- Arrange them nice and early. As parents we are super busy and making sure we let parents know a few weeks in advance is the best way to ensure Bessy, Bizzy and Lizzy can all make it!
- Timing is everything. If you have parents with younger children ask about nap times and book in around that (but always remember that babies don’t play by the rules). Try for 11-1pm so you can take over lunch time and still have time to play.
- Clean and cosy. Make sure your designated rooms are clean and tidy. Put any sharp objects or breakables away. Just because your little ones are used to them doesn’t mean your guests will be!
- Toys! In advance let your little ones pick out some toys to share and perhaps lay them out in advance so the children you’ve invited can dive straight in and know what they can play with.
- Be considerate. Have a breastfeeding mother attending? Make sure there is a calm space for her, if there are formula fed babies make sure your kettle is at the ready and even a spare bottle or two just in case. Perhaps even put up a travel cot just in case someone needs a nap.
- Invite a mother or two outside of your normal circle. We all know how lonely you can be without a good set of parenting pals. Maybe invite someone who has just had a baby and feels out of sorts or suggest that each Mum or Dad you’ve invited can invite a Mum or Dad too.
- Connect. While the children are playing make some tea, coffee and juice for the grown ups. Have a chat and take some time to wind down too. Yes, you might have a child drawing on your white walls with wax crayon but hey, play dates have never been accused of being clean!
- Have a plan B. Have a few of the latest DVD’s on standby and maybe even a sound track or two from the classics at hand just on the off chance the children are bored of playing with the toys or with each other.
- Pets. We have a big dribbly dog and while he loves us he can be a little nervous around new people. Rather than just locking him away we prepare a few hours in advance and move his bed in a nice quiet spot. Making sure you dog has had a walk, toilet break, eaten and watered they should be able to enjoy a nice cosy two hour nap with the children rule the house.
- Food. This bit is essential to get right. You have to check in advance for any allergies and for any parents who like to steer clear of additives and preservatives. Here is a starting list of snacks you might want to have on hand:
- Veggie sticks – Carrots, cucumber, peppers work really well (slice up in the morning and pop in fridge)
- Rice cakes, oat crackers and mini soft buns
- Cheese cubes (again do this in the morning and put in fridge for later)
- Slice open some medium size potatoes, pop them on a tray and cover with foil. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes or until the middle is soft. Use a fork to ‘fluff’ the middle up, add a little butter and top with any of the following:
- Tuna mayo with sweetcorn
- Cheese and Beans
- Beans (so many choices)
- Homemade made salmon fish fingers or chicken goujons. ( No one will shoot you if they aren’t homemade). Cube or slice up your chosen filling, coat with bread crumbs and bake. The time will completely rely on the size of your chicken or salmon and a great tip is to use Panko breadcrumbs for a twist on the normal coating.
- Sweet mashed potato. This is a great ‘one size fits all’, it can be used as a side dish for bigger kids and a tasty top up for weaning babies. Add cheese or herbs to give it a little extra flavour. Super easy to make and can be made in advance too.
- Fruit kebabs – Bananas, kiwi, strawberries, grapes and apple in child friendly sizes (can be made up on the morning and popped in the fridge so a great time saver a super healthy)
- Yoghurt – Try and add a little magic with Petits Filous Magic Squares, as they have two flavours in one pot they make a perfect treat after a great big lunch.