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Playdate Etiquette: When to Stop Tagging Along

Playdate Etiquette: When to Stop Tagging Along

Accompanying your 2 year-old on a playdate is a no-brainer, but what about your preschooler or second grader? As children get older, playdate protocols become increasingly gray. If you're looking for advice for handling your child's budding social life, consider the following playdate etiquette advice from Circle of Moms members.

When to Stop Tagging Along

One of the most common playdate issues discussed in Circle of Moms communities is the appropriate age for a child to go on a playdate unattended by one of his parents. Many moms, including mother-of-three Angie B., emphasize that it's a case-by-case decision that you make based on your comfort level with the other family: “It depends upon how well you know the other child's parents and how much you trust them."

Still, if you show up to your 8 year-old's playdate expecting to hang out with the other parent, you'll likely be greeted with a surprised look. Moms like Erin W. say age five seems to be the unofficial cutoff for tagging along unannouced: “I typically assume that I will tag along on playdates and at bday parties, but now that my daughter is five (but still in preschool), I get the impression that it is less common and that mom tagging along is not the presumption.”

Getting to Know the Parents

It's natural to be nervous about sending your children on playdates solo when you don't know the parents. Circle of Moms members like Katey C. suggest getting to know the parents by first meeting on neutral ground (parks, community centers, or library story times are all good options) so your children can play and the parents can chat: “Suggest something like a picnic lunch at the park, or go for icecream or something so that the girls can play and you can spend some time getting to know the parents. Explain to them that you would just feel more comfortable getting to know them before either of your daughters spend time alone with the other parent.”

Other moms, like Barbara C., recommend easing concerns through a more direct approach: “I think setting expectations at the time the playdate is set up is great.” She also tries to talk on the phone beforehand.

Tips for Helicopter Moms

If you or the parents of your child's friend are simply not comfortable with solo playdates yet, it's best to get on the same page from the get go. The hosting parent may be happy to have both mom and child over, or she might have had a dozen household tasks planned for that hour and not have time to socialize. If you want to stay with your child, explain your feelings, ask whether you can tag along, and offer to host as an alternative.

Meanwhile, if you're the hosting parent and you weren't expecting to entertain the other parent, consider Laura S.'s advice: "Set expectations and boundaries with her right away…Your expectations are that the children may socialize but you cannot and that she can pick her son up at a certain time. You can say something to the effect that while you enjoyed visiting with her the last time, you will be unable to do so this time because of (fill in the blank)… If the mother still seems reluctant to leave her son in your care, then you might suggest that she host a playdate for the kids…This would allow the friend's mom to maintain her comfort level and a sense of control over the situation.”

Image Source: edenpictures via Flickr/Creative Commons

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AngeP AngeP 2 years
I just recently talked to a mom of my kid's best friend in kindergarten about playdates. We really don't know them well, just talk to them at drop-off and pick-up. But when I invited her son to come over to play with mine, I also said she was welcome to come along, see where we lived, come inside and check things out. If she wants to stay the first time, or the first few times, that is fine. I totally understand being unsure about someone in this situation, and I would expect the same thing in reverse if they invited my kid to their house. But I would hope that at some point we would reach the realization that we know each other, how we each parent/host, and know how the playdates are likely to go, so that we don't have to be there. It'd be nice to have one mom/kid where we knew we could drop our kid off and go run some errands. It's hard when they're just starting school and there are so many folks we just don't know. But they're likely to be together in school for the next eight years at this school, so I hope we can establish a good friendship with the other parents now.
MerylNeiman MerylNeiman 4 years
I don't think you should drop your 5 year old off at the home of someone you've never met. Having said that, if you do know the parents and have asked the questions that are important to you (pool, pets, guns, for ex.), I think it is good to let your child start experiencing some independence. If you hover too much when your kids are young, you may be making them less safe and happy as they get older if they haven't learned these important social skills.
MelissaJulieLincicome MelissaJulieLincicome 4 years
Giving kids time away from you and can help them to be more confident and feel more autonomous. Find some really good, honest, reliable people that have similar values about parenting and safety, and start learning to trust! It will be a freeing experience for both you and your child. I am working on branching out and opening up my son's world a bit. He had his first play date last week and loved it. I think he is just the right age for this, and it will help him to strengthen his relationships. Hopefully he's building friendships with other kids that he will get to keep for an entire lifetime.
kellysluder62529 kellysluder62529 5 years
I would allow 1 friend over to our house for a playdate without parents. But i would only let my daughter go on a solo playdate with a few select people. Def not a b-day party to much going on. (Shes 5). I think id like my house to be the hang out. As she enters kindergarten maybe that will change a little. I do trust my daughter to follow my rules wherever she is. And she is very vocal. In fact she stayed with my best friend and her kids a couple of weeks ago. I have given my daughtee a list of who it is okay to see her "gigi". They were going to take a bath. Dayva realised that our friends were not on the list. She aproched my friend to talk about her concerns. When they called me to tell me. I found it humerous but also was VERY proud.
VickyPirozzoli VickyPirozzoli 5 years
In this day and age, as others are saying, I'm not dropping my 5 yr. old daughter off anywhere when I've never met the parents, or have only seen them at the school parking lot to p/u their child. Once I get to know the parent(s) then maybe I'll be dropping her off but only then. So far I've only left my daughter for a few hours with my sister or with my friend of 20 years. Say what you like, but her safety is priority.
AnaKurland AnaKurland 5 years
I guess where it's being held matters. I'm having the twins' 5th bday party at a Chik-fil-A with a playground, and I assume the moms will stay. I ordered food for the grownups and younger siblings just in case. I don't really want to be responsible for 10 5 yr. olds in a public place.
JailynTafolla JailynTafolla 5 years
My daughter is 5 and my situation isn't so simple. Her father has full time custody of her and we have play dates scheduled when she is with me, she's reluctant to spend time without me. She's 5. I realize at a certain point that you need let your child be independent and show her she can do it, but I dont like being without her either.
TeresaSchroederdeAranguiz TeresaSchroederdeAranguiz 5 years
BE a helicopter mom! It is our responsibility to our children to protect them in every way possible and unfortunately there ARE just to many people out there that make it necessary for us to hover. Go with your gut and DON"T leave them if you don't feel sure about it. If you feel even the slightest bit weird about it pay attention to that feeling. Our mothers instinct IS real and it is there for a reason. Get to know your child's friends parents and once you feel you know them well enough to be comfortable leaving your child with them then go for it, but always trust your instincts! Also, only leave your child if they feel comfortable with it. Trust their instincts as well. It will help them feel secure in your care for them as well as help them learn to trust in their own instincts. I don't let what other people think of my parenting influence me. I know my child, I know my responsibility towards him and I go with my gut. If others don't approve, well then that's their problem. I'm not going to let it be mine. Hope this helps!
VickiDelien VickiDelien 5 years
I always wondered about this too..I am a mom of 3 & always see most parents just dropping the child off. I've only recently began to let my almost 6yr old go on playdates by himself. I must, however, always get to know the other parent too. At birthday parties, I still see alot of parents expecting you to stay.
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