It’s never too early to indulge in the magic of play dates, right? I experienced my first baby-friendly play date a few weeks ago and was in awe at how refreshing it was to relax on the sofa in the company of other mothers, all swapping advice surrounding midnight feedings and organic sleep sacks. Our babies played happily at our feet, reminding us of the incredible gift of community.
1. Reach out.
Play dates are the perfect opportunity to get to know someone you don’t already. If your best friends have babies that are a similar age as yours, perfect – instant playgroup! If not, don’t fret. Reach out to your social circle and see if any of your trusted friends know of new mothers who would love a chance to get out of the house and socialize a few hours per week. Get ready to open your home – and life – to a potentially new friend!
2. Time it right.
Moms are busy and schedules can get packed pretty quickly. Be considerate of busy schedules by including a start and end time for your play date (babies are often happy in the morning, so 10 a.m. -12 p.m. is a nice window to shoot for). At the same time, be flexible. Last-minute diaper changes and meltdowns can sometimes throw off even the most punctual of mothers.
3. Do your homework.
Prior to your play date, be sure to inquire if your guests have any allergies or concerns you can prepare for. If animal allergies are an issue, offer to keep your pets corralled in a separate room and set out the air purifier the night before. If you’re unsure whether your guests have food allergies, err on the side of caution and avoid snacks like trail mix or peanut butter until you’re sure a nut allergy isn’t a concern.
4. Set the mood.
Play dates are meant to be a positive experience, so be sure to set the tone accordingly. Keep the temperature warm and cozy, and limit the number of guests to 3-5 adults to avoid overstimulation for your babies.
5. Share your toys.
Lay out pre-packaged wipes, snacks and hand sanitizer for your guests to use during their visit. Lay out your child’s toys in the center of the room and encourage sharing with your guests’ children. (Note: If you have a mix of older children and babies at your play date, be sure to set up separate stations for each, as some older toys can become choking hazards for babies.)
It’s inevitable – rugs will be colored on, couches will be stained. Avoid hovering over every guest with a paper towel or baby wipe. Instead, protect any heirlooms or investment pieces prior to your guests’ arrival so you can relax. Slipcover expensive sofas, put away breakables and do your best to enjoy yourself – even when fruit juice winds up on your carpet.
7. Go the extra mile.
Consider setting up a nursing station in your home (or offer your baby’s nursery) for new mothers who prefer privacy while breastfeeding. Change the sheets in your baby’s crib and offer its use for napping guests. Small gestures go a long way in making new friends!
8. Keep it clean.
Before your guests arrive (and after they leave!), be sure to disinfect toys and books to avoid the spreading of viruses. Babies love to chew on everything in sight, so do your best to protect your home from becoming a playground for germs!
9. Be conversational.
Make each mother feel at home by asking questions and jumpstarting conversations. A perfect icebreaker? Ask what their relationship with their mother-in-law is like; everyone has a fun in-law story to share!
10. Follow up.
After the play date, follow up with an email or phone call to thank your guests for coming and offer to host at any time. Hopefully you’ll have provided such a lovely experience that your guests will offer to host as well, and you can now rotate houses as an established play group!