When your kid reaches the age of two, it’s time to start embracing toddler playdates. This isn’t always as easy as you might think. Sure, you might be willing, but where do you start? What are the rules? What’s the social etiquette? How does the whole thing work? That was never taught in your NCT class.
I’m still pretty new to this playdate malarky myself so I can’t guarantee all of the right answers. Much like Indy carefully navigating his way through the temple’s booby traps in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, I’m aware that one false move could result in parenting social suicide. Nobody wants to be *that* parent who offers own brand value chicken on cheap white bread when Tarquin only eats free range British corn fed chicken on soya and linseed bread. Oh the humiliation!
As such, I’ve once again teamed up with Organix as part of our #NoJunkJourney to bring you my beginner’s guide to the confusing world of toddler playdates. Here, I cover the types of playdates, what to do on playdates and the all-important question of what food and snacks to serve:
Toddler Playdates Types
A playdate can either happen in one of two ways. Firstly, we have the ‘already friends playdate’. This is the easiest, most comfortable way of having a playdate and happens when you have friends who have kids of a similar age to yours. This allows you to hang out with each other like you did in the pre-child days, but there’s the added benefit of your kids being able to play together. Sure, you might not be able to do some of the things you did before becoming parents like go out drinking together, but generally, everyone is one big, happy family.
The second way could be known by various names – the ‘stranger playdate’, the ‘our kids go to nursery together playdate’ or the ‘you don’t seem too bad and we have similar aged kids playdate’. As my creative names suggest, this tends to happen when you decide that it’d be a good idea for your kid – and yourself – to socialise more.
If you think asking for another parent’s number for a playdate is awkward, try doing it whilst you’re half-naked wearing swimming trunks.
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) February 2, 2017
Wherever you go – playgroups, toddler groups, the park etc – you actively keep an eye out for suitable candidates. A parent and a child who could become your – and your kid’s – new BFFs. Once contact is made and you suss out that the person isn’t a weirdo, then you have the task of suggesting a playdate. If all goes well, this type of playdate will become an ‘already friends playdate’ if you give it time to flourish.
The majority of our playdates started out as the latter category before becoming the former. Before kids, we didn’t know the people that we now call friends, however parenthood brought us together. Since then, we’ve decided that these people “aren’t too bad”, so are happy to hang out together for adult and kiddie interaction. This includes our NCT group, a couple we met doing Water Babies, someone I play football with, a fellow blogger living in the same town and even someone I used to work with many years ago who I randomly bumped into at the park.
Toddler Playdates Activities
A toddler playdate can be anything you want it to be – visiting the park, going to the local soft play, heading to a cafe, hanging out at the other person’s house. The only really stipulation is that you have a toddler with you – a toddler playdate without your kid is pretty much you just chilling with another parent and their kid. That can get a bit awkward, particularly if you weren’t invited.
Ultimately, you’re looking for something fun which will entertain them. Sure, you could go all out and provide paint, stickers, glitter, glue and all that arty stuff, but you don’t need to. Similarly, it doesn’t need to be a big excursion which takes loads of planning and preparation. At this age, they’re hugely excited by interacting with their friend – throw new toys into the mix that don’t belong to them and you’re on to a winner.
My favourite playdate is the kind where the kids can entertain themselves – this is something I’m only just starting to experience. Before this, it was a bit like joint babysitting – you may have been with another adult, but conversation is pretty disjointed due to babies / young toddlers sucking up all the attention. Now she’s that bit older though, the kids can (sort of) play with each other and don’t need as much attention. This leaves the adults to have a bit of adult time doing the important thing like catching up on the Xbox One.
We’re going on a play date – although there will be another toddler there for L, this is all about me having another dad to play FIFA with!
— The DADventurer (@The_dadventurer) September 21, 2016
Toddler Playdates Food
One of the most stressful parts of playdates is the food. The thing is, other parents can be a little – erm, how should I put this delicately – ‘particular’ when it comes to what their kids eat. On one side of the equation, you have the aforementioned Tarquin who isn’t allowed to eat anything that’s been within a 10 metre range of processed food. On the other, you have the parents who don’t seem to care that their child is jacked up on sugar and literally bouncing off the walls.
Toddler L eats a hell of a lot better than I ever did as a kid, however I sometimes worry that we’re a bit laissez faire in our attitude. Don’t get me wrong, she has a healthy, balanced diet and we want to create a good relationship with food so that she can make informed choices as she gets older. However, that doesn’t mean she can’t have the occasional bit of chocolate, cake or sweets. Generally though, we try to stick to healthy snack choices like the Organix Goodies range, both when she’s on her tod and with friends.
As they’re made with organic ingredients and have no unnecessary additives, we know that Toddler L and her little chums aren’t eating junk. Even Tarquin and his parents would be happy. What’s more, she has a couple of friends who are allergic and intolerant to various things including nuts, lactose and gluten. Having chatted to the parents previously, we know that certain snacks form the Organix range tick the right boxes – for instance, the Gingerbread Men and Oaty Bars are dairy free, whilst the Fruit Gummies are gluten free.
It’s not always feasible to just have snacks though. Although we’re not there yet, it won’t be long before friends are coming over for tea and vice versa meaning ‘proper’ meals are on the cards. Have a gander at this infographic Organix has created on no junk playdate food tips – I love the pizza making idea and will probably steal that at some point!
So that’s my beginner’s guide to the confusing world of toddler playdates. Hopefully that’s made things slightly less confusing, however I realise my input may have scared you away from them for life! Do you have any toddler playdate tips? Have you ever done anything ‘wrong’ on a toddler playdate? What are your go-to snacks for toddler playdates? Let me know below!
N.B This is a commissioned post written in collaboration with Organix for #NoJunkJourney