Staying Safe When You Make New Friends Online

 For most moms, being able to meet moms online is a godsend. It’s totally normal these days to connect with people online before meeting in person – just look at the popularity of online dating sites – and especially helpful for anyone with a busy schedule. Chatting or exchanging messages and emails can be the perfect way to get to know moms you might not have ever met otherwise.

That said, you should always play it safe when you meet moms you got to know online or when finding playdates for your kids using the Internet. Here are some tips to help you protect yourself while making friends at Mom Meet Mom and elsewhere:

Confidentiality rules. If you’re using sites that require signing up to use forums or a messaging service, read the posted privacy statement to make sure they won’t share your personal information with anyone. (Mom Meet Mom never shares your personal, identifying info!)

Image counts. Think of how you’re portraying yourself on your public profile – that includes how you describe yourself, what photos you post, and how you respond to other people. Veering into provocative territory can invite criticism and worse, make it hard to make new friends.

Keep it incognito. Never, ever post your address, phone number, or other identifying/contact information on a public profile. That’s the sort of thing you should only share with someone when you have built up a certain level of trust by chatting and exchanging messages.

There’s safety in skepticism. People can write anything on an online profile! If your gut is telling you that someone doesn’t seem legit, trust those instincts and don’t share your personal information or schedule a meeting.

Report fakes, frauds, and other predators. If you know for sure that another user is taking advantage of a site, let the admins know. That’s what they’re there for, and you’ll be helping a service you like stay great.

Remember, there are dishonest people online and off, so it pays to protect yourself and your family whenever you meet moms for the first time. We here at Mom Meet Mom are committed to helping you do just that, but ultimately it’s your responsibility. Make smart decisions, don’t take risks, trust your intuition, and you’ll have a great time meeting moms in person and in our forums.

11 Easy Cold Weather Playdate Ideas for Toddlers

In summer, playdates just happen. In winter, especially when the weather is cruddy, the temptation to retire to the kitchen with hot coffee while the kiddos watch a video can be overwhelming. We’re not TV purists or anything, but winter can last a long time in certain parts of the country so it pays to be armed with cold weather playdate ideas before you invite you best mom friends over for the afternoon. Here are 11 of our favorite – and easy – cold weather playdate ideas designed to keep herds of toddlers entertained for hours:

1. Have a pint-sized rave: When you need playdate ideas for high-energy kids, a toddler dance party can help everyone work off some energy without having to deal with jackets, boots, and other outdoor accouterments.Get creative! Freeze dance, musical chairs, and other dance games are all toddler approved.

2. The 30-minute challenge: Older toddlers can be assigned a fun specific task, like building a house with blocks or putting together train tracks using all the pieces. Younger toddlers may not be able to handle playing within specific guidelines, so challenge them to build something cool before the 30-minute timer dings.

3. Get crafty (if you can cope with the chaos): So what if you’re not the kind of mom who can magically whip up anything she sees on Pinterest? Toddlers are remarkably forgiving of mama’s shortcomings when there’s glue, yarn, paint, and glitter on the table. Just make sure you warn your playdate cohort that things are going to get messy.

4. The indoor sandbox: As playdate ideas go, this is one that can get a little grainy but sandbox sand is clean and fairly easy to sweep up. A high-sided plastic storage bin can help contain the grains.

5. Bake up your playdate snacks: This is another messy one, but toddlers love to help in the kitchen and baking with kids is an amazing opportunity to teach numbers, basic math, and chemistry. Having aprons and smocks ready and preparing ingredients in advance can make this playdate idea easier on parents.

6. Bust out the Play-Doh: Whether store-bought or homemade, Play-Doh can keep even the rowdiest toddlers entertained for hours. Or a good half hour, anyway. Don’t worry about buying fancy accessories – a few cookie cutters, rolling pins, and plastic butter knives are all you need.

7. Start a business: We mean a pretend business, of course. Have the kids set up a faux fast food restaurant or grocery, and mamas can be the shoppers. Play food is helpful for this playdate idea, but not strictly necessary since anything can stand in for food in active imaginations. Alternately, play toy store.

8. Take a field trip: The library is free and fun, and may even take care of the activities for you. Next time you hit the books, pick up a schedule that lists things like story hour and toddler music shows so you can plan playdates around them.

9. ABC scavenger hunt: This playdate idea is for older toddlers who can recognize their letters, but if adults are willing to help the little ones then everyone can play along. Players have to find objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet – or objects with those letters written on them.

10. Build a fort: We’ve never met a toddler who didn’t love stripping beds of their blankets and couches of their cushions to create a cuddly fortress of solitude!

11. Hide and seek: You can’t go wrong with this classic group game that even the youngest toddlers love. Sure, their hiding spots may be kind of obvious and being found is often more fun than finding, but if everyone is having fun, who cares? Older toddlers can be the designated finders or adults can do the searching, slowly.

What are your favorite indoor playdate ideas?

P.S. If you’re looking to meet moms to find playdates for your kids, check out Mom Meet Mom!

How Mom Meet Mom Will Work

One of the best parts of working hard to get Mom Meet Mom off the ground has been the messages I’ve received from moms who are excited for our eventual launch and want to know more about how our site will work so they can meet moms faster. I’m jazzed enough that we’ve made it this far – knowing that moms are just as jazzed is darn near blowing my mind! Naturally, I want to make sure that moms who are interested in Mom Meet Mom but are on the fence about signing up to receive information about our upcoming launch have all the information they need to feel comfy doing so.

