The preparation! Hide the toys you know are your child’s favorites. For instants the cuddle bear he/she sleeps with or the new red truck you know he would never like to share. This way you avoid putting your child in the situation to have to give up on something he would never ever do.
What is the best time? Kids in a happy and relaxed mood fight less. Who had a good night sleep or a nap is less grouchy and whiny. So the best time depending on the age would be in the morning after breakfast and before the energy level at lunch goes down. A good time is also after the nap in the early afternoon.
How long should it last? Don’t try a marathon. Children of the age of 2 to 3 have a play tolerance of about an hour maximum 90 minutes smaller children respectively less. No matter what, parents are always there as a referee.
How many kids shall I invite? In the beginning you should limit the invite to just one child especially if they have to play inside. To ask your child to pay attention to more than one kid is too much for children at the age of 3 or under.
Sources of distraction! TV, computer or radio are no background entertainment. Please shut them off because it will distract and overwork the children concentration. Same applies to cd stories. Kids playing with others are busy and have enough stimulation trying to concentrate on the action of the other one.
Choosing the games! Let the children choose the games. But make clear that there has to be a decision on what and how many toys otherwise you run the risk that all the toys will be dragged out. If you see that for example the ball, the puzzle or the Duplo blocks become rather unattractive don’t offer new game immediately. It is important that you give fresh impulses like: “You could build a garage, mix the puzzle again or let the ball touch the floor before catching. Sometimes it is easier to promote cooperation through a variation of the known, rather than of new toys.
The territory! If you plan on having the play date in your child’s room than you put yourself up for conflict. A neutral territory like the family room or the kitchen if big enough is the best choice. It is easier to compromise in “nobody’s land”.
The supervisor! Stay close, children need the help of adults to learn how to act and react in case of a conflict. Don’t expect that at your first play party your kids will play all by themselves. You are the referee: “Samantha took my doll? Ok I understand it is yours maybe we can find another one Samantha likes and we can exchange?”