With newborns it’s relatively easy to talk to your mum friends, because if they’re not asleep they’re usually feeding. When they get bigger, though it’s a whole different ball game. Rachel Tompkins reveals the secrets of actually being able to talk to your mum mate on a play date…

1. Pick the right park

If the weather’s good enough for a park meet-up, make sure it’s not one with elaborate apparatus that requires your constant assistance. There’ll be plenty of time to coach said toddler into being the best climber/runner/jumper in the county, but for now, the less they need your help with the better. That way you can sit on the bench watching them, and successfully have a conversation. Better still, take a toy that both your children will have to play with together. A friend of mine often takes walkie talkies which really seem to do the trick.

2. Be a groupie

Not in the traditional sense of the word obviously… by ‘group’ I mean baby groups. Whether it’s Sing and Sign, Music Time, Tumble Tots, just make sure you pick one that doesn’t require so much concentration that you can’t simultaneously string a sentence together. Stay and plays are usually best for this, and sometimes there’s even tea and cake too. Win win!

3. Soft play – no way?

Two little words which have the ability to conjure up an instant aroma of sweat, sick and urine, often mixed in with some deep-fried food. Before having kids I vowed never to step foot in one, but the reality is, when it’s raining outside and there’s children with energy to burn, soft plays are impossible to avoid. The trick to making it even slightly conducive to conversation is the size of the soft play. Too big and you’ll spend half the time rescuing your child from a giant tube, or wading after them in a ball pit. Too small, and your energetic four-year old will become arch enemy number one for accidentally stepping on the babies. The ideal soft play will allow you a visual of the whole thing from the serenity of a comfy chair.

4. Techno? Tech-yes!

Pre-load the iPad/TV with a film of their choice and let them watch it. Yes that’s right, do the one thing you vowed never to do when your baby was born – bribe them with technology. We all know that too much screen time is bad for children, but ease your guilt safe in the knowledge that TV in moderation can actually be good for kids.*

*OK so the research was from 2013 but it still counts right…?

5. Plan a sleepover

Perfect for when your other half is working late or away, or even if he’s not it’s still a great way to guarantee a peaceful gossip with your mate. Plan for your friend and their child to come over just before tea time, feed the kids and bath them together (a friend recently told me about her little boy’s disco baths – think glow sticks, bubbles and music). It’s a perfect way to fill the horrible witching hours before bedtime and means that once the kids have settled down for their sleepover together you can crack open the wine, order a takeaway, and actually get a word in edgeways.

6. And if all else fails….

Improvise using whatever you’ve got to keep your children quiet for long enough for you to chat. Recently I had something delivered in a huge box. My son and his mate loved drawing all over the box and covering it with stickers. Or my most recent child-entertainment highlight has to be letting my son clean the kitchen floor. (He begged me to I promise!). Equipped with water spray bottle and a sponge him and his little friend were in their element. Ok so the floor looked worse after their efforts, but I managed a proper catch-up with my friend in peace and quiet. Worth more than a clean floor any day!

@RachTompkins @mushmums