The early years with my children were some of the most rewarding and difficult years of my life as a mother. My saving grace was finding and joining a local “Mothers & More” group that offered weekly play date opportunities around town, plus a monthly mom night out.
While I loved the organization I joined, I believe any play date support system can be beneficial to a mother. Play dates were one of the reasons I feel I was able to survive those first years. And if you can believe it, the parents from these experiences are still my friends today even now that our children are grown. These pivotal moments in our lives often bind us together forever, and the shared parenting woes over coffee grew into lifelong friendships with some of the most special people.
Here are some things I have learned over the years about planning play dates and initiating new friendships with other moms and kids.
Start in a Public Setting: If your child has found a friend, initiate a play date with that child’s parents by meeting somewhere to give everyone a chance to get to know each other. When my kids were young, meeting at the zoo or a restaurant with a play area was a great opportunity to get to know the mom and child without the stress of planning activities or cleaning my house. It can also be a great way to see how the kids get along without having to spend an entire day together.
Check your local community calendar for events happening in your town that might be a good place to meet up for a play date, or check your local library for a story time and activities schedule. The library is a fun and free place to meet and get to know new friends.
Bring the Play Date to Your House: Once you have established the groundwork in a public setting, offer to host a play date at your home. Try not to overthink it, and keep things simple as everyone gets to know each other.
When the kids are young, it can help to have one activity for them to enjoy together, an easy snack, and then a variety of other activities that they can do independently. Board games and playing with play dough are fun options.
When my kids were small, one of their favorite play date activities in the winter involved a big tub of snow and their beach tools. In the warmer months, a tub of popcorn kernels (purchased at a restaurant supply store) offered hours of entertainment when paired with shovels or toy cars.
Don’t Force Friendships: If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it’s that I can help guide my children into friendships, but I can’t force friendships to work if they just don’t get along. There is nothing more miserable than play dates where the kids are fighting and crying, but sometimes that happens when they don’t click.
It is really hard when you really like the mom that you have set the play date up with, but your kids aren’t able to play together easily. I have found that in those cases, it is better to just enjoy evenings out with the parent that I like and let my kids skip the play dates. Ultimately, these activities are about them, so let the friendships that work together work and skip the ones that don’t.
More Play Date Inspiration
If you’re stuck without play date activity ideas, consider a few of the following:
Getting out of the house and forming new relationships with other parents and children is a good way to set your child up for social success. And it gives you an opportunity to spend time with adults. It’s a win-win for both sides.