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Argh i hate hosting playdates... how can I make them less stressful?

(31 Posts)
PancakesMum1 Sun 14-Jan-18 20:41:21

My 4.5 year old has just started school and loves (the idea of) having friends around to tea. I also think it's A Good Idea because I think it will help her to make friends.

BUT i absolutely hate hosting them. I find it SO STRESSFUL. The kids need to be constantly given new games to play, new toys to play with.. they don't seem to just pick up a game and play... I seem to have to manage the entire process.

And at the same time my 18 month old wants to get involved, but grabs toys, wrecks games, has tantrums.

When I pick my daughter up from playdates elsewhere it's clear she's had an amazing time. When parents come to pick their kids up from me it's clear that the kid can't wait to leave, and that we all look a bit traumatised.

I'm NOT a natural host anyway, hate hosting parties etc.

How can i make playdates more fun, and less stressful?? Tips please...!

silver1977 Sun 14-Jan-18 20:51:25

I would try and leave them to it more, don't get too involved so they play their own thing. How about organising just one thing, say decorate some biscuits after tea (shop brought obviously!) or make some little bead bracelets? I work at a pre-school, when mine were younger but at school, I sometimes set up a little shop or the dolls etc so it was 'ready made' for them to get on and play when they got in. You're not alone feeling this way smile

Vibe2018 Sun 14-Jan-18 20:58:27

To break it up you could go to a playground directly after school for a bit of time- less time at home then.

Almostthere15 Sun 14-Jan-18 21:07:57

I 'set out' some art/craft stuff (simple things like stickers, paper and pens) which I can direct them to if it all seems a bit fractious. Simple cake decorating works too (ready made fairy cakes, icing and a selection of sweets). But I always let them start with just playing.

A very simple tea (mostly sausage and mash or fish fingers and beans) and jelly for pudding.

After tea I tend to let then go and play upstairs. I do always ask them to help tidy a bit (but I put on music and make it a bit fun, or as fun tidying can be).

Agree if you can get them outside it helps enormously. So either a park on way home or some outside games in the garden (chalk keeps kids busy for ever, and the youngest could join in without being disruptive).

I'm not sure anyone loves them. I always breathe a sigh of relief when they're done (and pour wine!).

Yika Sun 14-Jan-18 21:19:22

I feel your pain, I can tell you that it does get a bit better with time.

I think at that age playdates have to be stage managed very closely.

Break it into stages and be prepared to resort to TV at the end if anyone gets overwrought.

- craft activity (ready set up)
- outdoor play
- sit down food and drink (calms them down and reenergises them at the same time)
- free play or you play a bit with them (set up lego, role play dolls etc)

I think it's best if the first activity is with you fully involved, then by the end of the playdate they are more likely to be able to play together by themselves.

I would totally avoid competitive activities, and somewhat avoid activities where they have to share. Better to have things they can do alongside each other at this age e.g. each do their own painting.

You can also read them all a story (including the 18 month old) for something quiet - or put on an audiobook!

PeekabooPoo Sun 14-Jan-18 21:32:13

I tend to limit them to 1.5 hours (so 3.00-4.30), that way I don't have to worry about dinner for our play date. So i pick up from school @ 3.00, then get home and give the kids a little snack (some grapes, bread sticks, a drink). By the time they've finished eating its around 3.30, which leaves them an hour to play together.

I usually don't plan any activities but may suggest things for them to do, so play in dds room, a game, lego, colouring in and some stickers, and give them a choice. Last 15 minutes play hide and seek.

I think the trick is to start off with shorter playdates and then once you know the kids and the ones who play well you can start extending the time they spend at yours. Dd is several years into playdates now and whenever she asks if x or y can come over i suggest a short play date if they haven't been before --that way i can count down to pick up time if it all goes wrong-

SpacePenguin Sun 14-Jan-18 21:34:33

I find that kids (just like adults!) take a bit if time to relax into someone else's house. Most kids are not going to run in and just start playing on the first couple of visits. They don't know your house, they don't know your toys, and no matter how eagerly anticipated the playdate, your own kids might be feeling awkward about how to add the friend to the mix.

