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How to host an easy, no-stress playdate

Once I perfected the art of the minimalist playdate, I felt up for having friends over much more often.

How to host an easy, no-stress playdate

When it comes to playdates, I choose to keep it simple. I am not winning any "hostess of the year" awards—but I am totally okay with that. We keep the food and fanfare minimal these days, but I like to think that both the adult and child guests enjoy themselves while in our home.


I will admit, it wasn't always this way for me.

After having my first child, I tried to do it all. I made an elaborate spread of snacks to meet all dietary requirements and taste preferences. Then I smiled politely while small children mashed raspberries into my white sofas (ugh, for real). All this while I spent the time running around cleaning up the never-ending disaster of toys in the house.

When I gave up on trying to be the hostess with the mostest, I found that I relaxed. Once I perfected the art of the minimalist playdate, I felt up for having friends over much more often. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

Set an end time

I totally get it. Sometimes as parents we are desperate for social interaction. Our kids are also desperate for kid interaction. But I have had more than one playdate guest overstay their welcome. To make things easy, be sure to invite your guests over for a set time frame—give an end time. That way the playdate doesn't disrupt your normal schedule, and you can resume your normal activities like naps, cooking dinner or just decompressing if you need it.

BYOS (Bring your own snack)

If you are having multiple guests, ask them to bring a contribution for a group snack. If you are having a single guest, just give them a heads up to, "Feel free to bring any snacks that you or your kiddos might like—we are running low on options." This will save you the mental energy of planning a snack that meets the likes and needs of everyone.

Clear out the toys

In my early days of playdates, I would spend the whole time running around the playroom cleaning up the disaster that abounded. I didn't want children to step on and break the toys. I also felt like the mess all over the floor was inhibiting their ability to play together.

The beauty of a playdate is that children have each other for entertainment. That means they actually need fewer toys and more open space to play. So avoid the mess and chaos by loading up some toys and putting them in another room for the event.

Skip the Pinterest activity

Don't feel like you should plan a special activity. As children grow and develop, it's important that we let them guide their own play—that means fewer organized activities. By skipping the arts and crafts hour, you will feel more relaxed. From a brain development standpoint, your kids will benefit more from unstructured play and movement. Unstructured play is necessary for healthy social, emotional and physical development.

Get outside

I have rarely been invited to an outdoor playdate. Research shows us that time spent outdoors not only reduces our stress levels, makes us happier, but also optimizes brain development. Kids love to be outside, but parents are usually the ones who prefer to spend time in the temperature-controlled house.

Upon invite, specify that you will be outdoors so that all parties can dress properly.

Be present

Are you running around prepping snacks, cleaning up toys, and breaking up arguments? Because that sounds exhausting. As a parent, you are entitled to sit down. I encourage you to sit down and enjoy your company, tuning into the conversation and camaraderie that playdates bring to parents.

Enforce your own rules

Every home has different rules, and it's completely okay for you to communicate the rules in your home. I struggled to do this in my early days of parenting, but after I had a half dozen 2-year-olds climbing up and eating raspberries on my white sofa, I knew I had to speak up.

Enforcing rules of the home is not only in the best interest of your white sofa, but it's in the best interest of your kids. I want my kids to see me standing up for our family rules and values so that they understand the importance of doing the same.

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Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

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Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

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BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

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