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Playdate Survival Guide

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The secrets to surviving playdates.

mom watching kids play

Remember back when we were kids and playing with friends meant ringing a door bell to see if our playmate was home? We'd race outside and rum amok until our mothers came outside and literally called us for dinner. Ah, those were the good old days.

Well, we all know things have changed. For our kids, playing with friends has morphed into a highly organized activity with a beginning, middle and end. Gone are the days of running freely with a pack of neighborhood kids.

Love 'em or hate 'em -- because of so many factors including fears about safety and the fact that so many families are raising children in apartments -- it seems the pre-planned playdate is here to stay.

Now, whether you love them or loathe them, you still have to survive them. Here are some of our favorite tips for surviving playdates:


Good playdates come in small packages: No matter how good your little angel is, all good playdates must come to an end. And to avoid your playdate ending in disaster, put a start and end time on the playdate. Rule of thumb -- the smaller the kids, the shorter the playdate. 1 to 1 ½ hrs is always a good time frame for preschoolers and older kids can handle playdates up to about 3 hours. Better to end sooner on a happy note than to have them hit the wall and fighting over who gets to wear the Hannah Montana wig one last time.

Three's a crowd:Resist the temptation to have more than one kid over at a time. It may sound cute but it's a recipe for spontaneous combustion. Often, with 3 kids, someone is going to feel left out or slighted by the others. So to keep your playdates drama-free -- stick to one little friend over at a time.

A playdate is not a free babysitting service: You're hosting a playdate so your kids can have fun -- not so their parents can make the most of your free babysitting service. Be aware of parents who readily drop their kids at your house but never offer to reciprocate. If they're using you so they can sneak in a night out, hand them a bill for $15/hr when they come to pick up little Bobby. (Kidding!)

A little planning goes a long way: No one says you have to get on your knees and play duck duck goose, but it's always good to have a few secret weapons stashed to keep the kids occupied. Staying well-stocked in things like stickers, crayons and bubbles will make for less chance that boredom sets in -- remember, happy kids means a happy mom.

Practice the art of synchronized playdating: Nothing is more annoying to a child (and to a mother who's tired of listening to the whining) than a jealous sibling who is constantly crashing their brother or sister's playdates. As much as you can, try to schedule playdates for your children at the same time -- that way everyone has a friend over, no one feels left out, no one is complaining, and (more importantly) you might actually be able to enjoy that cup of coffee in peace.

What are your secrets to a successful playdate?

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