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The Everything Guide to Kids

Illustration by Dan Woodger  

Tempering the Tantrums
A Q&A with professional meltdown-averter Amanda Raposo, executive director of the wedding-sitter service Project Playdate.

What exactly is a wedding sitter?
I coordinate with the venue to set up a separate party for kids in a nearby space, whether that’s the bridal suite or another unused room. After learning more about the kids who will be attending—I call or e-mail individual parents to find out about their child’s favorite toys, movies, stories, and activities—I set up an evening with arts and crafts, music, and games. If approved by the couple, the children can still join the main party for certain parts of the night.

Is there anything parents can do in advance to prepare their kid for a wedding?
Explaining the night in steps helps, like letting kids know when and where they are allowed to behave in a certain way. For toddlers, offering incentives can be positive. If they know they can dance and play at the party only if they’re quiet at the ceremony, they might be more inclined to sit still. Or if they know they’ll get some wedding cake only if they eat fifteen bites of their dinner or use “inside voices.” It’s important to be specific rather than rewarding children for simply being “good.”

How can you tell when a meltdown is brewing?
They happen so fast, there often isn’t time to see them coming. But they’re far more common later in the night. Your best bet is having a few distractions available. That might mean stickers, Play-Doh, or another quiet toy. Or try a few minutes on the smartphone: The familiar face of Dora or another favorite character on the screen may provide enough comfort to calm them down. And, of course, if a child is making a scene, carry him away from the action. Encourage him to take a few deep breaths, wait ten minutes, and if he’s calm, then go back inside.

Are kids-only tables a good idea?
Yes. They’re the next best thing to having a separate space, though I’d still encourage you to hire a trained adult to oversee each kids’ table. The more structure and fun distractions, the less likely they are to become fussy and overwhelmed.

What about when bedtime rolls around?
We’ll change kids into pajamas and show a movie to help them wind down. Some may fall asleep across a few chairs, in the lobby, or over dad’s shoulder. A good way to subtly escort them out of the wedding is to use the same tactics for dealing with meltdowns: Distract—then get out of there as fast as you can.

Any horror stories?
At a recent wedding, a 2-year-old boy cried hysterically for about 20 minutes. Stories, bubbles, games—nothing worked. Eventually, we uncovered a toy from home in his diaper bag, and that was all he needed. The rest of the night was a breeze.


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