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Playdate Etiquette



Playdates are wonderful opportunities for your child to interact with another child in a small setting and to engage in confidence building.  They can give your child a chance to develop his social skills, build self-esteem, get a picture of how families are alike and different, and learn how to welcome others into his home.

Playdates may also provide us as parents with chances to build relationships with other parents of similar age children.  It is often helpful and reassuring to have friends who are parents and who can share the joys and challenges you are experiencing.  Playdates have the potential to benefit both you and your child, but there are a few unwritten etiquette guidelines which are important to consider.

A Guide to Playdates for Children

To stay or not to stay:  The age and temperament of your child may determine whether you stay at the Playdate which is hosted by another family or not.  A toddler almost definitely needs you to stay.  It is less necessary with a pre-school child.

Whatever you do, discuss it ahead of time with the other parent so you agree on the expectations.  Remember, this is not free babysitting.  If you don’t stay, agree on the time you will come back and stick to it.  If you do stay, think about how involved you want to be with the children’s play.  This again may depend on the age of the children.  Younger children may need you to sit on the floor with them and be there to help with disputes.  You may also be able to guide the play in a positive direction “Let’s use these blocks to build a tower”.  Older children may appreciate the time to play together on their own while you and the other parent chat or you run errands.

Teaching Children to Share:  If the Playdate is at your home, think about your child’s toys and possessions ahead of time and maybe discuss this with your child.  If she/he has a special toy/stuffed animal which she/he is particularly attached to, put it away before the other family comes.   Your child shouldn’t be expected to share a special favourite.

Put out toys which are easier for multiple children to play with, for example, blocks or other building toys, crayons and paper, playdough, etc.  Talk to your child about sharing ahead of time and her him/her excited about playing with her friend.  There lessons can help build caring and giving children.

Set an end time:  You want to be sensitive to the other parent’s schedule.  Start with short times with toddlers, 30 minutes to an hour may be the most they can do at first.  Four and five year olds may be able to play for one-two hours with a snack break in the middle.

Making comparisons:  If the children are similar in age, avoid comparing them out loud.  Most parents are sensitive to what their children can and can’t do.  A Playdate should be fun way to build social skills and self-esteem in all the children.  Remember that children of the same age develop at different rates and that each child had unique strengths and challenges.

Be flexible around food:  While you want to communicate any food allergies, beyond that, try to be flexible and let your child eat that the other parent serves.  Even if you never serve cookies, for example, it is probably ok for your child to occasionally try some when he is having a Playdate.

Avoid Playdate over-scheduling:  Just like you, your child needs some “down time” in her own house doing just what she wants to do.  Avoid scheduling too many Playdates.

Outdoor Play: Agree outdoor play before hand and bring appropriate clothing.  Remember muddy puddles can be great fun but not practical if a child does not have wellies.

Reciprocate:  After you and your child are hosted by another family for a Playdate, it is important to reciprocate and invite them to your home for a follow up Playdate.

Remind children about Greetings:  Children rarely forget to greet an incoming guest but at the end of the day, they often need a reminder to walk a guest to the door, thank the guest for coming and say goodbye. 

Playdates have the potential to help build your child’s self-esteem, their skills at interacting with others and may help you make new friends.  With attention to the details above you can make the Playdates both for you and your child.