I used to have anxiety about being invited to a playdate. I think it started even before I had children. I always thought it seemed like an awkward concept. Like when your friends set you up on a blind date. Except now, the friends are your children and instead of a candlelit dinner, it’s dirt and snacks. Moms brought together by their children. What if our kids don’t actually get along? What if I don’t agree with the other moms’ parenting? What if we have nothing to talk about? What if they turn out to be hoarders and it’s been more than ten years since my last tetanus shot? Yes, these are all valid concerns. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the bond of motherhood and a child’s inherently pure urge to just get out and play.
There are certain elements that should be entertained when you’re trying to conduct a successful playdate. In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been in the motherhood circuit that long, but it’s all about fine tuning your craft of playdates. Find out what works for you and your children and stick with it, or build on it. Even if something doesn’t work, it’s a lesson learned (hopefully with minimal post-playdate Band-Aids and therapy).
Playdates are complete chaos, which is part of their appeal (at least for the children), but before we have moms breathing upside down into paper bags, there are things that can help to keep this more of an organized chaos. Here are some essentials:
Share – This goes for both mother and child. Playdates are a great learning lesson for our children. The hosting child, will be having to share their toys with everyone and this can be an initially unsettling idea. It starts from an early age…the human tendency to get attached to our “stuff”. It’s an opportunity for the hosting child to feel like the Toy Hero – showing the other children toys that aren’t in their toy box at home. I’m using the term ‘toy box’ loosely. If all of the toys in my house fit into one box, it would be groundbreaking. I personally have only one toy box. It’s called the wine fridge.
Sharing as it relates to Moms, is the opportunity for free therapy. It’s a time for you to talk about concerns, share struggles and ask for advice. Will my child be potty trained by the time they’re twenty-five years old? Does anyone else feel like they’re failing at _______? How do you get your kids to eat more than chicken nuggets and cheese sticks? Playdates are productive brainstorming sessions, sprinkled with laughter and empathy. Be open to sharing. Playdates should largely be a judgement free zone (let’s be honest, we can all be a little judgey).
Baby wipes – They’re not just for diaper changings, although these are also plentiful during playdates. I have no proven facts, so I’m going off gut here, when I say that 9 times out of 10, all but one child at the playdate will be a snotty mess. It is never going to be a perfectly healthy crowd. We’ll all say things like “I think it’s just allergies”, but the truth of the matter is that us moms need these playdates sometimes more than our children do. So bring plenty of baby wipes for snotty noses, diaper changes and general messiness. Someone is going to end up sticky, even if all you’ve been exposed to is water.
Let Things Go – Remember earlier when I mentioned organized chaos? Well, that can only go so far. So please go into the playdate with the expectation that some things won’t go as planned. There will be the potential for spills, tears, crashes and falls. This does not mean that you should bundle up your little one in bubble wrap ahead of time. Spills can be cleaned, tears can be dried, and crashes and falls can be met with kisses and hugs.
Bubbles – Everything’s better with bubbles! Bubble machines, bubble wands. You can find bubbles at pretty much any dollar store, and it’s always great to have plenty of options around for bubble making.
Snacks – All that running around will make moms and children hungry. Feel free to make it a potluck. Some fun favorites:
- Orange slices
- Apples and peanut butter
- Crackers and cheese
- Juice boxes
- Mimosas (the mom juice box)
It’s a good idea, whatever fun bites you think of, to make them as to-go items. Kids will have a hard time sitting still, so if they can eat and run, mission accomplished!
The added bonus after a successful playdate – an equally successful nap! If all goes well, the day is filled with much needed mom-time and me-time. This is what keeps the once anxiety ridden idea of playdates going. Successful playdates have you checking the calendar for everyone’s next available time slot. And if you discover that the tetanus shot could have come in handy, maybe you can even volunteer to host the next round.