdate, kids plus toys usually equals an awesome time. But if you want to kick your kid’s next playdate up a notch—and make it so your child’s friends clamor to come to your house—try these tips to throw a better playdate.
- Find common ground. Do a little reconnaissance to find out what interests the invitee and your child have in common. If they’re both into dress-up or dinosaurs, plot a few playdate activities (or even the snack) around it.
- Put away your pets. Pets and playdates don’t always mix—kids may be afraid of your big dog or allergic to your cats, or a wild playdate could devolve into a game of “chase the kitty and pull her tail.” Consider letting the pets chill out behind closed doors.
- Prep your fellow hosts. Have a talk with your kids pre-playdate about the joys of sharing—and help them put away any toys they don’t feel comfortable letting their guests manhandle.
- Come up with an icebreaker. Set up a fun activity to help ease even the shyest kids into a playdate. Put out an enticing array of Legos, the fixings for an easy craft, or an array of dress-up clothes to get the party started.
- Make it fun for you (and the other mom, too). If the other mom(s) are sticking around for the playdate, serve something fun for you and your “playdate” as well. You can jazz up plain coffee with flavored syrups or shaved chocolate, or create a fun cocktail to serve for a late-afternoon get-together.
- Fuel them up. A great snack helps stave off hunger-related crankiness. Look for crowd-pleasing treats that are fun to eat, but unlikely to create issues with allergies or fussy eaters. Try serving fruit or veggies on skewers, popcorn, or even Rice Krispie treats (so long as the other mom isn’t too health conscious).
- Minimize the screen-time temptation. Kids are drawn to bright screens like moths to a flame, but plopping in front of a TV show or a video game doesn’t encourage the kind of fun that makes for a memorable playdate. So skip the Angry Birds in favor of blanket forts.
- Be prepared to play the diplomat. Let’s face it—even the best playdates can go sour quickly. Break in with a brand new activity—an impromptu dance party, a new get-up-and-move game, or a cool craft. Consider coming up with a few solo-play options in case a few of the guests decide they want to be alone.
- Don’t freak about the mess. You don’t necessarily need to have the house white-glove clean before the party starts—especially if you’re planning to do clay molding or pie making as part of your playdate. And consider relaxing your post-play cleanup rules, to allow your kids and their guests to simply focus on the fun.
- Get creative. Pick a great art project or recipe that the kids can make—especially something that they can take home with them. That pretty beaded necklace or small bag of cookies will remind them of the awesome time they had at your place.
What’s your favorite technique for creating great fun during playdates?