Play Date Advice: The Do’s and Dont’s of Parenting When You’re on a Play Date

Mama Greenest shares her tips and tricks for keeping the peace between kids (and other parents) during a play date



How familiar is this scenario: You schedule a play date at your house. Your toddler is beyond excited to see their friend. And you’re excited to see your friend. The guests arrive, the kids take off to play. You and the other mom sit down to chat with a cup of tea or glass of wine, and as soon as you get into your conversation someone cries. Your child doesn’t want to share their stroller/baby doll/train/whatever toy it is that their friend wants to play with. And because they cannot yet control their emotions, this perceived transgression has them inside out. You remind them how important it is to share, try to redirect them, and send them on their way. Two minutes later, someone is crying. Again, with the sharing. Remind, redirect. Over and over, until the play date (i.e. Toddler Throwdown) is done. As soon as your guests leave, your toddler looks at you and says, “I can’t wait for so-and-so to come over to my house again!” Right. ’Cause that was so much fun.

I'm no expert at play dates, but I am a Gemini and so love to collect information. So as Coraline’s social calendar fills up, I have started picking up a thing or two that seem to make play dates go more comfortably, for the grown ups and the kids. And I'm here, natch, to share them with you. Of course, you can't just talk about what you should do without talking about what you shouldn't do... mostly for levity’s sake. I don't know about you, but after the week I've had, I could use a little levity.

DO ask your toddler if there are any special toys they don't want to share and put them away before their friend arrives. Then explain that everything else is fair game and they will have to do some sharing. ’Cause it's more fun that way. Allegedly. 

DON'T bring one toy like a bike or special doll to a group playdate. If you want to bring something, make it something all the kids can enjoy, like sidewalk chalk or bubbles.

DO mind your child's manners (and your own). No one likes an impolite or disrespectful guest (even if that guest is two).

DON'T leave someone else's house without offering to help clean-up, especially if it was your child making the mess.

DO have a few non-turn-taking activities on stand-by in case major redirection is needed. Also try to have a quiet activity on hand in case the energy gets too high.

DO try to avoid jumping up every time you hear a “mine” or protesting cry. Toddlers aren't great at sharing, but giving them the space to resolve their own conflicts only helps them in the long run. If you think other moms will be miffed by your perceived laissez faire parenting, just let them know upfront that you’re embracing your inner French parent and practicing Le Pause.

DON'T assume your host will be able to cater to your child's special diet should a snack or meal be served. Offer to bring something that everyone can enjoy, your kid included.

DO resist the urge to gossip, compare, preach, or criticize, especially if this is a new relationship. Save the catty stuff for when you are better acquainted and you know they won’t judge you for it.

Got any more play date/parenting tips? Share them here!

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About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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