10 Secrets for the Perfect Playdate (Hint: Snacks Are Involved)

Hosting your kiddo's pals for a playdate? We've got tips on how to keep things running smoothly and to keep everyone happy (even parents!).

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Two girls playing in the studio
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Hosting a playdate is somewhat like navigating the wild west—if you’re not well-prepared, things can go terribly wrong, fast. If you’re a veteran mom with three kids, use these best-kept secrets for a successful, fun playdate both you and your child can enjoy.

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curious baby boy studying nursery room
Shutterstock / Olesia Bilkei

Pick an appropriate time

Timing is everything, and this cliché is especially true when it comes to scheduling a playdate. Choose a start and end time for the playdate that doesn’t interfere with the other activities and events your child has going on throughout the week. For toddlers and younger children, make sure the playdate doesn’t fall during nap time (unless you’re up for managing multiple tantrums).

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Close up portrait of two blonde girls eating ice cream on a picnic.
Shutterstock / bbernard

Keep food and drinks on hand

Always keep the refrigerator stocked with healthy kid-friendly meals and other delicious snacks that children will enjoy. It’s also a good idea to consult with parents beforehand so that you can prepare any yummy allergy-free treats if need be. Offer children these snacks throughout the playdate, as well as juice, milk and water to keep them hydrated and happy.

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Kids playing with doll house and stuffed animal toys.

Encourage interaction with group games

Sometimes it’s good for children to indulge in a little alone time during a playdate, especially if they’re toddler-aged and still prefer parallel play. Still, getting children to play with one another (and making everyone feel included) is important. To promote social interaction among the children, suggest that they try a pretend-play game that requires everyone’s involvement. Cooking with the toy kitchen set or playing with dolls together are great options. If your children are slightly older, board games are always a good option.

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Smiling children using digital tablet while parents siting on sofa at home
Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia

Don’t cross the line

There always needs to be an adult present to supervise a playdate among children. However, there’s a big difference between chaperoning and hovering. As much as you might want to prevent a disagreement from occurring or jump in to play a game with the kids, the children should be allowed to play on their own; it’s how they learn to interact with others and play independently.

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Cute little siblings (boy and girl) being at odds with each other
Shutterstock / Mila May

Turn bad behavior into a valuable lesson

There’s nothing worse than watching your child get picked on by another kid. If a playdate companion is displaying bully-like behavior or mistreating another child, turn it into a positive opportunity with a meaningful takeaway. Use the child’s behavior as an example, and explain that it isn’t the right way to treat your friends.

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kids with brushes painting
Shutterstock / Poznyakov

Have craft supplies ready

Keep basic craft supplies on hand in case the games and toys aren’t going over well. A small box filled with crayons, popsicle sticks and pompoms is easy to stash in any cupboard and can be set up in a jiff.

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happy little girl on children playground climbing frame
Shutterstock / Syda Productions

Host in a comfortable setting

If the thought of bringing your child and their friend to Chuck E. Cheese or a play area in the mall gives you instant anxiety, skip it. Instead, host the playdate in a place where you feel the most comfortable, like your home or a playground that you go to often with your child. The more relaxed you feel, the better it will go.

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Child knee with an adhesive bandage and bruise.
Shutterstock / Dmitri Ma

Prepare for the worst

A scraped knee or an unexpected tumble down the stairs are the kinds of things parents’ nightmares are made of, and they, unfortunately, happen more often than anticipated. Be sure to have a first aid kit handy, as well as an emergency contact number, in case an accident occurs during a playdate. Here are a few homemade remedies you can find in your pantry.

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Children Playing Hoop
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Offer a variety of toys and games

When you’re dealing with a playdate—especially one that contains a handful of children—it can be a little overwhelming to juggle all the different personalities each kid has. For this reason, it’s always wise to scatter around a variety of toys and games that each one of the children can enjoy.

When the playdate is over, use these tips to get kids to help with cleanup.

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A little cute girl in a yellow dress reading a book sitting on the floor
Shutterstock / Tatiana Bobkova

Find a strategy to calm kids down

Soothing a hysterical or over-tired child can seem next to impossible (which is definitely the case if that child is not your own). If one too many meltdowns have taken place or a child is acting extra hyper and energized during a playdate, take control of the situation by leading an activity that will help them relax. Reading a book should do the trick just fine.

We love these food-friendly books for kids.

Taylor Murphy
Taylor is a food, parenting and health writer. When she's not writing about the newest Oreo flavor or her favorite kitchen appliance, she can be found searching for her next coffee fix or taste-testing recipes with her daughter.