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From Chaos to Control: 5 Tips From Parents for Calm Playdates

Playdates are fun. They should be, right?

After all, that’s how you remember them from when you were little. Your friends would come over, and you’d play for a bit, hang out, and watch some TV before their folks came to pick them up.

But why is it that the idea of hosting one now seems to involve a lot of planning?

Well, for one, we’ve made them complicated. Yep, we are the ones to blame.

For one, playdates do NOT require a series of fun activities with glitter, thematic snacks, and Pinterest-inspired décor. Save that for the birthdays!

Instead, playdates should be simple, fun, and calming. And best of all, they should make life easy for all the caregivers involved. 

That’s why we’re sharing easy ways to coordinate playdates while also sharing tips from parents on how to establish some ground rules so both, kids and adults, have a great time.

Tip 1: Communicate Clearly

To make sure everyone agrees and is on the same page, communicate clearly. This means you talk about any worries or updates regarding the playdate.

Maintain open channels of contact with the visiting children's parents and be clear about expectations and rules, if you have any.

"I may have work that day. But I think I might be able to pick them up 6 ish?"

"Okay, that's cool."

This is a perfect example of how NOT to plan a playdate.  Will they? Will they not? Was that a yes? What exactly is 6ish? 6:05? or 6:20?

Take it from the pros: Skip the 'ish' and ‘around.’ Instead, stick to ‘o-clock sharp and use a calendar.

Also, make sure you are clear about your availability for playdates and the time you’d be able to pick up or drop off the kids. 

I get it; it’s hard to say ‘no’ to a friend. And I hate it when parents are vague in their communication. That’s why I love the app’s calendar feature, which clearly shows periods when I am available and the exact time of the playdate. It makes coordination a breeze.” Jenny. R

Tip 2: Rules Will Keep You Sane

As a parent, I love rules. I think it's one of the best ways to maintain decorum. And although kids automatically assume that translates as no fun, that's not true. Rules aren't' supposed to suck the joy out of a playdate. They're just there to make sure there's no pushing because there's nothing worse than a playdate where a kid ends up hurt!" Jessica. O

Make sure your child and the other children are aware of your expectations before the playdate. It doesn’t have to be a sergeant’s drill with you screaming orders at them, but just a simple guideline on the rules you expect them to follow like no pushing. These might also involve guidelines for sharing and being considerate of one another's property.

Tip 3: Hangry Kids Make Terrible Playbuddies

Hangry kids will either be whiny or they're going to snack on any junk they can find. So make sure you offer either a nice, healthy meal if it is lunchtime or some healthy snacks like granola bars that the kids can munch on.

“I do pick-ups after school on Wednesday and Friday. And the first thing I do is make them sit at the table and feed themselves. They're generally whiny and moody in the car but once they're done eating, they're back to their normal, playful selves.” Harry. L 

Tip 4: Small Gestures Matter 

Small gestures matter so let other parents know how much you appreciate them through a small token of appreciation or a simple thank you. 

Playdates are a great opportunity to teach kids social skills. My kids picked up skills like cleaning up after themselves and saying thank you to whoever’s hosting from my co-workers’ children. She even sends these little tokens of appreciation with them and I’ve loved the idea and the thought. It’s a pleasure having them over.” Amanda. P

Tip 5: Get Mess-Free Kits for Playdates

Six-year-olds have a lot of energy so make sure you plan a few activities to prevent them from running around the house. Some mess-free ideas include water and sand tables in the backyard, or mess-free art or science kits to keep them occupied and entertained!

"I always pick up a few art supplies from the dollar store including safety scissors, washable markers, and glitter stickers. The trick is to make sure it's mess-free! Then as I prep dinner, Alexa guides them through an easy DIY art project and voila, it's pick-up time.” Christine. O 

Remember, playdates are supposed to be simple. So be the adult, keep a watchful eye, but step back and give the kids space to create their playdate magic. 

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