Play Dates for the Introvert Mama

playground, children, playing
photo credit: David Robert Bilwas

When your kids are small, their social life is your social life. For people who thrive in new circumstances, this means a fresh world of friends and possibilities. But for moms like me, the idea of all those new people is terrifying.

I am an introvert.

I like quiet, low-key social situations with people I know very well.  Having children opened my world to an entirely new set of places and people. Naturally, I responded with fear and dread.

But take heart – with a little courage and some preparation, even quiet moms like me can build solid social circles that are healthy for your kids and fun for you.

play date

1) Say Yes!

When a fellow parent invites you to join them at the preschool open gym, SAY YES – and mean it. Do not let yourself make excuses to turn down that birthday invitation, or hike in the park. Don’t hide behind the chaos and busyness of parenting to opt out of meet-ups. For me, this has always been the hardest step.  I once told a mom I really liked and wanted to get to know better that I couldn’t go for coffee because I needed to clean my floors.  The only way for you and your child to get to know other people is to join in.

2) Be the Host

You know what freaks me out? Lots of random children, talking and yelling and just being happy little people.  I used to think this made me the Grinch. But if uncontrolled environments stress you out, bring the party home to you. There are many advantages to hosting play dates. You can invite whomever you like, the tea is brewed just how you prefer it, and supervising the children will be a snap. When my oldest daughter was an infant, I forced myself against my will to attend a weekly meet-up for new moms. There were dozens of nice women in that group, but a few of them really made me laugh.  I invited those ladies over to my terribly messy house.  At home, I was much more comfortable, and with fewer people I was better able to focus.  Some of my best mama friends came from those early play dates.

3) Be an Active Listener

For introverts, small talk can be scary, but listening comes naturally. At a play date, you have at least one other parent to chat with while you try to keep an eye on your little scamp. Having a planned set of questions ready helps the situation run smoothly. Think about what you know about the family and parent, and choose gentle questions to get them talking. Pay attention to their responses and follow up.  You can learn a lot of fascinating things, and it takes the pressure off trying to think of things to talk about yourself. Every parent you meet has had an interesting life, it is worth your time to discover their passions.

4) Avoid the temptation to helicopter

A classic way to avoid scary social interaction with other parents is to put your entire focus on your child. While you need to provide suitable supervision, putting all your energy into managing your child’s social experience can stop them from actually having a social experience in the first place. As an introverted parent, be aware of how much attention you pay to the kids and the adults, and strive for a reasonable balance.

5) Get Active

Play dates that get everyone moving can be a lot of fun. Look for opportunities for group sledding, swimming or hiking. When everyone is involved in an activity, social pressures ease. It can also be a great way to run off some kiddo energy!

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How do you survive the dreaded play date?



  1. That is am excellent point about finding the right balance in saying no. I also find it really helpful to stay aware of how much energy each play date or activity takes, and making sure I have enough recovery time to be present in the next thing. It can be grueling when a week full of fun kids things just leaves you exhausted and depleted. I learned the hard way that too many days “on” just leaves me useless.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. One of the best things I have done for myself as an extreme introvert is to learn when to say ‘yes’ and, more importantly, when it’s ok for me to say no. If there is a situation that is going to make me extremely uncomfortable, I will gracefully bow out. Since I only have so many ‘people’ hours in a week, it’s important for me to spend them wisely. When I say ‘no’ to the wrong situations, it makes saying ‘yes’ to the right play dates easier and more meaningful.

    Thanks again for being transparent! It helps so much to know we’re not alone!

  3. Great advice Laura! I am more of an extroverted mom, so this post has given me some valuable insight on what other moms might be going through.

  4. These are great tips for all parents, and being an active listener is something that I am constantly working on, perhaps because the isolation of stay-at-home parenting leaves me craving adult conversation to the point of detriment! Thank you for your insights.


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