Ah, the pristine white area rugs, the perfectly aligned stack of architectural magazines and the drinking glasses that are made from artisan glass — that’s right, you’re visiting your childless friend’s beautiful home. But how do you navigate a child-free zone with your little ones in tow, and still manage to get invited back again? You can get through this date without it ending in tears (yours or your child’s). Scroll on for our seven tips on keeping that visit a happy one.

Playful young family

1. Ask away. It’s smart to start off by figuring out the ground rules for that home you’re about to visit. Maybe you’ve never been to the house before. Maybe you’re visiting a new friend who you don’t know THAT well. Or, maybe you’ve totally lost the ability to even comprehend what a child-free home is like. Whatever the reason, go ahead and ask your friends if they have any concerns or rule requests.

2. Lay down the rules. Take all that handy info provided by your friends, and lay down the law long before you even head out the door. But, let’s get specific here. The good ol’ “Use your inside voice” and “Say please and thank you” might not cut it. Nix the general rules that you’d give in normal situations like restaurants, and make it clear that the friend’s house rules are *way* more important. Let’s say your child-free BFF’s apartment is completely carpeted in cream colors. The kids need to know that they should leave their possibly muddy shoes at the door.

3. A good read. There’s a reason why you’re going to a friend’s house. Right? Even though you adore your children, you also would like to have a non-kid-related conversation every so often. Whether your friend specifically asked you to bring the littles along or you couldn’t get a sitter, the kids are on board for the visit. That means getting in some adult-to-adult conversation time isn’t always easy. A picture book (or a mini library of books) that your child can page through provides at least 10 minutes of talk time for you.

4. Think neat. Packing your own activities makes the visit all the easier for everyone. That said, not every plaything is on-point. Markers (even washable ones) plus the fab fabric on your friend’s couch cushions don’t mix. Before you let the kids toss their art closet into your tote bag, help choose the absolutely positively neatest (and least destructive) activities. That stuffed bear is good for a half hour of pretend play minus any possible mess. Plus, your child can even take the bear on a tour of the friend’s house. But, the mini race cars might just speed off of their track and into (or through) your friend’s glass coffee table.

5. Pack kid-friendly eats. Your friend has a bottle of red and a bottle of white ready to go. She’s set out a gourmet-worthy buffet, and you’re ready to dig in. Yay to grown-up food! Even though the pesto is perfect, your three-year-old won’t touch the stuff. She’s starving and wants to eat NOW. Plan on bringing a few different snacking options ,as well as drinks (it’s not likely that your childless friend will have a juice box on hand). Keep your friend’s decor in mind, opting for light-colored or clear foods/drinks.

Active child

6. A little snuggle goes a long way. Keeping your tot busy with toys and take-a-long activities helps carve out some grown-up talk time. While your four-year-old may be peacefully playing with his baggie of plastic bricks, it won’t be long before he’s standing in front of you, tapping on your knee, repeating, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” Turning your attentions and affections towards your children puts the spotlight back on them and keeps those warm, fuzzy and positive feelings flowing.

7. It’s time to go bye-bye. Know when to say when. Your child’s manners do have a time limit, and crossing it might move you into the tantrum zone. Letting your friend know this ahead of time helps everyone to avoid an abrupt end to a seven-course dinner or a four-hour conversation about your friend’s latest romance.

What’s your favorite toy to take on the road when you visit friends? Tell us (and everyone else) on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)