Sometimes, playdates don’t always go as planned.  

Like the time my son’s five-year-old friend wanted to spend the whole time in our garage with my husband’s leaf blower and tractor. It was a long hour and a half.

Luckily, I’ve learned the secret recipe for a successful playdate.  Here are the five ingredients you’ll need to host the perfect playdate:

  1. Choose Wisely. Some friends just aren’t the best fit. Help your child choose a friend who’s a good social and intellectual match for your child - don’t hesitate to ask the teacher for some recommendations if you need help. Also, one-on-one playdates work better than groups.

  2. Keep it short and sweet. There is such a thing as too long of a playdate. We learned that very quickly in our tiny NYC apartment. A playdate that lasts 1-1½ hours is the perfect amount of time to play, eat, run around, do some art and say goodbye. Any more than that, and it might go downhill from there.

  3. Choose a good time. Many children are tired after school. Try a weekend morning instead, when children are chipper and more likely to be flexible and cooperative.

  4. Add structure and some exercise. Some children could play for hours without any structure or parent regulation. Others need a little more guidance. Some great playdate activities include:

If you’re adventurous, you can also try: a cooking activity like make your own pizza (Trader’s Joe’s sells pre-made dough) or make your own play doh (How to Make Playdough | Homemade Playdough Recipes). Don’t forget to get out the ya-ya’s with some outdoor team games like freeze tag, kickball or soccer!

5.  Put away prized possessions and know when to intervene.  Before a playdate, ask your child if there are any “special toys” they would like to put away. Always be within earshot, so if children start fighting, you know when to intervene and help children switch up the activities. When in doubt, fresh air always helps children cool off. So does a quiet story time coupled with a healthy snack. If sharing is tricky, sometimes a neutral spot like a playground, park, pond or an indoor play space can be the best bet!

Good luck with your playdate!

two children on a playdate