How to Have the House That Everyone Wants to Play At?

Updated on January 24, 2011
C.P. asks from Houston, TX
11 answers

Hello! My twins (boy and girl) will be entering Kindergarten next year. I am a stay at home mom, and will probably continue that for a while. I have never hosted a playdate, but I want to start. I would like my children to have their friends over after school sometimes and on the weekends. Is it best to invite one child at a time during the elementary years? I would LOVE to be the house that everyone wants to come to! What characteristics would we need to have to be that house? I know that is such a silly question, but I would love it if everyone wanted to come over to our house. Is there anyone out there that has that house? :) If so, please tell your secrets. Is it the food, the toys, activities, personality of the child, what are the secrets?

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answers from Stockton on

Funny I have never thought about it. I grew up in a house where we always had kids over and now my friends tell me "you always seem to have a hundred kids at your house!" It is really not a hundred I just have 4 kids and their friends come over here to hang out. It's always been that way. The only thing I can think of is that we are a very relaxed family, kids can come and be kids, plenty of toys, snacks and "freedom". Now mind you they aren't jumping on the furniture or painting the walls but they can just be kids and play, make tents in the living room etc (and yes, they have to clean it up when they are done!) I'm watchful but not intrusive.

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answers from Dallas on

The secret is to be relaxed. A true great hostess is comfortable in sharing her house. A few rules but is ok with kids running through the house. Also a clean house but not one that is "untouchable" like a museum. There is a big difference with a house that is a show case than one that is a home.
Keeping a nice supply of snacky foods that are healthy but easy and fun for kids to munch on is nice.
Having cups with a sharpie pen for writing names on them is helpful so everyone can know which cup is who's.
Kids are not picky about the toy supply since it feels all new to them since it's different from what they have at home. You do need to make sure the "special" items are put up.
I think in the beginning one child over is good. I belong to a small playgroup and have for years. We all take turns hosting two playgroups a month with a mom's night out. I'll admit at first it was kind of hard to "chill" with a house full of kids but in time I got used to of it and now realize if I'm comfortable with people in my home they will be the same.

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answers from San Francisco on

IMO it's not the toys so much as the overall atmosphere of hospitality and the temperaments of the kids. Fortunately my twin daughters' friends love to do creative play and build things out of recycled stuff, and I think their friends enjoy coming to our house because they know that we always have lots of empty cardboard boxes and yogurt containers and all manner of recyclables to play with (I save the bigger pieces of gift wrap from their birthday and christmas gifts) - but the kids who are accustomed to entertaining themselves with TV or video games probably wouldn't care to come over. I think their friends (who mostly have different age siblings) also enjoy coming here b/c there are no younger siblings trying to tag along or older siblings telling them to go away ;-).

With twins, I've also found that it can be good if you can arrange to have one twin invite a friend over at the same time that the other twin is going over to a friend's house, especially if (as is the case with my girls) one is more outgoing and tends to take over the whole playdate. Also it helps reassure the other parents at school that it's perfectly okay to ask if one twin can come for a playdate and not feel that they need to invite both or neither.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Even numbers of children are the best. So invite 1 or invite 3..

I always made sure to meet the parents. I would give them my phone numbers and ask for theirs. Be very clear about the time for drop off and pick up.. Or what time you will pick up and drop off. I asked about food allergies.

The first time they visit, I always told the kids the house rules.. Inside voices, no running, stay in the house unless they ask permission to go outside. No one is to go in my room. No use of the TV unless they ask.
I showed them the drinks and snacks they were allowed to have.

We always had outside things, The Twizzler, the air pogo, a castle. Balls..
Dress up, arts and crafts, barbies, board games, CD player, indoor tent... Tons of books..

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answers from Philadelphia on

well we are that house. most of the time i love it but you probably read my post were i complained that other parents rarely recipocate.

make it inviting. but keep your house rules. example if your house rule is dont jump on the furniture be consistent when your children have friends over. other wise your house will start looking dumpy.
most of the time i have yummy snacks available, apple slices, crackers, homemade cookies.
we have 3 kids and many times we have 3 other kids come and play. i have as many as 7 kids my kids included without other parents. i look for kids that get along with my kids, are easy to have over..i dont look for problems, if someone is bratty the whole time they wont be asked back a second time. my kids love being the house where all the kids hang out.



answers from New York on

Well mine are 6 years old and neighborhood kids love to come to our house. I don't think it's the food or toys, though we don't have a lack of anything. I think it's the attitude. I don't go crazy after them to pick up. My idea is let them play as much as they want, with a few breaks in between for a drink and snack, and then pick up at the end of the play. I also do not do playdates withour parents present. Meaning I am not babysitting and whoever comes has to bring their parent along. I think that is what people find exciting, the fact that they can come over, have tea or coffee, while the kids play. I also only offer healthy snacks and do not fill them up if the playdate is close to mealtime.
So, just positive attitude and invite parents over too.



answers from Washington DC on

We are often "that house" and I don't entirely know why. I think some of it is personality - is your kid the life of the party or shy? My stepkids are very social. I also think some of it is being available. If other parents know that you are reliable, available and caring, they'll be more likely to approve a play date with your child.

As for food or toys, I don't tend to have anything special. We do keep veggie burgers in the fridge for unexpected vegetarian dinner guests, but usually it's more "this is what we have that you can have". We're just normal about it. I wouldn't run out and buy a trampoline (we have one, and one girl got hurt on it...but we also had a kid break her elbow on the backyard swing...). Just have what you have and put up anything the kids don't want to share that day.