I've not thought about this in detail before, but with your question, I've realised that I always start with an icebreaker activity that gets everyone relaxed and chatting, I listen to the sorts of things they like and sow the seeds for some games they might enjoy, then I tell them I need to do some task or other and send them off to play independently.

The icebreaker is usually a physical task - play dough, colouring, art, baking, making something specific from Lego, etc, where we can all sit together around a table. While we're all busy making, I chat to them about their day and their favourite toys, then make a few suggestions as to the types of games they might like to play once this activity is over. Then I send them off to play independently and they usually run off excitedly discussing which thing they're going to do first. If they ask what to do, I might give them a prompt, but won't tell them what to do or get involved.

It might not be your thing, but I've made simple cupcakes with a little girl I knew was extremely nervous in new situations and was going to find it really hard to relax and play. Her mum was there and couldn't believe how quickly she got involved and ran off to play independently with dd once the mixing was done. She ran off and didn't come back to her mum till it was time to eat the cupcakes smile

formerbabe Sun 14-Jan-18 21:41:26

Buy some plain cupcakes, put out a bowl of icing and some sweets. As soon as they get there, get them sitting down and decorating the cakes. These then double up as pudding for later. It's a good way to kill some time.

formerbabe Sun 14-Jan-18 21:42:20

Buy some plain cupcakes, put out a bowl of icing and some sweets. As soon as they get there, get them sitting down and decorating the cakes. These then double up as pudding for later. It's a good way to kill some time.

notanother11plusmum Sun 14-Jan-18 21:48:23

Buy pizza based and put out bowls of ham/cherry tomatoes/cheese etc and get them to make their own. We always did that and it was a winner.

Then some cool game (eg bubble machine or Elefun type thing) helped as well

Skittlesandbeer Sun 14-Jan-18 21:52:02

I hear you, sister. Hate hosting kids, even though I quite like hosting adults!

I think it’s far easier to do it in the warmer months, get them on their scooters to the local park, etc.

Indoor playdates are much messier and the time seems to drag! I’ve noticed that loud music games tend to at least keep the kids in one spot, rather than running the craziness all over the house. Regular food can be key, as long as it’s reasonably contained. I remember how deeply interesting ‘other people’s food’ felt to me as a kid! I admit to relaxing lots of our food rules (sugar, juice, numerous snacks) when kids come over.

I refuse to do paint, slime or playdoh- or frankly anything that takes more time to clean up than play. I agree they get easily bored, and you can end up with every toy/game/book/puzzle strewn across the house in 2 hours.

Having a goodly stash of dress-ups is useful, and easy to tidy up. Most kids will ‘put on a show’ for you, which at least gives you a break while they get it organised. You can also run it as a bit of a competition/game as in ‘craziest outfit’ or ‘dress like a grownup’. A friend of mine keeps a big bag of dress ups in the cupboard (with the air sucked out to save space) that only surfaces for playdates, so her own kids don’t get bored with them. That’s another idea, keeping things aside just for playdates so every kid finds it novel.

We have a box of musical instruments (added to from charity shops, always on the lookout!). It’s served us well since kids are never too young or outgrow the chance to make loud noise! Requires ear plugs and wine for the parent, obviously.

I can reassure you that by 7yo, most play dates my dd is on involve more sedate card games (uno, sleeping queens), talking about devices (apps, games) and 1-2 noisy/chasing games only.

Don’t feel guilty or less-than when you see those playdate parents who do 15 educational craft activities, a kids yoga session, platters of Pinterest-worthy vegan snacks and meander serenely through the chaos with an indulgent smile. That’s not you (or me), and that’s ok.

GeorgeTheHamster Sun 14-Jan-18 21:57:18


WipsGlitter Sun 14-Jan-18 22:02:27

I frikkin hate play dates. DS1 loves them. He's nearly 10 but there's always a fall out or something. I think after school ones might he slightly easier as it's more time limited than a Saturday afternoon (I work full time so can't do weekdays).

I can't relax when there's another child here so it spoils my weekend too. A friend has kids constantly at her house for play dates, I don't know how she does it!

