Baby Playdates are a Thing! Here’s How to Host a Great One
Playdates are a staple for the after-school set, but babies and toddlers can have playdates too! Granted, these types of playdates tend to be scheduled to give caregivers a chance to hang out, but playdates offer great ways to help little ones learn social skills, make friends and have FUN!
To have a successful baby playdate you should do a little bit of planning. While older children will normally just naturally play on a playdate and not need to be entertained, younger children may need a little more time and attention to feel comfortable and have fun whether you are the hostess or the guest.
Dress for success
While it's tempting to dress your little one and yourself up for a morning out or having guests over, dressing for comfort makes more sense. Layers are best so that you can take one off or add one on, depending on the comfort level of the home you’re in. Most importantly, your child needs to be able to move around freely, not be constrained by overly tight or uncomfortable clothes. Similarly, in a new environment crawlers and new walkers may get themselves into trouble quickly so you should dress for speed and easy movement as well. If a playdate will be close to naptime or bedtime, it's not a crazy idea to show up in ready-to-show-off pajamas like these from Finn + Emma.
Indoor activities that will help keep them entertained
If you are the host, a really good bet is natural toys, made of wood. They’re safe and easy to clean after the playdate and no parent is likely to have objections. Make sure you have a clean, soft place for the babies to play. Rugs like these from Lorena Canals that come in themes from space to ABCs are comfy and machine washable in case there are any spit-ups or blow-outs. Toys aside, here are a few ideas:
- Finger painting or other sensory activities like playing with sand. Just make sure there aren’t any tiny items that baby could swallow.
- Musical playdate, where you play and sing songs, make noise with tambourines and more, all while engaging in some awesome rounds of patty cake!
A special comfort item
If you are the guest, make sure that you have your child’s favorite toy handy. Playdates with new friends can be a little bit overwhelming so having their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or toy with you will help your little one feel more comfortable in the event of a little upset, or for napping.
Have necessities on hand
Before you head out, ensure your diaper bag is fully stocked with extra comfy clothes and diapers, especially since the host baby may not wear the same size and you don't want to have to leave in the event of a blow-out. If it's cold and flu season, make sure you have sanitizer for yourself and wipes for the little ones to keep surfaces and hands germ-free, since germs can be present even before anyone shows symptoms of illness.
Think about food – for the little ones and the grown-ups
If your toddler is already eating solids, have some pre-packed snacks. Expecting the host to provide toddler snacks might not be fair if they themselves have an infant. If your toddler will only eat one or two things reliably you can't expect your host to have your little one's favorites. Another problem with toddlers is that they may want to eat constantly. Instead of asking your host to get a snack ready at your child's convenience you can simply hand your child a snack without requiring any extra work from your host. If you are the host, it is nice to have some simple snacks available. If any kids eating solids are involved providing snacks everyone can enjoy, like clementines, apple slices, cheese cubes, pretzel sticks, or yogurts are simple to prepare but are likely to please all of your guests regardless of age. Having some drinks that kids and adults both like, such as orange juice or lemonade, are likely to be a hit as well.
Timing is everything
The ideal playdate for babies and toddlers will be short, to make sure that no one gets overtired or overstimulated, especially the first time. It's also best to plan around your child's naps to ensure your child is happy and well-rested for a playdate, even if it's tempting to schedule around a coffee date or lunch. If you’re traveling a long way to get to a playdate, you might want to consider bringing along a packable crib and planning for a nap as long as you have run it by your host first.