I love play dates. They can be as involved or as hands-off as you please, but there are some hard and fast rules I always abide by. Today I’ll share seven of my rules with you. In future posts, look for play date ideas.
1. Know your kid’s friend, and parents. If you don’t know them, schedule a meet and greet at a neutral place (park, library, school grounds, etc) or at your home. It’s important to know where your child is going, and be very open and honest. I’ve had parents ask me if I have a gun in the house (I don’t), and I’ve appreciated their directness. I’ve asked about pool safety, if my kids go to a home with a pool. It’s important to have these conversations, and to treat each other with respect while having them.
2. Once a play date is scheduled, I usually bring the kids’ friends home with us from school, and then their friends’ parents pick the kids up from our house. Be sure to include carseats if needed. I always like to text a little picture or pictures through the play date so that the parents have the peace of mind that their kid was picked up from school, and safe at my home. It’s always important to have all contact info for the parents, and to have a cell phone handy, in case the parent needs to reach you.
3. I always make sure that I have snacks, healthy and fun, for the kids as soon as they come home after school. They’ve all had a long day, and chances are they want to play first, as they’re excited to be with each other. I know I’m always very grateful to the parents who also take the time to give my kids a snack when they are playing at their friends’ homes. I’m a big golden rule girl when I provide food for my kids and their friends.
4. Prepare your kids before they go over to a play date, or have friends over. I’m a big believer in teaching my kids correct, polite, respectful behavior. Good manners are not instinctual, they are taught, over and over, and over again. Growing up, my parents always told us to greet each adult by their correct title before we entered a home. They also taught us to be helpful, to clean up after ourselves without prompting, eat food when offered, and to be kind, and polite. We were taught that if we wanted to be invited back to a friend’s house, we needed to be well-mannered. Before my kids go to a friend’s house, they always get my speech about good manners. Why? Repetition is key in teaching good manners.
5. In addition to that speech, I also remind them that they are their own person. In this day and age, I feel it is my responsibility to let my girls know that if anyone does anything inappropriate or dangerous with them, then they need to flee or fight, and tell me about it. I do my best making sure where they go is safe, but I also equip them with skills, in case it’s not. I believe in open communication with my girls, and trust that they will come to me when they need to. Constant communication is key.
6. On a play date, give them the freedom to choose their own activity. I love letting my kids just go and find fun, imaginative things to do on their own. They end up creating music videos, art projects, plays, dances, etc… without any input from me.
7. Provide options if they need some direction, or if they just are too tired to come up with things on their own. Be flexible. I make sure to have some art projects, or ideas of things they can do if they’ve exhausted all that they have thought of to do.
I’ve debated adding another rule. It’s my rule, but I know it’s not always everyone’s rule. I always return play dates, if my daughters like playing with a friend. For me, it’s just good manners. If my child doesn’t enjoy playing with a child, then that’s a different matter. I find that the parents I am extra grateful for, are ones that will return the play date favor. There are parents who never return the favor, no matter how many times their kids have been at my home. I’ve just decided that it’s not about me, if my kid likes to play with a friend, then I’ll keep having them over, even if their parent doesn’t invite my kid over. After all, I’m hoping that my home will be where all the kids hang out when they grow up. I’ll happily, buy extra groceries if it means I can keep an eye on them.
As a parent you know if the kids need more or less supervision. Keep things positive. Sometimes conflicts will arise, but staying calm is important. I’ve found that some play dates I have time to get chores done, and other play dates I’m busily helping the kids create, happening upon teaching moments, or playing with them too. I’ve learned that flexibility and going with the flow goes a long way to enjoyable play dates.
What are your rules for play dates?
Stephanie (Huang) Porter is a BYU broadcast journalism grad who dived into semiconductor, EDA, and consumer electronics public relations, and then happily gave it all up for two precocious girls who teach her every second of each day. Stephanie chose motherhood, and thinks it pretty much rocks. She blogs at Frankly My Dear. Her husband, Ryan makes her laugh, and together they love taking their darling girls traveling worldwide, trying new foods, and playing, always playing. Stephanie believes in finding joy, and feeling gratitude wherever we are, and she hopes she can share her happiness with you. You can follow Stephanie on Instagram, Twitter, Faceboo