Enjoying Play Dates ( it can be done!)

Actual playing on a play-date!

Actual playing on a play-date!

As much as I hate the children going back to school, and all the hassle that goes along with it, I must admit to enjoying getting back into the routine of things. However, like them or loathe them, along with all that routine come play-dates!!

I was useless at play-dates when my eldest started school, way back in 2011. Not that I didn’t like inviting children to play per se, it was just that I was not great at the awkward inviting-strangers-in-to-my house thing – for the uninitiated, junior infant playdates involve parent coffee dates too. In my defence I was pregnant and dealing with a newborn throughout that first year, so I kept forgetting to organise them. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Nowadays with my eldest going into second class, I finally have a handle on play-dates and no longer cringe at the mention of them. In fact, I have made some very good friends of my own through the play-date system. I was having coffee with a couple of said friends this morning and we got to talking about play-dates and the various problems that can arise, so I decided to sit down and do a list of my version of the do’s and don’ts of play-dates, so as to avoid the stress and actually enjoy them.

Play-date etiquette:

  • From day one, tell your child that adults arrange play-dates, not children! This will help to avoid your child inviting themselves on play-dates. This line also comes in handy when a child starts inviting themselves to your house and their mother stands idly by and says nothing – been there done that!
  • Depending on how little/much you enjoy them, set a day/days aside that you dedicate to play-dates. For us, it’s every second Friday. Pick a day that suits you and stick to it. When invited on a different day, avoid saying yes straight away in the fear that your child will never be invited again. Explain and get the word out there that a certain day/days are when you are free for play-dates.
  • When it comes to junior infants, I would absolutely avoid organising any play-dates with new friends before mid-term. Starting school is an overwhelming and tiring experience for children – give them a chance to get used to their new routine before putting anything else on their plate. From senior infants on, I would also avoid play-dates for the first week or so for the same reason.
  • Keep them short (at the start) and always state the time you want the other child picked up. Remember that both your child and yourself may need to decompress afterwards so allow time for that before the dinner rush. When children get to know each other a bit better, play- dates can be longer and can sometimes run into dinner dates too! If it doesn’t suit you to return that service, then decline dinner and pick up your child earlier. Otherwise it can get a little awkward.
  • Give them space – children may be a little awkward with each other at the start – it is perfectly natural and they will figure it out for themselves.They may need a little direction as to what to do but don’t start creating games and taking part yourself. It is tiring and kind of defeats the purpose.
  • Make an effort to also invite children without stay-at-home parents. They can definitely fall through the net because their parents are not seen at the school on a daily basis.
  • Until you know the family well, keep the play-date at home. Taking responsibility for someone else’s child is a big enough deal without the added potential risks and dangers of playgrounds etc. (One of my first playdates involved a trip to the playground where the invited child got bitten on the arm by a random little brat in the playground – mortifying beyond belief!)
Maybe, avoid the playground!

Maybe, avoid the playground!

  • If you are planning to offer snacks, check with the parent first that snacks are okay and that there are no allergies.
  • Keep the snacks simple and easy; you don’t need to have a fresh fruit platter with normal and tropical fruits ready and waiting. If the normal is a banana from the fruit bowl, stick with that! Don’t fill your house with goodies in a Hansel and Gretel manner – you will only end up with a sugar rush/crash to deal with.
  • Avoid baking, or arts and crafts unless you are that way gifted. They are stressy enough with our own children but are even harder when you have to be ‘nice’ throughout.;-)
  • Be yourself. If behaviour from either child is unacceptable, then say as much to the child, whilst keeping it fair. Often our own children become casualties of a play-date as we want to avoid upsetting the invitee!
  • Inclusiveness is key, so when we have people over on play-dates they have some time to do their own thing, but I also encourage them to include the siblings in the games; as well as ensuring no-one is feeling left out, this also gives one time to sit down during a play-date with a cup of tea!

My children have developed some fantastic friendships from play-dates and I am so glad that I got over myself and embraced them ( the play-date that is, not the children..) Play-dates are now a pleasure and something I look forward to. So if you are embarking on the journey for the first time, or are not a fan of play-dates, I really hope that you have found something useful in the above.

Have you any tips to offer yourself? Please feel free to add any tips or advice of your own in the comments below!

Thanks for reading



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Daddy Daydream
    Sep 05, 2014 @ 21:20:55

    A lot of really nice tips here. This summer I’ve also learnt a lot about play days and the highs and the lows of children learning to interact nicely.


  2. Trackback: Sugar ‘n’ Spice V Slugs ‘n’ Snails | BabySteps

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