Once you have children, play dates can be a great way to socialize with your friends or meet other parents and make new friends. However, now that you are bringing your kids together, rather than just having an adult outing, there are a few play date etiquette rules to keep in mind in order to make it enjoyable for everyone.
Play Date Etiquette Specifics
While the outings might be casual, begin play dates by clarifying dates and times, especially with a parent you don’t know well. Don’t be late or overstay, as play dates that run too long can lead to a child’s meltdown and sour the experience.
When my children were infants or toddlers, I always assumed that the play date included me, but always find out if you are to drop the child off or stay to supervise or socialize with the other parent. Children don’t really play together until they are closer to toddler age, during early ages they simply play next to each other, so play dates at that age can be more like babysitting if one parent is watching both children. However, some parents may prefer this.
Also, attending play dates when you don’t know the parent very well can also be a time to get to know them, or at least determine if you want to leave your child in this person’s care in the future.
When To Cancel a Playdate
There are times to cancel play dates, and when your child is sick is one of them. Children often have lingering coughs and sniffles, so it is always best to give the other parent the right to veto the play date at their discretion if you have doubts, or simply reschedule if needed.
If your child comes down with something soon after a play date, be sure to call the other parent to inform them in case their child was exposed to or was the cause of the illness.
Arrive Prepared for Anything
Be sure to bring everything you need to the play date, including wipes, diapers, extra clothes and anything else you would take on an outing. Don’t expect the your host to supply these types of things. It’s also good form to ask your host if you can bring anything, like refreshments, for everyone. These days, refreshments can be tricky, as many parents are particular about what their children eat. Ask about any allergies or other issues and pick the most appropriate food and drink you can.
While there should be plenty of toys and activities, you may want to put away any special toys if you’re hosting the playdate, to avoid arguing or conflict. It may take some time for children to warm up to each other, so sometimes you may need to interact with the kids until they feel comfortable. And yes, this can put a dent in parental socializing, but the sooner the kids feel comfortable, the sooner the chatting can commence.
There will be times where you may have to referee or intervene during a disagreement. Remember to be gentle but firm, especially with a child you don’t know well. As the children play together more and get older, they can begin to work out their own disagreements more often.
Remember Your Manners
At the end of a play date, don’t forget to offer to help clean up. The host might decline your offer, but it sets a good example of play date etiquette for your child. If the host does accept, it can really help her out by not leaving the house a mess when you leave. Of course, always reciprocate with your own invitation to host the next play date.