Blog, Parenting, Relationships

The Ultimate Guide To Successful PlayDates

Today’s Topic & What You’ll Learn

  • What is a PlayDate
  • Benefits of PlayDates
  • Steps to improve your PlayDates with an opportunity to become a Pro
  • My Ultimate Trick to making PlayDates easier
  • Getting in those last minute PlayDates
  • Finding time to schedule a PlayDate even if you feel you have no time left

Mama Robbins

The wonderful world of PlayDates! Google says, “A date and time set by parents for their children to play together”. If you are a parent, I’m fairly confident you have had one. Unless your baby is too young. In my opinion, PlayDates can go one of THREE ways. They will either go horribly wrong and you regret leaving the house, mediocre as you expected and at least you got out, or super fantastic beyond anything you expected and can’t wait to do it again!

If you have never done a play date or just starting out, you may be on the fence about the whole idea. If you have had a few and plan them once every few weeks, you may be excited to get out, but the hassle just doesn’t seem worth it. But what if you could become a pro and start having them multiple times per week without losing your mind? I know…you are probably thinking I’m crazy. But I can tell you from personal experience, knowing how to properly plan your PlayDates can make or break you wanting to do them.

Sometimes I feel we envision PlayDates where the kids all get together at a park, the adults sit together on the bench drinking their coffee under a shaded tree on a sunny day, and you get to watch your kids play while you have lovely conversations with the other parents. MERRRR……WRONG! PlayDates can be almost anything. As long as the kids are together and playing. It’s a PlayDate!

Benefits Of PlayDates

  • Your kids can become more socially equipt
  • It can keep them occupied while you have time to yourself or time with others
  • Getting out can be an incentive and the phrase “I’m Bored” could diminish
  • Gets them moving (aka Exercise)
  • You may finally have some time to socialize with people that are not our small humans.

I guess that can be a win-win for all, right???!! But what if we are working moms that go to work all day, have the ability to talk to adults, and no time in the evenings and weekend because you have too much to get done? Well…I’m going to cover that too! So, let’s get started!

Steps To Improve Your PlayDates!

  • Get A Planner – I know this sounds weird for PlayDates, but this is key. If you don’t have a way to remember the dates and times, you will have some really disappointed children. How it is they can’t seem to remember where they left their the way, that should be at the front door!!!!…but they can remember a PlayDate scheduled three weeks away without writing it down!!????? When I mention a “planner” this can be hardcopy (my fav) or your phone. A phone is more practical these days as you can set intentional reminders. (Love this too)
  • Plan A Month In Advance – I am a HUGE planner. I like things to be marked in my calendar at least 2 weeks in advance. Why? Because I have three kids, school activities, after-school swim lessons, chores, supper, Blogging, etc. I’m sure you know the drill. The last thing I want is to be asked for a PlayDate and I have to say No as I have no time slots left. So….at the beginning of a month, I will sit down and I literally start texting the parents asking if they’d be interested in a PlayDate.
  • Schedule In The DatesAs soon as the text come back “Yes” for PlayDates, SET THE DATE and TIME. This is extremely important. When we leave plans for, “oh I’ll call you next week”….”I’ll get back to you”…they tend to fall off the radar because we are super busy. So when you get the confirmation, start putting in the details right away.
  • Do Child Swaps & Optimize Time – I’m sure a lot of you already do this, but for those of you who don’t, this is amazing. It’s basically FREE CHILDCARE! If you know you do groceries every Wednesday around 3 to 4…not that many parents are that schedule and on time….but try to plan a PlayDate at “that” child’s house during those hours! SCORE…Not only will you be able to get your groceries done without a child-in-tow, they will be having a great time with their friends and save you money on the way past the “check-out” catchers. (Those are the isles on either side of you when you get to the till…filled with goodies your kids can’t seem to not ask for – unless it’s dental floss, leg raisers, Q-Tips, etc – then they don’t seem to think about it) Maybe you noticed every Saturday afternoon you start to feel worn out and wish you could have a well-needed nap. Guess what??!! Schedule a PlayDate!!! The opportunities are literally endless!
  • Avoid Scheduling Around NapTime – For the younger kids….this is like the advice you receive to never go shopping on an empty stomach…seriously..don’t do this…but if you schedule too close to a nap, you will either end up with a cranky, screaming child close to the end of the PlayDate wishing you hadn’t gone at all, or need to leave early because bad behaviours start to get more prominent around this time. Make sure they are well-rested and plan to be back well enough in time to get them down for their scheduled sleep. On the other side of things…if you have an older child no longer taking naps, make sure you don’t plan a PlayDate right after a vacation, or anything that completely threw off their schedule. This can upset things and make it much more difficult for you.
  • Child Having Bad Day, Go Anyways – This may seem really odd, but when your child is having a bad day from the moment they woke up, it’s usually due to lack of sleep. For some reason, this starts a wonderful domino effect of misbehaviours, back-talking, tantrums, crying. You name it, it seems to happen. But getting them OUT OF THE HOUSE can actually be a perfect cure. However, make sure they understand any “extreme behaviours” will have the consequence of leaving immediately. Not to mention, when your child has been giving you the run around all morning, the last thing you want to do it keep being around them. This will give you and them a well-needed separation break to recoup. Note: If your child has been acting up, you may not want to send them to the friend’s house alone. For this time, you may want to accompany them.
  • Always Bring Snacks – It doesn’t matter if you JUST ATE, bring snacks! Kids are bottomless pits. I can’t tell you how many times we just got in the car to leave for a PlayDate and I hear, “Mom…..I’m hungry!” WHAT?? Plus, you never know if a PlayDate goes super great and you stay longer, you will be better prepared.
  • Limit Technology Use – Okay…by now you should know I am a HUGE advocate for limiting tech around you and your family. A PlayDate is not having kids over, going to someone’s house, park, wherever and them pulling out the tablets, iPhones, laptops, Nintendo Switch, etc. PlayDates are meant to “socialize”. If it’s a sleepover and there is a movie, of course, that is okay. I’m also not saying no devices at all either. What I’m saying is limit the use. Is the game something that is interactive and the whole family can play too? Then that is a GREAT idea. Is it something where other kids just watch? Probably best to save that for later. Try to keep the focus on the “Play” part. If it’s questionable and you are not sure….pass.

