The Land of Play Dates

We have arrived in the new world of play dates.

When I was working full-time at an office and the kids were in preschool, play dates included hanging out with friends. Our play dates meant I caught up with old friends while the kiddos hung out. It was an easy choice to leave my kids with my mom friends if I needed to run errands. We’ve known each other for years.

Now that my oldest is in Kindergarten, we are meeting new parents and new kids. Pretty cool. This new adventure also includes birthday parties, play dates and sleep overs. Yikes!

I remember back in the day when we didn’t have play dates. We just headed out the door and were told to be home before supper. We hung out with the kids from two or three blocks away. Things have certainly changed, haven’t they?

My little guy was off to his first play date this week with a boy he met in school. We attended the kid’s birthday party at the beginning of the school year so I was pretty comfortable with the family.

When I was asked about the play date, I assumed I would be hanging out as well. A great way to get to know another mom and I love that. That wasn’t exactly the case. It wasn’t really what the other mom had in mind which was fine.

A play date offered by a parent you just met is much like deciding if you are going on a date with someone for the first time (or at least what I remember dating to be anyway!). It can be a delicate dance.

On one hand, you don’t want to offend someone by asking 50 questions as you try to ensure you’re not handing your child over to a nut.

On the other hand, your 50 questions to confirm all is OK makes you seem like the overly worried nutty mom.

See the dilemma?

I know. I know. Some of you may be thinking that he’s my child and I should do everything I can to protect him. Totally agree. But it’s also about relationship building with the people and kids your children will be with throughout the school years. It’s also important to get to know other parents.

A few tips my good friend shared with me, plus a few of my own:

  • What’s your gut telling you? (intuition, that voice, etc.) Listen closely because it’s your guide!
  • Ask up front if it’s a drop-off or a mom hang out kind of play date. If you are texting or emailing and not sure by the way it is written, then simply reply, “Email [or text] is hard to interpret, do you mean…” and be specific.
  • Set-up the drop off/pick up. Be prompt if someone else is hosting the play date.
  • Food allergies, toys, ground rules, other items to note should be given to the mom ahead of time.
  • Be specific about TV, video games and other safety concerns before you let your child go.
  • Be sure your child wants to go. He or she’s reaction to the mention of a play date with Little Johnny may be a good indicator that you should pass.

He had a blast at the play date and didn’t want to leave. It also gave me free time that day and now we get to take a turn at hosting.

Something that is new can seem scary, but the experience may turn into something valuable you didn’t expect, like new friendships.

What are some of your tips for managing play dates?

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