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PlayDate Etiquette

PlayDate Etiquette
The Basics
Here are a few tips for parents to consider when making a PlayDate:
Use Some Good Old-Fashioned Common Sense
For Children Ages 2 to 3
When you invite a child of this age to your house, it is important to include the parent in the PlayDate. There are several reasons for doing this:
1) The guest child will probably feel extremely uncomfortable if his mother or father leaves.
2) As a parent, you will want to make your child feel comfortable socially and you will want to help them begin to learn how to develop those skills.
3) Sometimes small children can feel jealous if the host parent is too accommodating to the guest child. When you are the only parent present, you will have to be ready to help the children and to provide comfort if anyone's feelings are hurt in any way.
4) Having a parent present at the PlayDate is a great way to learn more about the other family. You will have the chance to develop a new friendship and this will help both sets of children to see a "give and take" model for conversation, as well as for taking turns and sharing toys.
For Children Ages 4 to 5
When children are in the 3 to 5 year age group, a lot of changes happen for them socially. This is usually a time when these children begin Pre-School. Some parents feel comfortable leaving them at other people's homes when they are in this Pre-School age group. But they are still very young and you will want to know the host parent well enough to make sure that the children will be comfortable and safely supervised.
Make a PlayDate and stay when you feel comfortable, then leave for a short time.
PlayDates are really wonderful for parents and for children, but there is a genuine concern when you begin to leave a child in someone's home. It is always best to ask the guest parent if they have any concerns while their child is visiting in your home.
For best results:
1) Have parents stay for the playdate.
2) As a guest parent, if you need to run an errand, stay for most of the PlayDate. When you see that your child is visibly comfortable, let them know that you are going to "be right back" and slip out for a short time.
3) In this awkward period of social transition, if you are the host parent, be prepared for the guest parent to want to stay, even if you have pre-planned a time to do other things. This age group is very fragile and even the best of plans can go haywire. What is most important here is for the children to begin to feel comfortable with other people.
Important Considerations
Birth order really makes a big difference in the adaptability of children. When you are hosting a PlayDate, be aware of the guest child's birth order. Generally speaking, an only child is probably going to be far more "clingy" than a middle child. And the parent of many may be much more relaxed than a parent of one or two. There are so many variables in the way a PlayDate can be handled. For overall best results, be open to sharing the fun!
Always ask the guest parent if you can offer the guest child a snack during the PlayDate. As silly as this may seem, many parents do not believe in giving "Snacks" between meals. And many more do not want their children eating sweets or prepared calorie-rich foods without nutritional benefit. You will always be safe with vegetable sticks or fruit and a glass of water. Many parents today are not in favor of Juicy Boxes either because of the high sugar content.
Allergy Alerts
It's also important to take allergies into consideration. Not only does this show that you are a very concerned parent, but it's important to know if a child faces any potential dangers from contact with anything from peanut-butter to insect stings.
Elementary School Children: Ages 6 to 11
By the time your children are in Elementary School, there is a new pattern to their days. They are usually gone for a six to seven-hour period during the day. It's very important for children to play, but in today's world, after-school play is a luxury. Usually this happens in the form of Brownies or Boy/Girl Scouts. Of course, there are also sports programs, but they usually entail structured, non-exploratory play. The good old fashioned kind of non-structured running around with other kids really doesn't happen as much as it used to. The bottom line: If you're going to have play time, you must be prepared to take the initiative.
After-School PlayDates
For a lot of children, there is little or no after-school play time unless it is put onto calendars in the form of PlayDates. To make this happen, it's best to plan ahead. Busy moms need a bit of lead-time. One of the best ways to make this happen, without the constant back-and-forth on the telephone or through e-mails, is to use the download invitations from FunPlayDates.
After-school play time can easily be planned if you use the FunPlayDates invitations or if you take the time to write a note and send it to school with your child.
Specify Time, Date of PlayDate and Phone Numbers
It's important to be specific with regard to all contact numbers. This will make it easy to keep track of your child's calendar and any vital information from both sets of parents. One busy mom I know has six children and keeps a social calendar for each of them right by the phone. At a quick glance, she can keep track of their busy schedules, including each of their PlayDates, times and contact numbers.
For best results:
1) Some parents will not allow an after-school PlayDate unless their child has done their homework. When inviting a child for an after-school PlayDate, let the host parent know they will need to finish their work before they play.
2) As a guest parent, always be prompt with your child's pick-up times.
3) As a host parent, be aware of after-school PlayDate pick-up times. Usually, after-school PlayDates run parallel to high traffic patterns and a parent may be a bit late. This is always a potential problem, so accept this possibility when making an after-school PlayDate.
