A Play Date Primer

This is what I learned when I became a parent: kids don’t just play together anymore. They have jam-packed social calendars like the rest of us. Unless you want your baby to be an outcast, you must plan regular “play dates” for him, preferably from birth on. (Sidebar: Have you seen that Tostitos commercial where 3 moms are sitting around eating chips & salsa and they say, “We should do play dates more often. The kids love them.” Cut to 3 infants in carseats, sound asleep. I love that.)

Yes, the term “play date” is cringe-worthy. It makes me picture a toddler in a low-cut shirt and gold chain sauntering up to a bar and saying, “Hey, baby, what’s your sign?” In fact, play dates ARE sort of like dating -- double-dating, where you have to pick out your date’s clothes, drive, and carry most of the conversation.

As a new mom, I wasn’t sure how the whole play date thing worked. Did I wait for someone to ask me? Did I proposition a potential mom at the gym daycare? Should I have a card made up with my phone number on it? I flubbed the first couple attempts. I think a woman in my Mommy & me yoga class wanted to play date, but I just said, “Sure, that sounds good,” and never closed the deal. I didn’t want to appear too desperate. The class ended and I never saw her again.

I also went on a couple of play dates with moms who had kids much younger or older than mine. That didn’t work out so well. While I was picking leaves out of my baby’s mouth, the other mom was chasing her kid across the playground. Or, the other mom was peacefully cradling her sleeping infant while I kept excusing myself to protect her wedding china from my toddler’s grasp.

Having been on the play dating scene now for almost 2 years, I’ve got a few tips:

1. Start out easy. Instead of launching headfirst into play dates with strangers, get together with your friends who have kids. It’s much less stressful if you already know the other mom and can be yourself. Also, friends aren’t as inclined to get annoyed if your baby has a diaper blowout on their couch, or if you’re so tired from nursing that you doze off mid-conversation.

2. Play dates come in different types. There’s the standard, pre-arranged play date, usually at someone’s house. Then there’s the destination play date, which might involve meeting at the park or playground. There’s also the impromptu play date, my favorite. This is when you call someone and say, “Junior woke up early from his nap and it’s 4 hours till my husband gets home. Wanna come over?” There’s even the drive-by play date. That’s when your neighbor drives by and sees you in the yard and says, “Can Timmy come over and play for awhile?”

3. Set limits. An hour or two is a good amount of time for a play date. Unless you plan to serve a meal, don’t schedule it during lunch- or dinner-time. If you want the kids to stay in the backyard or playroom, say so, but don’t think they will abide by that. In fact, you should probably make your bed and clean the other bathroom just in case.

4. Don’t stress. It’s practically a given that your child will unleash a foul deposit in his diaper the minute you arrive at your new friends’ house. Or spill his juice all over the new carpet. Or that your normally easy-going offspring will attack like a mother bear in heat when the other kid makes a move for his favorite firetruck. Laugh it off. Then get the hell out of there and don’t go back. (Just kidding.)

Play dates can be a minefield for new moms. Just remember the goal is to find a couple of playmates for your child, and some adult interaction for you (though don’t expect to be able to have an uninterrupted conversation). Go ahead. Brush your hair and put on a nice top. Then get out there. You’ll be fine.

LINK O’ THE WEEK: For more tips, visit this site on “play date etiquette.”


Cathy said...

Joining a moms group, like MOMS Club or Mothers & More, is another good way to meet other moms and get playdates going for the kids.

Kelli said...

I'm picturing a toddler in a gold chain....too funny. And the tip about making your bed and cleaning your other bathroom is a definite necessity (if you can squeeze it in that morning before everyone arrives). I swear, if I have my bed made & the bathroom picked up, nobody goes upstairs. BUT if they aren't, it's like a magnetic force pulls the kids and their moms upstairs just so everyone can see what a mess it is! ahhhhhh!

P.S. Nice to see you on my blog! Thanks for the comment on my "tip". We'll see if they use it or not... :)

PeeKay said...

yikes! that link actually said thank you notes were nice!!!! EEK, who has time for those for a playdate...

MamaNeena said...

I am beginning to see why I'm a playgroup dropout.

Mom2Miles said...

Thank-you notes for a playdate? That's a little over the top.

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