When I first started taking Anna to play dates, I really didn't know what to expect and I was kind of nervous. Anna was usually one of the youngest at any of the play dates, and a lot of the other moms had multiple kids, so I was always anxious that I would do something unintentionally rude or stupid. Well, I am decently confident that I've managed to avoid any major faux pas, and now that I've got a bunch of play dates under my belt, I thought I'd share some tips on successful play dates for other moms dipping a toe into the baby social scene.
* Offer to bring a snack but don't stress if the host says not to worry about it.
* Don't bring toys - the host will usually have a ton and it will just be a headache to find all of yours after the play date is over.
* Do bring a sippy cup for your little one.
* Stay home if you or your kiddo is sick...there will be more play dates in the future, I promise!
* Be prepared to take off your shoes. It's very rare for me to go to any play date and not see a pile of shoes by the door, and I always plan ahead by wearing socks or tucking a pair into my purse. Or minimally, I make sure my toes are painted!!
* If you have told the hostess that you are coming, then do everything in your power to get there. We all know that things come up, especially with unpredictable little ones, but if you consistently blow off your play dates, then you will most likely find yourself left off the invitation lists in the future!
* Have a few snacks and drinks for the parents and kids. No need to go all out, but some bottled waters, light snacks, and some healthy and kid-friendly finger foods are always great to have out. Raisins, muffins, Goldfish crackers, cheese cubes, fresh fruit, etc. are all good and relatively low-mess. If you want something a little heartier, deli wraps or sandwiches are usually appreciated for a lunch-time play date! When Anna was still a baby, I also usually had a pot of coffee ready to go, but I get really nervous about hot drinks around active toddlers, so I usually opt for the water or iced tea instead now that she's older.
* I learned from my playgroup that it's a great idea to have kid-sized seating. I don't think you need to go out and buy something if you don't already have it, but if you have a kid picnic table or chairs or anything, set it up in the kitchen for the kids to have a place to put their snacks.
* Lock up any animals, no matter how kid-friendly they are. It's also generally a good idea to give people a heads up ahead of time that there are animals in the home in case there are any allergy concerns.
* Clean your house, especially the floors. Also consider pushing tables or furniture out of the way to give the kiddos a wide open space to play. When Anna was an infant, I would always lay down a bunch of clean quilts or our foam playmats for the babies, especially given our hardwood floors.
* Do at least some minimal babyproofing - even if your kid is good at avoiding danger, other kids might not be and a few preventative measures like a stair gate and outlet covers would be very helpful.
* It's also a good idea to have a few extra sippy cups clean and ready to go. Most parents bring their own but sometimes they forget and once one kid has one, all the kids want one.
Above all, just relax and have fun! I love all of Anna's play groups because she gets to play with "new" toys and all of her little friends, and I love getting the chance to chat with other moms. Any other mommas - any tips that I'm missing or that you've found helpful?