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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