How to Host a Perfect Play Date for Children

Girls playing with colorful blocks in living room
Photo © Blend Images - JGI / Jamie Grill / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Ask for a volunteer to host the next playdate in their home and everyone will look at each other waiting for another parent to accept the challenge, but hosting a playdate doesn't have to be stressful. With minimal effort, you'll become a playdate pro who's always willing to open your door to your friends and your kids' friends. Host a perfect playdate for children that's fun for everyone and easy on you.

Plan Your Playdate

1. Set a Definite Start and End Time for Your Playdate

Make hosting a playdate easier on yourself when you set a start and end time. An hour to an hour and a half is ideal, with no more than 2 hours tops.

When setting your time, you'll run into conflicts with nap times for babies and lunch times for older children. You won't be able to accommodate everyone's varying sleeping and eating schedules for your playdate, but you can always let the moms know you'll offer another time for the next playdate you host so everyone has a chance to come over.

2. Limit the Number of Kids

It's tempting to open your doors to a large number of families because you want to make sure there are plenty of kids for everyone to play with. It's best to invite a small number of moms and kids for your first playdate, though.

You won't feel as much pressure to entertain so many people, and you won't have 20 kids tearing up your home. Your event will also be more cozy, giving everyone the chance to get to know each other better.

Start with 5 families for your first playdate. You can later decide if you'd like to expand to 10 moms and their kids. More than 10 may lead to too many headaches for you to want to host any more.

3. Ask Your Guests to Bring a Toy

While it seems you're constantly tripping over your kids' toys, you might not actually have enough to entertain every child at your playdate. You may have a preschooler with no baby toys scattered about anymore. You may have an infant and aren't quite ready for toys suited to ages 3-5.

A simple solution? Ask everyone coming to your playdate to bring one of their child's toys from home. Not only can everyone have something to play with, all of the kids will learn about sharing.

Get Ready for Your Playdate

4. Don't Clean the House!

How many times have you been a guest in someone's home and you roamed into every room of their house? One of the main reasons people are reluctant to host a playdate in their home is that they'll have to clean.

You're not holding an open house for potential buyers; confine your guests to a few rooms and manage the mess in those areas. The bathroom, kitchen, and the area where the kids will play are the essential rooms you should clean.

This way, you're not exhausting yourself cleaning before the playdate. You'll also be more willing to host another playdate in the future if you're not spending the days leading up to it with a feather duster in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other.

Just block the areas where you don't want guests with baby gates or simply lock the doors. Give a quick tour when everyone arrives, but only show them the rooms they'll need to access.

5. Prepare Your Child to Host

Your child will also serve as the host at the playdate. Do your best to prepare them.

Before company arrives, help your child understand what's going to happen. Other kids will be playing with their toys, sitting on their furniture, and running through their house. This is a big deal for children who've never had kids come over.

Encourage them to play host to you and your spouse for practice. Simulate a playdate with their stuffed animals. The more prepared they are, the less likely they'll be to get their feelings hurt when they see other kids handling their stuff.

6. Lock Up Your Pets

As a courtesy, tell your guests ahead of time if you have any pets. Moms and kids may not be able to attend because they have allergies, and it's best for them to know before they show up and start sneezing.

On playdate day, put your animals behind a locked door. Your pets will stay safe from curious hands that want to see what happens when you pull the nice kitty's tail and kids who are frightened by animals don't have to come face to face with your scary parakeet.

Host Your Playdate

7. Keep Snacks Simple

Part of the fun of a playdate is to give you some face time with your mom friends. If you're spending all your time trapped in the kitchen, checking the food in the oven and filling drinks, you're secluded from the interaction and some much-needed relaxation with people who can say more than 3 words in a sentence.

Be a great playdate hostess without serving as the official waitress. Keep snacks simple; crackers, cheese, fruits, and juice boxes will prevent you from running back and forth to the kitchen while making all of your little guests perfectly happy. Adults can eat the same snacks and drink tea or water.

8. Separate Play Areas by Age

Section off your play areas to keep the bigger kids away from babies. Designate where all babies should go by using blankets, toys, or baby gates to separate and shield them from the kids who'll be running around the room or in the yard.

This will also make your guests more comfortable. They won't have to worry about 6-year-olds trampling their 6-month-olds.

9. Plan One Structured Activity

Free play is wonderful for kids at your playdate. This is a great way to get the kids to settle down right before they leave.

Have the kids clean up the toys they've been playing with while you set up the supplies for the activity. When they're finished, they can create their own picture frames, puppets, or other easy family crafts.

10. Have Fun!

A playdate should be fun not just for kids, but for adults too. You're not hosting this year's star-studded gala; you're opening your doors for an hour or two of kid-friendly fun that also gives you some time to unwind and connect with moms who are going through the same day in and day out challenges as you.

It's your playdate too, so sit back and enjoy it!