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Kid Play Date Protocol

Planning, Communication Key to Play Date Success

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Successful play dates with youngsters typically don't just "happen." Rather, to make sure everyone leaves happy and ready to do it again at a later date requires planning and communication with the other child's parents prior to a kid visit at either your place or theirs. Having a face-to-face talk with your child's friend's parents (or at least a phone call chat) allows each of you to discuss preferences, rules, house conditions (if your child is allergic to cats, for example), and any concerns. So what should parents do and know to engage in successful kid date protocol?

Here are some simple do's and don't's for both hosts and guests for play date success.

WHAT TO DISCUSS WITH OTHER PARENTS BEFORE PLAY DATE:
  • What are things you want to know about me/our home and vice versa?
  • What is your style of discipline?
  • How do you handle the inevitable kid conflicts that occur?
  • Do you have pets? What kinds? (This is the time to talk about any pet allergies or fears of dogs, etc.).
  • Ask about any health or safety concerns prior to arranging a play date: Are there smokers in the home? Are guns kept in the home?
  • What are your rules about television? (Do parents let kids watch only G-rated movies; are PG rated movies okay? Are there gaming systems that kids will play with, and if so, which types of games?)
  • Are there any specific expectations you/your child should know so you can discuss them beforehand for your kid's understanding? This is the opportunity for you to discuss any requirements as well (we don't allow shoes in the house, for example).
  • Once you and the other parent(s) have this chat, you need to decide whether you are comfortable with having your child visit their home. If not, but your kids like each other, you can always invite the other child to your home. Then, when it's time to "switch turns," you can always recommend meeting at a park or a common area where you'll remain present.

If a play date is a go-ahead, keep in mind these protocols for whether you are the play date host/hostess or if your child will be the guest.

PLAY DATE PROTOCOL IF YOUR FAMILY IS THE HOST:
  • Greet your child's friend and parents in a friendly and enthusiastic manner.
  • Arrange a set pick-up time prior to parent departure. Keep it short for the first few outings and also avoid meal-times as first; you can always relax these guidelines later if playdates are successful. Ask parents if it will be okay to serve a snack/drink during the visit. Be sure to ask for (and receive) phone numbers where parents can be reached.
  • Tell your young guest the rules of the house. Make sure your own child listens in as a reminder of house rules as well to avoid misunderstandings or cases of "I forgot!"
  • Establish a clean-up/pick-up time about 15 minutes before guest's parent is due to arrive. That sets expectations for cleaning up messes and also so your child doesn't bear the brunt of having to pick up later, which sometimes causes ill will about the guest "not helping."


PLAY DATE PROTOCOL IF YOUR CHILD IS THE GUEST:
  • Talk with your child about expectations, good behavior, and rules of the friend's house beforehand
  • Do not bring your child over to play if he is ill. Reschedule ... please!
  • Bring contact information with you already pre-written down so you can hand it to the host upon arrival.
  • Remind your host of any no-nos (such as food allergies).
  • Be prompt in picking up your child. Don't be early; don't be late.
  • If your child is a picky eater, feel free to bring snacks over, but be sure to bring enough for all children (including siblings) to avoid any food "squabbles."
  • Ask whether toys and play area are picked up; if not, send your child in with his friend to help pick up.
  • Thank the host for the time and attention given for a successful play date. If it goes well, it's your turn to reciprocate!
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