Playdate etiquette – the unwritten rules

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playdate photo

When I was little and was bored with my four brothers and sisters – I would disappear next door to play with my best friend. We would practice endless baton routines with The Carpenters Mr Postman Please blaring in the background on a record player. I had an open invitation and my mother always knew where to find me.

Today, playing with your best friend is more formal. We fit in “playdates” between swimming, football and French. The spontaneity is gone.  I know one mother who has playdates booked months in advance. She’s a working mum and pencils in our daughter’s name between items like “Ian’s review” and “ops meeting”.

If you are new to the wonderful world of arranging your child’s extracurricular play time, here are the unwritten rules.

  1. You must know the parents of the child you wish to invite on a playdate, or at least be able to recognise them in the playground. This is critical in order that you don’t ask the wrong child over to play.
  2. You must make eye contact with an adult when you drop off your child.  Once a mother whom I barely knew dropped off her daughter while I was in the garden. It turned out my 6-year-old had answered the door (despite attempts to teach her not to) and they quickly disappeared upstairs.  I kept looking at my watch wondering WHERE THE HECK THEY WERE and had no idea there was another child on the premises for which I was responsible.
  3. If the playdate is after school, you must serve tea (for you yanks, this is another way of saying a light dinner). Otherwise the child will get home tired, cranky and hungry (instead of just tired and cranky).
  4. You must not serve cereal or chocolate for tea. Preferably make something from scratch and it absolutely has to include some sort of fruit or vegetable. I once realised during a playdate that I had nothing in the fridge or freezer to serve for tea, so I boiled pasta. I was even out of butter. The poor child asked if we were just having “plain spaghetti”.
  5. The children must not be watching telly when the parents pick up. Or playing video games. This is very bad.
  6. You MUST reciprocate. This is the whole reason for playdates. Yes, your child’s friendships are important, but let’s face it, we all love it when our little darling is at SOMEONE ELSE’s house playing happily. I swear one dad almost jumped out of the phone and hugged me when I asked their daughter to ours on a Bank Holiday Monday.

Please note: None of these rules are valid if dad is running the playdate.

Photo credit: haras1000

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  1. 22/06/2009 / 13:09

    Great post – but the term “play dates” has not reached our shores here yet! Only a matter of time.

  2. 02/10/2008 / 23:03

    Can’t believe a parent would drop off her child without speaking with an adult. Well, I guess I can believe it, but it’s pretty sad. This is the parent who will have no idea where her child is once she begins high school. Ever.

  3. Susanna
    01/10/2008 / 18:25

    Emma, good idea for another post. My husband is hopeless when it comes to having other children over to play.

  4. Emma
    01/10/2008 / 09:20

    I love the rules, as a parent of a two year old these are things I’m going to have to learn fast! I’d love to see the rules for if the Dad is running the playdate.