Positive Playdates for All! – Part 1

Part 1: The Setup

2 kids playing on an easel

It’s playdate time! Your child may be excited, but all you can think about is last time, when it took two days to scrub away all the tiny green fingerprints from your living room. What to do with a couple of five-year-olds whose imagination is only exceeded by their energy? And what about safety, and sharing? Relax. With a few simple strategies, you can host a playdate that everyone enjoys—and keep your house intact, too.

Set the stage. First, lock up the fingerpaint. Then, plan for a successful playdate by limiting the number of kids (usually kids play better with just a few playmates, and even numbers work out best by allowing twosomes), finding some activities everyone can enjoy and putting away anything unsafe or particularly treasured. It’s okay to let your child pick a favorite toy or two to be “off limits” during the playdate, just be sure to stash them somewhere they won’t be seen. Planning it away from home? Pick a location that allows kids to be active (so, not your library). After all, a playdate should be all about play!

Set the expectations. Will Quinn be picked up after an hour or so of playtime, or is he staying through lunch? Is his little brother tagging along? Are they okay with dogs? Especially if it’s the first time the kids have played together, you may need to lay groundwork for everything from a sick policy to developmentally appropriate activities. Bear in mind that even the best of friends usually tire after about an hour, so keeping playdates short and setting a definite end time will help you avoid meltdowns, squabbles and other misbehaviors.

Set the rules. While it’s reasonable for the kids to adhere to house rules for things like “no climbing on furniture,” recognize that other families might have different comfort levels with technology, safety and more. Make sure you and the other parents are square on what’s okay and what’s not during the playdate. Consider TV and video games, unsupervised outdoor play and snacks, plus the toys and activities in your house. Also, make a plan to follow if the kids are having trouble getting along—agreeing to end it early might be in everyone’s best interest.

As for the kids, review the rules with your child beforehand, and reveal consequences if they’re not followed. For instance, tell your child, “If you and your friend roughhouse or run in the house, I’ll ask you all to play outside.” While you can’t expect the guests to know all the rules, you can expect your own child to lead the way in good behavior.

Set up your child! Prepare your child by talking through your rules and expectations before her friend arrives, and discuss how to properly host a guest. For instance, in addition to sharing the My Little Ponies or offering her friend the first turn on the swing, your child could hang up her friend’s jacket when she arrives. With younger kids, use dolls or action figures to practice.

You and your child are now set for playdate success—and the doorbell rings. What happens next? Stay tuned to learn how to foster good relationships between your child and his best buddy—not to mention how to handle sibling interference in our next post. Go to Positive Playdates for All! Part 2

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.