The Do’s and Don’ts of Play Date Etiquette

Just the other week, my son and his classmates happily announced that they planned a play date! It amazed us moms that they still wanted to spend Saturday together after being with each other all week. Since it was all impromptu, we didn’t have enough time to plan, so we agreed that the kids could play in the park while the parents ordered pizza and relaxed by the benches. They played for 3 hours and had epic fun (their words). 

Playdates are all the rage these days. Our kids get to spend time with their friends, while parents get a few hours of freedom and get to know each other better. A successful play date requires a lot of planning among parents. You need to coordinate and plan the venue, timing, activities, food, and everything else in between. 

Parents need to keep in mind that play dates have rules of engagement. Here are a few tips to help organize a fun and stress-free activity for your kids. 

"Play is important to our children’s development. According to a recent report by The American Academy of Pediatrics, play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength."

Plan ahead

Plan it as you would a birthday party. First, figure out the number of kids to invite. Generally, the more kids joining, the more involved the host needs to be. Keep the number low and comfortable because too many kids can be quite stressful. 

Next, location. Will it be in someone’s home, the park, or a playground? It might be a good idea to start a chat group with all the parents to get a consensus on the venue, date, start time, and end time. You’ll also need to detail the activities. Will they just be playing? Or is there swimming involved? It’ll help everyone figure out what they need to pack for their kids.

Communicate with your co-parents if they’ll just be dropping off their children, sending an ate, or if they’ll be staying during the playdate. Young kids will want their parents or caregiver to stay with them during the play date. At around age six and above, play dates are usually drop-off situations. But regardless of the age of the group, finalize who will stay and who will go so the host can prepare to entertain the adults. 

The play date’s duration depends on the children’s age. Younger kids can handle an hour or two. Bigger ones can extend three to four hours. Make sure all parents agree how long the play date will be. 

If you’re the host, it’s a good idea to let everyone know ahead of time if you have pets. Not all kids feel safe around them, no matter how adorable your pet is. And you never know who among your guests have allergies, so best be on the safe side by putting your pet in a safe place  for the duration of the play date.

Food stuff

Instead of putting all the burden on the host to prepare food, offer to do a pot luck. Keep food simple, like crackers, cheese, and juice since they make serving and clean-up easy. During your planning, inquire about food allergies. The last thing you want is someone having an allergic reaction in the middle of the play date. 

Also, if it’s a potluck, having an adult head count beforehand helps the parents decide what you’ll munch on while your little ones are playing. 

Tips before dropping off your kids

If you’re not the host, here are things to keep in mind:

• Pack snacks for all the kids in the party. 

• Drop-off and pick-up on time. 

• Even if the parent has your number already, leave an alternate emergency contact number just in case you can’t be reached. 

• Tell your child to go directly to the parents, introduce him or herself and say hello. Teach your child to say please and thank you especially to the host, for having him or her over. 

• Remind your child to play nice and share. 

• Personally thank the host parent for having the kids over.  

• Offer to stay to help watch over the kids. If not, offer to help clean-up when you arrive to pick up your child. The house will usually look like a warzone at the end of the play date so let your child help with the clean-up as well. 

The power of a play date

Play is important to our children’s development. According to a recent report by The American Academy of Pediatrics, play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play dates help our kids squeeze in extra play time with their best buds. 

Play dates need not be complicated. When planned right, our kids get to expend their energy, while moms get some time to relax and forge friendships with co-parents. It’s our hope that with these play date etiquette tips in mind, your play dates will get better and run smoother. Here’s to more fun times ahead!