Gone are the days of kids aimlessly wandering through the neighborhood looking for someone who wants to play. This century is the era of the playdate. Some are scheduled far in advance, like a board meeting. Some are more spontaneous. Some have a planned activity, some involve no planning whatsoever. But all playdates are simply, about kids playing with each other.
Is your child’s friend is going to be dropped off at your house? Here are just a few basic rules that should help.
1) Who wants a snack?
Inquire about food restrictions/requirements during drop-off, and get the other parent’s cell phone number. So many kids have food allergies today. Don’t assume you know what your child’s friend can or cannot eat. Also make sure they leave any medications like the epi-pen, with you and review how to use if necessary.
2) Are any activities off limits?
Is Evil Defender of Blood and Guts IV your child’s favorite video game? Every family has their own definition of “Rated E”. Don’t be afraid to ask the other parent their feelings about different activities like computer time, video games, and TV. Most parents today want their children to be active. Keep the screen time to when friends are NOT over for playdates if possible.
3) How young is too young for a “drop-off”?
Unless you’re running a day care facility, dropping off your child in diapers is a no-no. That goes for the newly potty-trained as well. See rule #4.
4) To wipe or not to wipe? That is the question…
If you have a 5 and under playdate going, be prepared to head in there, wipes a-blazin’. Many kids 5 and under are fine using the bathroom by themselves. And many are not. Although wiping your child’s friend’s butt, may not be exactly what you were hoping to do that day, it might be necessary. And it could save a nasty bathroom cleanup afterwards. I’m not giving details, but lets just say, poop landing in your baseboard heater is not a good situation. It’s good to ask the drop-off parent whether their child needs help, ahead of time.
5) What time is pick-up? This is also known as “You are coming back someday, right?!!”
Establish pick-up time at drop-off. This will avoid any inconveniences on your part. It’s always difficult to add another kid to the mix when you’re trying to wrap up your day. Unless you’re having your guest for dinner, late afternoon is a good pick-up time.
The length of a playdate should be just long enough for the kids to have fun, without being so long that they get into mischief or have a melt-down. Usually 2 – 4 hours depending on the child’s age is perfect.
6) What to do if you need to discipline another person’s child?
Playdate discipline is always tough. Most infractions are minor like: “Kids, please don’t bring that frog into the house.” However things happen. They can get crazy ideas. You need to protect your child. Don’t be afraid to be firm with your child’s friend. “No hitting, means no hitting!” etc… It’s your house, and your rules. If things get really out of hand a sit down talk may be necessary to let the child know that his/her parent might need to get involved. Usually that works, and then the parents don’t need to get involved. If all else fails, cut the playdate short and call the other parent. When giving the other parent a play-by-play of the wrongdoing, keep in mind that you will not be considered a tattletale. Most parents (but, not all unfortunately ) will appreciate the whole story.
7) Should I be involved with the kids while they are playing?
Hosting a playdate should be fun for your child and for you! This is not the time to be a helicopter parent. Most of the time when kids are playing with each other, you, the parent will have some FREE time. Kids keep each other occupied, and as long as you’re aware of where they are, and what they’re doing, you get a much needed break.
So go ahead and read a magazine, while you watch them play in the yard. Work on a project while watching them build blocks in the playroom. A good playdate can be like a free babysitter. Plus, usually your child will get invited to that friend’s house next time to play. Double bonus! And best of all, your child is playing and having fun and making friends. What’s better than that?