As a parent or nanny you may like to invite children over for a play date to help your child to learn how to share, socialise and form bonds with others.

It may be that you are used to looking after multiple children at a time, but if not, it could be that the thought of entertaining more than one child is something that you are not familiar with, so we have put together some tips for how to host a successful play date.

Make it easy on yourself

The last thing you want when hosting a play date is to be stressed out, and there are things that you can do to make it easy on yourself so that you can enjoy it almost as much as the children do.

Firstly, set a start and finish time for the play date so that you know exactly when your guests will be arriving and leaving. The most successful play dates are usually between one and two hours long as these do not interfere with nap and meal schedules.

Don’t worry about thoroughly tidying the house before the play date starts, the rooms that are used will only become untidy over time and no one will see the other rooms, so they won’t require cleaning for the occasion.

Prepare your child

Hosting a play date will mean that your child will need to share both their home and their toys which may be a new experience for them, so it is important that you prepare them beforehand so that they don’t feel distressed or confused.

Start off by explaining what the play date will involve, who will be invited and why it will be fun for them. You could also set up a test run with soft teddies/animals, so they can have a little practice and use their imagination and be creative too.

Have some snacks ready

The last thing you want to be doing when hosting is running around trying to get food and drink ready if you are not prepared for this, but there is also no need to stress yourself out wondering what to offer.

Simply cutting up some fruit and cheese before the play date starts and keeping these in the fridge will be perfectly suitable and then all you will need to do is hand these out when a snack is required. Cartons of juice are also a great idea as they are both healthy and convenient.

If you are inviting parents to stay during the play date don’t feel concerned about giving them the same snacks as the children, just offer them tea, coffee and biscuits.

It is always advisable to ask parents or nannies if any of their children have any allergies or are intolerant to any food.

Plan an activity

Although you should try to leave the children alone to play together without any instruction, preparing a short activity just in case they get bored or restless is a great idea when hosting a successful play date.

Crafts, baking or a game of hide and seek depending on their ages are all ideas which are simple and fun for all involved. Aside from this planned activity you should remain nearby in case of squabbles or hazards but otherwise the children should be able to lead their own play.

Take some time to evaluate

Once the play date is over it is important that you take some time to evaluate what was good and what was not that good and pick out anything that you could perhaps do differently the next time.

A good indication that it was a successful play date is if you enjoyed watching your child having fun and felt that they benefitted from having one or more friends over to spend time with them in their home.

If your child is old enough it would also be helpful to chat with them about what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy and get their ideas for things to include in future play dates.

By following these tips, you are sure to host successful play dates which will help your child to develop emotionally, socially and physically as they learn how to share and bond with others.