Play dates are ostensibly one of the most fun parts of parenting, right? You get to have some adult conversation with a fellow mom while your kid enjoys a couple of hours with some new toys and a similarly aged playmate — or, even better, you get to drop off your child to mess up someone else's house while you wander Target blissfully alone. However, play dates also come with their own set of rules, for both moms and kids.
Of course, we should all talk to our children about respecting other people's homes and personal items and about expressing thanks when someone hosts them. We should set expectations that they use their best manners and play nicely with friends. But play date etiquette isn't just about our kids' behavior; moms also have a set of rules they should follow.
Here's how to make sure you and your child are asked back after your next play date.
- Don't be the mom who never hosts. Just as before kids you didn't want to be the one who always asked a friend to meet up without her ever reciprocating, play dates should also be a back-and-forth situation. If you're the mom who always drops your child off at a friend's house without ever inviting that friend to yours, you are definitely putting that budding friendship in jeopardy.
- Limit the play date's time based on the children's ages. A baby play date usually starts going south in about an hour, toddlers can handle two, and bigger kids can handle slightly more time. Just make sure all parents are in agreement about how long this play date should last before it starts.
- Send snacks with your kid if they have dietary restrictions. I've yet to host a play date where the kids didn't ask for a snack (or five), so if your child has a gluten, dairy, or any other type of allergy, make sure that the host knows about it, and, even better, send along appropriate snacks so that mom isn't searching her cupboards for something to feed your kid.
- Communicate with the other parent about whether they'd prefer you stay or drop off. Around age 5, play dates tend to be a primarily drop-off situation, unless you're such good friends with the other parent that you guys are also excited for your own play date. Regardless, communicate with the other parent to make sure you're both on the same page about whether you will go or stay. Otherwise, you might find yourself in an awkward situation where you're expecting to come in for coffee and she's not ready to entertain.
- Don't get too judge-y about food or screen time. One hard-and-fast play date rule: do not impose your household rules on anyone else's home. Your child doesn't eat junk food or watch more than 10 minutes of TV a day? Well, that's at your house and expecting anyone else to abide by that rule is a surefire way to not get a second invite. Instead, understand that a little break from the rules won't hurt your child and learning that every family is different is actually a good thing for them.
- Follow up with the parent if their child did something wrong or worrisome. If you're hosting a play date where the invited child acts inappropriate, it can be awkward. Is it really your place to discipline someone else's kid? The answer: kind of. If it's a small infraction, deal with it at the time and keep it to yourself. If, say, the child is physically violent or has excessively misbehaved, tell the other parent about it in a straightforward, non-judgmental way.
- Express thanks and offer to help clean up at pick up. Anyone who's hosted a play date for little children knows that it can be a lot of work — and that your house usually looks like a bomb went off at the end of it. Therefore, it's important to say a big "thank you" to the hosting parent and offer to spend a few minutes with the culprits (I mean kids) picking up the worst of the mess. They might or might not take you up on it, but they'll appreciate the offer nonetheless.