You might tell the kids "Hey, next weekend we don't have anything going on. Would you like to invite a friend over?" Then try to contact the parents directly and work out a play time for a few hours. You can ask them then about things like food allergies.



answers from Tulsa on

Well, eating only healthy snacks and drinking only water and milk was a turn off to many kids so I began buying some of the sunships, capri suns, and such. One announced "I will be bringing my own snacks from now on since you people NEVER have ANYTHING to eat." I also found out that some kids do not eat kid portions after they complained about starving and kept asking for more.

I found they LOVE hot snacks after school as most don't fix them(mini pizzas, chicken nuggets, brownies. I sometimes let them help which they love.

Having a trampoline is a big pull and it gets used more than a playground with an elevated fort. Also, we have razor scooters, a plasma car, bikes, skates, and tons of balls for outside. We learned to keep the ones they outgrow so we can all have something to do at the same time.

We do crafts that I demonstate and help with occasionally and that includes gifts for parents(valentines, christmas ornaments). That is always a hit no matter how it turns out. If you have carpet, I would put out a big, flat piece of cardboard for the crafts outside. Some kids have not worked with paints and glue very much. I would not allow moon sand, moon dough, or sand.
Even with 8 year olds and a tile floor, it gets everywhere. I hate it.

I would say NO to Wii, gameboy, DSi, and computer. These just breed arguements and frankly kids sit on their bums enough. The commercial with a wii party never has worked out like that for us.

I would try to limit playdates to 2 hours so everyone has fun. Between 2 and 2 and a half hours, at least with girls, the conflicts start. Leave them wanting more and encourage parents to come on time. I have babysat a group of kids so parents could go out. These are kids I REALLY know whose parents I know. Sometimes they act like siblings, but it is ok as we are all friends and they know I am not picking on their child or playing favorites. My husband has a 2 hour limit as well.

I am a more the merrier person, but with playdates it is important no child feel excluded. My only likes to play one on one best so that is what we do most. Friends bring all their kids when they come over so it can get to be overwhelming for her after awhile. We also change it up by meeting at a public park where they can skate or ride longer distances and there is no fighting over toys.

When you have kids over, I would not allow neighbor kids to join in. Be polite, but firm. We had a little girl who kept acting ugly and my husband was talking to her. She didn't want to miss out so she said "Look, I don't have to work it out with her because I am just here to play with her toys and the kids she brought home, not her." Of course she has never been back in the two years since.


answers from Biloxi on

Hi C.,

My son is significantly older than your children - he is 14. But I have always have the house that everyone wants to hang out at since about 4th grade. I really don't know why - I have rules, and force them to go play outside, when we lived in an apartment they had to walk the dog. LOL

Now when he has friends over invariably someone begs to spend the night (or two nights) and my theory is if you a sleeping here you are no longer a guest and you can go take the trash out. He has one that came over on and off all summer and helped do the yard work in exchange for sleeping over. Weird boys. :) They have done laundry, helped me move furniture, cleaned the patio, and once I stuck a mop in some boy's hand and pointed to the living room.

My son's friends now tell me that I am the "Kinda' weird, but cool Mom". I am not sure about either label but I think it is because all the activities in the house take place in the family room and I will curl up on the couch and read a book while they play on the PS3 and computer. I don't play with them, but I don't go isolate myself in another part of the house while they are here either. I don't do anything special for food - in fact, I limit their junk food options when they are here. Caffeine free sodas and limited snacks. I would rather fix spaghetti or something. Yet, they Face Book friend me and tell me about the girls they like and what they want to be when they grow up.

At your childrens' age having a rapport with the other parents is going to be key to developing the hang out house. When mine was that little his play dates usually included an adult component and the other Mom and I would visit for awhile - not for the entire play date, maybe a 1/2 hour or so.

I think being the hang out house grows over time - we have known some of these boys for almost 4 years now and I joke with my son that these same friends will come visit me in my nursing home in 40 years.

It is great having all my son's friends come over to my house - it also alleviates my worries of where he is and what he is doing.



answers from Salt Lake City on

we have always been that house, sometimes it is nice to have them there sometimes you wish they go play somewhere else. I dont know how it happens they just start showing up. It started when my oldest was about 5 even as often as we have changed houses they still just show up. Maybe it is the swimming pool maybe the game room downstairs. I have a "snack shelf" in my pantry and a " kid fridge" downstairs. Most kids are really good about just taking one but sometimes you have to remind them. Most moms think it would be really Great to be the hangout house but I am telling you sometimes it gets to be a little much. The neighbor kids never go home, they forget to pick up their mess, teenage boys will eat you out of house and home if you let them. You become "mom" to kids that are not yours I know the struggles of teenage boys, problems with their parents, school, girls. I make extra dinner and lunch just in case always have bandaids and neosporine on hand. Be prepared it is not easy but you do know where your kids are most of the time and you know their friends which is really important and as much as I sometimes complain about it I would rather have them home than running around somewhere else.



answers from Columbus on

I think if you are social with the parents that helps as well. I know for me - I have to be comfortable with the parent before I start sending my kids anywhere.

As far as our house goes - I am pretty involved with their playing ideas. We read alot in our house too and my kids friends LOVE to be read to. So every kid that happens to be there that day gets to pick a book off the shelf and I read it to them.

Good luck!

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