How To Win At Playdates


This is just what a playdate in our house looks like. Picture credit

Love them or hate them, you feel guilty if you don’t do them. Take the pain out of playdates with my handy guide.

Choose your target with care. Does your child like the intended invitee? A simple mention of his or her name usually evokes your answer: my four-year-old will either be mute or cry, “I HATE him/her”, which whittles down the field somewhat. If you like their mum, it’s a big plus and of course, a great way to get to know her better if you are new to the class. Other criteria include: are you likely to get a reciprocal invite (otherwise what is the point? Just me?)? Is the child happy to come alone (and, um, can they wipe their own bum?)? Has he got a) a dishy dad who b) is likely to pick him up? (Just joking…)

Go sugar early. If you’re going to give sweet treats – which I recommend as the quickest way to get the playdatee to like you – do it straight away. Buy their love on the way home from school with a Freddo and it will all go swimmingly. Send them home high on Haribo and you name will be mud.

Don’t lock her in the loo. If the handle is off your loo door, don’t forget to let your young guest know before sending them off for a wee. Trying to explain to a four year-old how to unlock the window while standing outside and trying not to convey your panic is not a good start to any playdate. (She eventually managed to turn the very stiff inside handle herself – THANK GOD!)

Don’t leave them alone with a running tap. Apart from the drowning hazard, a flooded loo is an unwelcome by-product of two preschoolers’ very clean hands. (This happened barely five minutes after the lock-in incident mentioned above.) Luckily I am very good friends with her mum…

Get their parent’s mobile. Just in case you have to, say, call them to see if they have a spanner to open a locked loo door…

Ask for food preferences. Since serving a junior guest pizza and chips, only to be told that he doesn’t eat cheese or potato, I now ask their mum in advance for food likes and hates. I have a dream that my child will eat anything he’s given at other people’s houses. He doesn’t. De-risk teatime but always…

Serve a token vegetable. Whatever concoction of yellow freezer food / cheesy pasta you may be serving, offset it with a plate of token cucumber and carrot, or similar. Leave the plate on the table for the collecting adult to see.

Let them build dens. Apparently I am the only mum in town who allows children to tip over all the furniture, rip all the covers from their beds and enjoy an in-den picnic. Therefore I ROCK! (As far as the kids are concerned.)

No TV (on when the picker-upper arrives…). If it’s off when they arrive, how are they to know they watched the whole of Lego Ninjago Series 2..?

Be prepared. Opening the back door, throwing a ball out and / or hosing down the slip’n’slide is my parenting style. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when a little buddy announced he wanted to make lolly stick puppets…I pulled it out the bag eventually, but it took a lot of hunting for craft-like materials. And lolly-eating.

Remember, kids can talk. This has tripped me up a surprising number of times. It’s come to my attention in a number of embarrassing ways, such as a friend telling me she’s heard my bedroom is “SO messy!”; a boy muttering on collection that “they don’t even have PVA glue, mummy”; and of course, a mum indicating that she knows her child has seen the whole of Lego Ninjago Series 2…when hitherto he’d never ventured outside CBeebies.

Be nice. See above.

Give a preemptive rundown to the mum. If they heard from you about the fight over the yellow truck, or the entanglement with a thorny branch on the health-giving walk on which you took them, all for the better.

What happened on the playdate, stays on the playdate. Serious injuries aside, there’s no need to disclose every little disagreement, wall scribble or act of plain rudeness. Just smile, say it was fine…and never invite them again.

Enjoy! You’re helping your child make friends! You are a top mum!





  • Ha…fab advice. I have only hosted a couple of play dates and only with children of mums I know who are like me ie. Use pritt stick, are comfortable with cleanliness issues, have dodgy bathroom doors and are quite happy with pizza in front of the tv!

  • Samara says:

    Hi Jess, great post. You made me laugh out loud, especially the part about the token vegetable and the fact that what happens on the playdate, stays on the playdate. I have witnessed a lot of playdates via my sister and my nieces—the logistics and organization seem quite stressful. My daughter is 2, so she’s still little, but I will use your advice when we schedule playdates in the future. It’s a shame your 3 boys don’t appreciate your wit, I sure do!

  • Samara says:

    Hey Jess, this article made me laugh out loud! Your boys may not appreciate your wit, but I do : ) My kids are still too young for playdates, but I have seen firsthand some pretty scary stuff when my sister has organized them for my 2 nieces. I especially like the advice about what happened on the playdate, stays on the playdate. Very wise! I have bookmarked your post for future reference!
    Samara recently posted…Ride-On Toys for 8-Year-Olds – 11 Top PicksMy Profile

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