Having other children over after school/nursery for lunch/tea is one of the best ways to help your child make friends and build their confidence. Unfortunately it doesn't always go according to plan. I can still remember my son telling me (and his little guest) in a very loud voice that he didn't like them and 'I want them to go home.' We also had occasional spats and some food fights, too, which were funny for about 30 seconds but not so amusing when there were squashed sandwiches all over the floor. So here's my guide to holding the perfect playdate – I'd love to hear your suggestions. All together now, no fighting, no biting, no scratching…
1. Try to invite a child your child likes. It sounds obvious, but many's the time I've made the mistake of thinking that because I get on with the mother, the kids will 'play nicely' too. Trust me, it'll only end in tears.
2. Give them a little space, but keep an eye on them. Five minutes alone is usually fine, but any longer and you may find World War 3 has broken out, especially if your guest is particularly confident and has older siblings.
3. Put your handbag, make-up, toiletries and marker pens well out of reach. Kids tend to egg each other on. I'm speaking from experience.
4. Don't make too much of a fuss about tea. Chances are they'll be so excited they won't eat much anyway. Find out if there are any likes/dislikes/special dietary requirements. And ALWAYS check if there are any allergies. You don't want the playdate to end in a trip to A&E.
5. Relax! And if all else fails, stick a DVD on. (Yes I know it's cheating, but at least it guarantees instant calm.)
written by Liz Jarvis