The Perfect Playdate for Kids (and Moms)

Oh how I wish there was some mathematical formula that I could use to plan reliably good playdates. Alas, in real life, there are just way too many variables. Ages of the kids involved – are we talking playdates for kids or playdates for toddlers? – energy levels of kids and parents, recency of snacks, frequency with which all involved parties experience sleep deprivation, presence or absence of any of the approximately one million developmental spurts and milestones that kids experience. And that’s still assumes that all involved personalities and temperaments are sufficiently compatible and that a playdate invitation is accepted.

That’s right. Once you meet moms, there’s a new hurdle.

To be sure, successful playdates for kids or toddlers are more art (and perhaps luck) than science. It gets even more complicated if you add a new person to the mix. I go back and forth between thinking that meeting outdoors (neutral territory, no need to worry about sharing, opportunities for both mutual and independent play) and hosting in my own home (mainly because the barely controlled chaos that defines my home seems to appeal to small children and reassure adults that they will neither be judged nor found wanting) as the best location for a first playdate.

Of course, regardless of how well you plan, there is always the risk that a playdate will go horribly awry. Perhaps there will be a tantrum that just won’t stop. Extreme failure to share. Crankiness that isn’t satisfied with snacks or hugs. That’s when things get really complicated – terminate the playdate early? Tough it out and try another distraction or a brief time-out?

I admit, we tend to cut out early. My daughter is an “intensifier;” she tends to get more and more upset and resists all but the most crafty distractions. Fortunately, she also tends to be good-natured, so this has only happened a few times.

What are sure signs that your playdates are spiraling out of control? And how do you react?