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Tips for Toddler Play Dates

Photo by: iStock

Here’s the thing about toddler play dates: They’re a wonderful way to introduce your little one to others, but they’re not just for kids. In fact, they’re mostly for Mom and Dad!

“A toddler playdate is an excuse for parents to get to know other parents, [and] to expand their social circle at a time when they may be entering a whole new phase of their lives,” said Pamela Badolato, a mother of four and the associate publisher at Family Focus Media.

She explained that toddlers are still in “the parallel play zone” versus the socializing phase, so they may not actually do much interacting beyond taking toys from each other, knocking over Abby’s block tower, or taking a big gulp out of Matthew’s sippy cup. In that sense, playdates, provide “a chance to have some adult interaction so you can remember how to talk in your normal voice, not your baby voice,” said Badolato.

Finding Existing Toddler Play Dates
If you’re a new parent, or want to get involved in a toddler play date for the first time, rest assured that it’s as easy as it’s ever been. “Today with Facebook and technology, people can set up playdates for local parents. There are also various apps where you can meet local moms with children your age,” said Lyss Stern, a mother of three, parenting author, and the CEO of DivaMoms.

Some playdate apps to check out include Yellowbrck, Instant Playdates, and Red Rover. You can also hit the local gym, nearby events, or even the park with a mission to meet new friends and exchange numbers for future play dates. Make sure to check out bulletin boards at local cafes and grocery stores, too!

“You have to put yourself out there. It’s like dating all over again,” said Badolato. “If you live where you happened to grow up then connect with friends from your own childhood, but if not you have to step out of your comfort zone to find your crew. Talk to other parents at the park, chat up caregivers at library story time, stalk other moms of twins in the mall because you’re expecting twins and are scared out of your mind. Search in your area for online forums, websites with calendars full of family activities, and gyms that offer classes where you can bring your child. My group of friends found each other at Mommy & Me Yoga, and I had never even taken a yoga class before!”

When you attend, make a good impression by bringing a small treat. Also come equipped with everything you may possibly need, not limited to diapers, wipes, non-messy snacks, and a few toys for your child.

Tips for Hosting Your Own Play Date
You can always attend an already arranged playdate, but you may also find joy in planning your own. Though it requires a bit more work, especially at first, it’s ultimately an exciting and rewarding process.

Invite who you know, and if you only know one or two people, ask them to invite a friend, advised Badolato. You can also take advantage of the contacts you’ve made at other play dates, or use apps to form a small group. Once you’ve got a crew assembled, start prepping an area of your home where you’re comfortable with the little ones making a mess. Put away the fine china, vacuum up the cheerios (to make room for new cheerios, of course), and place a strategic box of tissues on the side table.

“Put out the toys you are willing to allow other children to touch, hide the ones you may be anal about — if you don’t want to lose a piece of a puzzle store it in a closet, if you don’t want the whole tub of 967 pony beads to get knocked over hide it —and put away the super special stuffy that your son will cry if anyone else touches- or worse,” said Badolato.

Besides that, you can keep it simple by providing a few allergy-safe, non-messy foods and drinks, and planning for very little aside from talking and playing.

“Perhaps if it’s near a holiday you can attempt a craft, something easy, something that will make for good out-take photos and memories that will make you laugh years later. But other than that, don’t plan much because play dates should be easy and not intimidating to the next person to have to recreate,” said Badolato.

As long as you’re comfortable and having fun, others will be happy and comfortable, too. You can also make it a standing tradition by choosing a time that works for everyone and rotating homes.

“My group of friends began taking turns hosting each other every Friday,” said Badolato. “We had a potluck of breakfast items, snacks, drinks (for the kids and for the adults), and got to really connect while our children played around each other. We did this for years, as we went on to have our second and third ‘generation’ of children. Our eldest children are all now turning nine!”

Wendy Rose Gould is a writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers women’s lifestyle topics for numerous digital publications, including InStyle, xoVain, Refinery29, Revelist, PopSugar and ModCloth. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or at

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