Top 5 Tips To Plan Successful Play Dates

by Beth Anne Brennan
Lower School Head

I was in my office the other day, well beyond the hour I had intended on staying, when I got a call from my younger sister.  A nice surprise, for sure, but when we moved beyond casual conversation, she got to the heart of why she was calling.  She wanted to get my thoughts on a play date that went badly.  No need to go into the details, but being a parent of four children myself, the host of many play dates in my time (some successful, some not so much), along with having a career where I am surrounded by children, I did have a few thoughts on the matter.

Although in the moment, after a not-so-great play date, every parent’s first response is likely, “I will never have that child over again!”  An experienced parent, however, knows that probably won’t be the case.  Children love the idea of having play dates and honestly, as parents, we generally want to see our children having fun and enjoying the company of their peers, but sometimes tempers, impulses, and demeanors can get the best of any child during play.   Although there is no magic formula to make a play date great, there are steps you can take to help insure they go well.

At the recent NJAIS conference, I ran into Dr. David Lowry, former EMS Head and respected colleague; he reminded me in a conversation that parents love lists.  Here, then, is a quick list of play date tips; may your meetings with fellow friends be happy and successful experiences for all.

    Let your child have a say as to whom he/she wishes to play with. When they were younger we made our children play with our friends' kids.  As they grow, however, encourage them to choose their own friends, perhaps ones that have similar likes, interests or hobbies.

    Invite the other parent in.  Many parents want to get to know you better before leaving their child in your care.  Invite them to your home and talk to them about your expectations.  Get any contact information and special care information and ask them if they have any suggestions that may be helpful in setting the tone for successful play date.

    Set rules. Tell the children what the "do's" and "dont's" are for your home.  Keep the list short.  Suggest to your child, ahead of time, to put away any toys he/she is not willing to share.

    Prepare for the meltdown. Keep play dates short and be ready for the worst.  Some children will test limits, so be prepared as to how you will handle any and all situations. 

    End on a happy note.  Try to help the children achieve success in their play date by ending on a positive note. Should anything have happened during the visit, be open and honest with other parents.  

      Remember, we as parents host play dates so that our children can practice socializing with their peers.  Do not expect reciprocity and remember that you can say “no” if a day or situation does not work for your family.

For more detailed information planning great play dates read:
Jennifer Rodecki, M.Ed. and Deb Leach, Ed.D., BCBA:

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