4) Make sure each parent has all the phone numbers needed in case of any emergencies or difficulties related to pick-up times.
5) For after-school snacks, keep it simple and natural.
Weekend PlayDates
Even Saturday and Sunday afternoon PlayDates have to be planned.
It's the rare neighborhood where parents feel safe having their children go out and knock on a neighbor's door to see if their children can come out to play. For most families, the high demands of our lives keep us from feeling spontaneous about people dropping by without an invitation. With all of our time going to so many different kinds of activities, it's always best to plan ahead.
Once again, we must consider the success of a PlayDate often depends on making sure that there is adequate lead-time. This can save the host parent a lot of time and pressure by preparing to receive the guest parents into your home.
This is what you should consider:
1) Many families that have two working parents are not eager to have to get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, so it's best to plan PlayDates for sometime in the afternoon.
2) Unless you know a family well, the guest parents will probably stay for at least 15 to 30 minutes when they drop their child off. This happens frequently, so be prepared for this possibility. After all, it's their child they're leaving, so they're naturally going to be concerned. Be ready to offer them a light refreshment.
3) There are many aspects to PlayDates that you might want to think about before you leave your child in someone's home. Some of these concerns include safety, watching TV, playing computer games and snacks. For most parents, not only is a PlayDate a social time, but it can also be a time to play outdoors and get exercise (weather permitting). Carefully survey the surroundings to see that you are comfortable leaving your child with this family. Don't be afraid to ask the parent(s) if someone will be keeping an eye on the kids. And mention that you would prefer that your child not watch too much TV. You may also want to suggest that you reciprocate, with a PlayDate for their child in your home.
4) Always pick up your child at the specified time when the Play Date is to end. Have your child thank the host parent(s) and child. One way to make this a smooth transition to is practice with your own child before you go to the PlayDate. You will want to review the "thank you" and then tell your child to be ready to leave. It is very awkward for the host parent(s) to have to wait for you to leave, especially if they need to be other places or have other commitments.
5) Although this is optional, a Thank You note is always lovely. This is not necessary but will almost always be appreciated.
Potential Problems:
Reciprocal PlayDates
One of the problems that I have run across with the PlayDates is the issue of reciprocal play invitations. This is one of the most common complaints. What usually happens is a situation where your child likes another child and you find that you are always hosting the PlayDates for that relationship. Not only is this unfair, but there is really not very much you can do about it.
The only way that I have seen a turnaround occur, is if you very politely ask if it would be possible to have the other parent watch your child on a particular occasion. If they don't repond to this request in a thoughtful way, then it is time for you to reassess that friendship.
Parenting Styles
When you begin to introduce your child to other families, you're going to have to make some decisions about what kinds of friends you want to encourage your children to develop friendships with. Some people may do things in a completely different way than you would do them. In cases like this, you will have to decide whether you want to continue to have your children play together. Parenting styles would affect these kinds of decisions.
For instance: If you find that the mother of one of your children's friends smokes continually, you may decide that you don't want your child to be exposed to the smoke, so you may wish to discontinue the relationship. This is an extreme example, but there are many characteristics to parenting styles. Some of these styles run the gamut from extreme religious practices and strict punishments to the opposite: unstructured casual styles of parenting that include abrasive language, lack of supervision and older children who do not set a good example for the younger kids. There are also families who watch excessive amounts of TV or play computer games continuously.
The list is virtually endless. However, the bottom line is this: if you feel that your child is, in any way, learning something that you are not ready for them to learn, it is best to have that other child play at your house or to meet on some neutral ground, such as a Museum or playground.
Fighting Children
Sometimes children have disagreements during PlayDates. When there is no psychologist to jump in and make the appropriate suggestions on how to defuse an awkward moment, there is still something you can do to stop the kids from fighting.
Try to get the children to calm down and, to the best of their ability, describe the problem to you. Listen to both kids and make a decision based on what is objectively fair for both children. Be careful and sensitive to the guest child's side of the story. Remember that this child is at a disadvantage, especially if the guest parent is not present to provide emotional support. The next best solution is to get them to play another game or to have them take a break and then change the focus of the activity.
When A Child Gets Hurt
This is such an unfortunate situation. This is also why it is very important to have all of the contact phone numbers you will need for a PlayDate. In this case, you will want to call the parents immediately and you will also want to care for the child that is hurt and probably frightened, as well. It is very essential to calm the child and do all that you can do to make them feel comfortable until their parents pick them up.

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