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Socializing with other children helps kids make friends and learn values such as sharing and compromise. Organizing playdates can even help kids be prepared for school when they get older.

How to Plan a Playdate at Your Home

A playdate doesn’t need to be long. For younger kids, an hour or so is plenty of time. After that, they might begin to feel tired or a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips for hosting a successful playdate:

Don’t invite too many children. This could easily lead to chaos. A few other kids will be plenty for the first playdate. If things go well, you can consider inviting more another time.

Limit the playdate to a specific area. Close the doors to other rooms or block them off with gates. This way, it’ll be easier to keep an eye on all of the children and will also confine the mess to a relatively small area.

Separate play groups by age. If you’re going to have children of different ages at the playdate, have them play in separate areas. Younger kids will have more limited motor skills than older children, which could lead to accidents. Children will also find it easier to relate to kids their own age and will enjoy playing with their peers more than playing with others who are significantly older or younger.

Provide simple, kid-friendly snacks, such as cheese, crackers and fruit. Designate an area for eating to avoid spills and stains all over your house.

If you have pets, keep them in a separate room behind a closed door. Some children or parents may have allergies, and kids without pets may be fearful or may not know how to interact with them appropriately.

What to Do If Your Child Is Invited to a Playdate

If your child has never attended a playdate before, talk to him or her in the days leading up to it. Discuss who will be there, rules and expectations, and the importance of sharing and respecting other children’s feelings.

If your child already knows the other children, he or she may be comfortable being dropped off at a playdate. For a younger child, or one who is new to the group, it’s better to have a parent stay at the first playdate to help the child adjust.

If your child is invited to a playdate at someone else’s house, offer to bring toys, coloring books or snacks. Arrive on time to drop off your child and offer to stay and help supervise the children. Always offer to help with cleanup. If your child has any allergies or medical issues, make sure the parent who is hosting the playdate knows about them in advance and knows what to do in the event of an emergency.