So first for those who are totally unfamiliar with the concept driving the development of Mom Meet Mom, here’s the skinny:

Mom Meet Mom is a website that takes the stress out of meeting other mothers and finding playdates for children by using specially chosen criteria to match up local moms with similar interests, schedules, families, personalities, and social preferences. From there, it’s up to moms! Mom Meet Mom users can jump right in and schedule a playdate or grownup lunch with one or more matches or take it slow and get to know potential friends through the site before meeting in person. The site is so effective at helping moms connect because it uses a complex algorithm to match moms based on over 33 separate criteria.

Sounds good, right? Mom dating, making new friends after having kids, and finding playdates can be incredibly stressful. Our goal is to change the way moms meet – especially moms who have had trouble finding likeminded mom friends in the past.

It works like this – you just sign up and fill out a profile questionnaire. Note: Plenty of the prompts are optional so you can share as much or as little as you like, though sharing more means the mom friends we suggest you meet will have more in common with you and your family. Once your profile is complete, we’ll generate your first batch of matches! And at that point, it’s up to you whether you want to reach out to some or all of the potential mom friends we suggest just to say hi or to schedule a coffee date.

In other words, we’re trying to make it as easy and stress-free as possible for you to meet moms and find playdates for your kids. Have you signed up yet? We sure hope so, but if you have questions you want answered before handing us your deets (and we get it) feel free to email christa at mommeetmom.com!

6 Tips for Finding the Right Mom’s Group

One of the easiest ways to meet moms – especially as a first-time mom – is to find a mom’s group. That is, if you happen to have access to a mom’s group that’s local and easy to get to and has conveniently scheduled meetings and affordable dues and inviting mamas. Okay, so maybe it isn’t exactly easy for every mother to find a mom’s group.

First, not every mom has a mom’s group that’s local and convenient. Some mom’s groups charge pretty hefty dues. Others are exclusive or just plain uninviting. You meet moms and don’t click. Sometimes mom’s group only accept new members with kids of certain ages so if your baby isn’t under three months or a toddler, you’re out of luck.

We may be designing Mom Meet Mom to meet the needs of mamas who don’t have a welcoming local mom’s group to turn to for friendship, playdates, and support, but we understand that finding a mom’s group is pretty important to some mothers. For these moms, we have put together a list of seven tips for finding a mom’s group because after all, sometimes finding a network of moms who get it can save your sanity!

1. Some mom’s groups, in particular the better organized groups, advertise in local papers or on sites like Craigslist. But you may get faster access to an awesome mom’s group by calling your OB or midwife’s office to ask if they know of any local groups that meet weekly.

2. If you’re comfortable approaching other moms on the playground or the pediatrician waiting room, you may find an awesome mom’s group by simply asking moms you meet while running errands.

3. Focus on your interests. Nursing moms may enjoy meeting with other breastfeeding moms, while moms of preemies or babies with special needs can find specific support from mothers facing the same challenges.

4. Don’t feel bad if you give one mom’s group a try and don’t feel like you fit in. Commit to one or two meetings, but if socializing feels forced or awkward, don’t feel like you need to try, try again.

5. Remember that some mom’s group charge monthly or yearly dues – if you’re considering a group that does, make sure you know where your money is going before you commit.

6. Finally, think about starting your own mom’s group if there aren’t any in your area and you don’t feel comfortable in any of the existing groups. Mom Meet Mom can help you meet your first members!

Is Meeting Friends Any Easier for the Second Time Mom?

Being a first-time mom is definitely hard, but there’s one area of motherhood where it’s easier for most moms. As a first-time mom of a healthy baby, especially if you have a lengthy maternity leave or you’re a SAHM, you have the freedom to go to mommy and me groups, post-natal exercise classes, coffee hour, story time at the library, infant swim, and all of the other mom activities that might be offered in your area. There’s no one else vying for your attention. You don’t have to take anyone else’s schedule into account when planning your day. You don’t have to try that hard to meet moms.

And if you don’t get out of the house? Everyone is tolerant of your inability to manage a daily shower. Making friends may not be an issue because you can hit up all the aforementioned activities.

But when baby number two arrives and baby number one isn’t really a baby anymore you can forget about mommy and me groups and the like, unless they line right up with the latter’s preschool schedule and other appointments. Otherwise, it can feel like the former is just along for the ride. Heck, it can feel like mom is just along for the ride if that first daughter or son is loaded up with activities! On top of that, everyone expects the second-time mom to be not only showered, but also on the ball when it comes to everything from household management to planning playdates to making the transition back to work.

When the question is whether meeting friends is any easier for the second-time mom, we’d argue that the first-time mom clearly comes out ahead. You don’t only have to meet moms, but now you’re looking for moms with kids your kids’ ages. And how many groups, classes, and get-togethers are there for first-time moms – usually at a time of day that assumes that said mothers have nothing else going on? Thus far, we’ve never actually seen any activities specifically catering to second-time moms in our areas, and so much of the stuff for moms of babies is not toddler or kid friendly.

The solution is not just to hope that your mom friends have second babies of their own – though if you’re really lucky, you’ll all be pregnant and have your babies right around the same time. First, consider reaching out to some of the other parents in your first child’s preschool class or daycare who also have babies. You’ll meet moms more easily if you put yourself out there. Second, see if there are any sibling classes at your local hospital and connect with parents there. And third, if the first two steps seem too scary, sign up for Mom Meet Mom. One of the criteria we consider when helping moms meet moms is how many children a mother has and what ages they are because we get that having two kids (or three or four or more) can feel like an entirely different kind of motherhood than first-time motherhood.