My Top Secret Trick To Successful PlayDates…

  • Families With Multiple Kids – When you have more than one child and there is an age gap, it can sometimes be difficult for them to all play together. How many times do you hear, “MOM, she isn’t including me!” or “MOM, they’re being mean to me!” This can drive any parent crazy. So…I especially look for other families that have kids both around 5 and 7 years of age. As great as the Child Swap is, sometimes it only works for one child, leaving the other child alone or feeling unwanted. I found this to be a horrible feeling for both myself and for my child left out. My oldest daughter has a few friends in her class and my youngest daughter has a few friends in her class… both of whom are siblings. We have four families in the area that meet this criteria. When it comes time to schedule the “PlayDate”, I contact the parents, follow all the tips from above, and BAM. The kids come over, the two oldest play together…the two youngest play together and EVERYONE is happy…..well…99% of the time.

Last-Minute Scheduling

So we have covered a variety of ways to schedule your PlayDates in advance. This is to help them run more smoothly. But what about the 5pm call after school asking if your kids could have a PlayDate? (This happens to me all the time) Well…from my past experience, usually this is requested of my older children. But here are a few rules you may want your kids to follow:

  • Do what is easiest for you! If I have kids asking to come over..even for 20 minutes before supper…I know it gives me more focus on making supper. If I have kids asking to come over during supper..obviously that is a no.
  • Make sure your EXPECTATIONS are crystal clear. Setting boundaries where they can play is a great one
  • Clean up is mandatory before other kids can leave. Ask them to start putting things away at least 15 minutes before they should be picked up. We all know cleaning becomes play, to being told to clean…again!

On the go PlayDates “can” be chaotic, but depending on the age of your child(ren) it can be a blessing in disguise!

I Have No Time For PlayDates…

The secret to getting PlayDates in when you are working more relies on your ability to trust other parents with your kids. If you have trust issues…this idea may not be for you. However, if you have built great relationships with these parents, this may be a slam dunk. What is it?

I feel a lot of our kids make at least ONE really great friend in school. THAT is the family you can schedule the PlayDate with. When I feel confident and have built a relationship with the parents….may that be over FB Chat, Texting, etc….I will sometimes allow those parents to pick my child up from school and bring them back to their house. (I fully admit I will physically go “check out” their house and meet the parent first) If I’m concerned with the other parents driving…after work I would pick up my child(ren) and bring them to their house and just “drop-off”. While my child(ren) are playing, I go home and take care of other needed errands. Need I mention I usually get even MORE done because now I have less distraction at home. Friday night weekend sleepovers are the best for this. No need to plan supper that evening if no kids at home, I know they will be taken care of for at least 12 hours, and I can focus on other things so when I have my kids back I can FOCUS ON THEM. Not the million other things I need to take care of.

Summary For PlayDate…

  • Get a planner
  • Try to plan a month in advance
  • Schedule the DATE and TIME as soon as a “yes” has been confirmed
  • Do child swap & optimize your time
  • Avoid scheduling around nap time or coming back from vacations
  • Child having bad day – go anyways
  • Always bring snacks
  • Limit tech usage
  • Try to find families with multiple children the age of yours (this only really applies if you have more than one child)

Obviously, every family dynamic is different. I’m not saying these tips will work for you, but I have had a LOT of PlayDates with all THREE of my kids, and these tricks have been almost flawless every time!

Questions For You

  1. Is there any PlayDate tricks or tips that work well for your family?
  2. What do you feel is the main reason PlayDates doesn’t end well?
  3. Do you have a plan when you do PlayDates or do you leave it all to chance?

Let me know in the comments below about your PlayDates! I’d love to hear what you do, where you go, how YOU feel about them. I also hope you are able to take a few tips from here, implement them into your PlayDates and see immediate results!

Until Next Time – Follow Me: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, & YouTube.


Mama Robbins

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