BikeRunSki Sun 14-Jan-18 22:03:17

When mine were this age, after school play date used to go something like:
3.30 - get in
3.30-4ish - shoes and coats off (don’t mix them up!), wees, snack, drink etc
4-5 - Children play, minimal adult supervision
5-5.30 - Tea
5.30-6 - Bit of telly/DVD

Now it’s biscuits-PlayStation-pizza

BikeRunSki Sun 14-Jan-18 22:04:15

I don’t love play dates, but the payoff is that your child gets invited back smile

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Sun 14-Jan-18 22:05:30

You are not alone! I look back on our 4-7 year old playdate years with horror. Essentially I had a small number of rules (no lightsabers fully extended or ball games inside hmm) and knew it would be a big tidy up afterwards. I used to make sure I walked them back after school to waste some time burn off energy first too. Now suddenly those days are pretty much over and it’s all a whole lot less stressful.

PancakesMum1 Sun 14-Jan-18 22:48:04

Amazing, thank you all! It's great to know I'm not alone!! As a few of you have said, yes outdoor play is sooooo much easier! I think the fact that it's been the winter months has made it harder!!

I've done the pizza making trick and it's a winner but I'll try lots of the other ideas in this thread. And I also especially like the idea of keeping them shorter!!! The hours from 3-6pm DRAG!

Brilliant, thanks x

Skittlesandbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 04:56:02

Can I say this is the first ‘I hate playdates’ thread I’ve seen on MN where it wasn’t hijacked with ‘the poor little loves, can’t believe you’d limit playdates, if you hate proper playdates then don’t have kids’ and the like!

I usually walk away feeling guilty and like I’m horribly depriving my dd by only hosting every few weeks, and strategising how to not go crazy during them!

I have found my people, and I bless you.

May your next playdate involve the kids folding your laundry then asking whether your wine tippy-mug needs a refill.

Skittlesandbeer Mon 15-Jan-18 05:02:44

Just realise I’m actually hosting a playdate right this minute! 5 kids (5-8yo) in my garden making a Mermaid Garden with bits of beachcombing tat (seashells, driftwood). God I’m going to look like a proper playdate mum when I post those pics tonight! wink

Admittedly it’s full summer here, and as long as I toss the odd icypole (ice lolly?) out the back door they’ll basically leave me alone. And I have a deal with the other mum (down the street) that they can stay till dinner time or first injury, whichever comes first. Wish me luck!

MrsMarigold Mon 15-Jan-18 06:31:21

Hide and seek and build a den usually work for me.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Mon 15-Jan-18 19:49:10

they can stay till dinner time or first injury, whichever comes first.
That sounds like the perfect length to me grin

waterrat Mon 15-Jan-18 20:22:47

Okay let's get something straight here - it is HIGHLY unlikely that the host of any playdate your daughter attends has enjoyed them - and it is HIGHLY unlikely your daughter and her friend behaved any differently at someone elses house.

Parents have kids over because it's good social training and as they grow up they do become better at entertaining themselves. They are generally hard bloody work.

4.5 is v young still - my son is 6 and I would say they are starting to get easier as they go off and play imaginary games/ build dens in his room/ turn all the lights off and play with torches (always goes down well)

I am a seriously negligent parent though and absolutely would not be getting out endless different games - just tell them to play and be quiet!

if you hve a garden get a trampoline. best thing ever for playdates

but mostly - just remember everyone else hates them as much as you do. I picked my son up from a friend's recently and the mother looked a broken woman....

waterrat Mon 15-Jan-18 20:24:48

3 til 6 is too long for tired 4 year olds. If the parents can't collect them at half 5 put the tv on. As a fellow parent I would prefer my child to be watching tv when I arrive ....they are so little! They hve already had a long day at school - tell them it's movie night, put a film on and give them popcorn.

PancakesMum1 Mon 15-Jan-18 21:09:27

Oh god really Skittlesandbeer: "Can I say this is the first ‘I hate playdates’ thread I’ve seen on MN where it wasn’t hijacked with ‘the poor little loves, can’t believe you’d limit playdates, if you hate proper playdates then don’t have kids’ and the like!"

Loving the movie night and popcorn idea... AND the turn all the lights out and give them torches idea!

And yes waterrat maybe 3 - 6 is too long... it certainly feels it!!!

Swatsup Mon 15-Jan-18 21:12:05

Take kids out at the weekend, park, walk, soft play etc instead of play dates at your house.

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