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Nothing tops a killer play date, am I right?  When all goes well and your little darling and her buddies have a magical time enjoying each other’s company, you feel like the most badass parent in the universe.

The flip side, of course, is when the play date goes south and leaves you feeling like the world’s most inept parent. Nobody wants that. In order to avoid that low point, I’m sharing with you 5 simple keys to unlocking fantastic play dates.

1 | Know the parents

I mean REALLY KNOW THEM. When your children are young you can still pick their friends, so do it! Guide your children toward people who do not suck. If you happen to strike up a conversation with another kindergarten parent and they swear, roll their eyes in the direction of their child and/or husband, and mention drinking wine, set up a play date immediately.  

Okay, perhaps this is my type of play date parent and not yours. Understandable. The point is to find your parental tribe and cling to them like dog hair on your LuLaRoes. Score that play date with your like-minded mom friends and never look back. Your kids don’t actually like each other? They will learn. Children are far better at making social adjustments than adults.

2 | Serve macaroni and cheese

If you are hosting a play date that intersects with lunch serve macaroni…always. In my experience even the pickiest of eaters will eat mac and cheese. What is there not to like really? It’s warm, gooey, cheesy and carb-o-licious!

Vegetarian eaters? Mac and Cheese fits that bill.

Lactose intolerant kiddos? Pretty sure that orange powder doesn’t have a lick of real dairy product in there anyway.

Crunchy organic kiddos? You know that for a price you can buy the fancy shit. Go ahead and show off mom, you mac and cheese rock star, you!

3 | Don’t waste your time and money on a variety of different tot beverages.

Don’t kill yourself playing waitress to a table full of mini dictators. Unless the kids will be leaving you a fat tip, serve them water. They will most likely have three sips before sprinting back to the toy room.

Plus, they’ve been racing around in circles for the past 90 minutes, Jesus they are probably damn near dehydrated. You can’t make a case against water, it is essential to life! There you go again being a complete play date goddess.

4 | Stick to even numbers

Two kids works, four kids works, six kids is insane. Unless you enjoy gambling with your sanity, also stay away from the three-kid play date. When small kids play in threes someone always gets left out and ends up in tears. This is your time to escape your role as your child’s event planner and coordinator, not time to play therapist to squalling drama queens. Let them work that crap out at school!

5 | Limit the little ones’ room to roam

Of course you want the kiddos to enjoy themselves to the fullest, but let’s not get crazy here. They don’t need to destroy every single room in your home in order to have a jolly old time. If you’re cool with that then great, go on with your bad self, but really, stop it.  

Kids do not need to tear up your basement, destroy the main living floor and then race upstairs to rearrange their bedroom so that it now resembles a scene from “Hoarders.” I think I might have read somewhere that boundaries are really important for kids, so simply closing off a floor or two means that you are already kicking some parenting ass!

Play dates can and should be enjoyable to both you and your child, they just take some critical thinking and manipulation to make the dream happen. I’ve given you the tools to go forth and rock your afternoon play dates. Now stock up on mac and cheese, gate off the upstairs, and call up your parent-friend spirit animal!

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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