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How to Have A Successful Playdate with Kids

Posted April 17, 2013
I have an 8 year old, and pretty much every day after school she asks me if she can have a playdate with this friend or that friend. It's like clockwork. For some reason, this simple request stressed me out most of the time. All I can think about is the coordinating of schedules, the planning of what to do for entertainment, the invites, the RSVPS, ...ACK!

But when I do decide to plan a playdate with one of her many BFF's, it usually turns out to be just fine and fairly stress-free. Everyone knows the general idea of setting up a playdate, but I'll run through them with some advice that you may not have thought of:

1. Get the class email or call list.

-It's always best to pin it to a bulletin board or tape it to the refrigerator as soon as you get it from the teacher, otherwise you will be hunting down this invaluable contact list. I didn't follow this advice and had to spend some stressful time trying to find it amongst all the school paperwork that had come home all year.

2. Email the parents. You can call, but email is so much easier, especially if you've never met in person.

-Make sure to introduce yourself (first and last name), your child, and your child's relationship to their kid (how they know each other).

-I always like to offer my cell phone number and address, since they will eventually need them anyway and I think it gives them a sense that I'm not some weirdo claiming to be a parent. Of course, getting a number and address doesn't guarantee that you're not being contacted by a weirdo, but it doesn't hurt to give this information and not giving it seems kind of shady. Plus, if a parent really wanted to, they could check the info out by Googling, or calling the school, or even a drive-by/test call.

3. Request a playdate in this first email.

-I like to give specific dates that we are available, with time ranges. That way, the other parents just have to choose a date/time that they are also available.

-If you just say, "Hey, Let's do a Playdate", you will have more emails than necessary to coordinate. I like to keep it efficient and keep the emails back and forth to a minimum.

-Choose an age-appropriate day/time. In other words, if you have young children, right after school might be too tiring. Perhaps a short nap after school, then the playdate. For older kids, say 8-12 years old, after school should be fine, but make sure the playdate doesn't go over a couple hours (dinner, homework, etc. still need to be done). Saturdays are best, since kids will be rested and don't have school the next day.


4. When the other parent replies via email, if it's a "No", then I just drop it.

-You may be tempted to ask for a reason if one isn't given, but I'd advise you to hold your proverbial tongue. It really doesn't matter what the reason is anyway, unless their kid is afraid of yours or something like that. But, this is probably not the best way or time to figure that out.

-I reply with an email that says a general "Hey, we're always up for it if something should work out later, just drop me an email or call."

-Don't take it personally, some people don't like playdates.

5. If the answer is "Yes", then email them a second email to confirm the date/time, who will be going to who's house, or whatever the playdate will be.

-Give your phone and address again, just so they have it for sure.

-Request their cell phone and address in this email.

-Also, tell them about any allergies, fears, or behavioral problems you know your child has. Seriously, you don't want to blindside them if you know little Jimmy freaks out if he sees a dog.

-If you know your child has behavioral issues, tell the other parent and offer how you deal with it. Of course, if your child has serious issues that may endanger himself or others, a playdate without you isn't wise and you should definitely be there.

-For example, if Billy gets worked up at the bowling alley, let the parent know it's ok for them to tell him to sit out a game. Chances are Billy is used to this anyway right? Perhaps send a few quarters with Billy to play a video game during that break.

-You need to accept and acknowledge that if your child is going to be supervised by another parent, they need basic authority transferred to them. They have to be able to protect your child, tell him when he is endangering himself or others, and reprimand him appropriately. I like to go ahead and just tell the parent this, and I mention what I like to do like time-outs or they can threaten to call me to come get my kid and end the playdate. If you know something works with your child, then by all means let the other parent in on it! I don't usually mention not to hit my child, I assume that's a given. But go ahead and mention it if you want, especially if you know that's a form of punishment they use on their kids (gasp!).

Happy Playdate

*In the same email, I ask some important questions if I'm not hosting the playdate.  I preface it with something like "I hate to be a crazy Mom, but could I ask a few questions?"

-Find out who will be in charge –  will the Mom or Dad be there the entire time or will an older sibling or babysitter be watching the kids?  I only allow playdates where the parents will be directly supevising the entire time.  But, at least make sure you feel confident that whoever is in charge would know what to do in an emergency.

- Respectfully ask if there's a trampoline.  Trampolines are a leading cause of child injuries.  Kids under 6 really shouldn't be on them, and even older kids should always be supervised.  I make it clear that my kid is not allowed on trampolines, that makes it simple.  If you do, make sure there's a net and that someone will be watching the whole time.

-This is a tough one, but you should ask if there are any guns in the house.

-If your child is scared or allergic to dogs, cats, etc. - ask about pets and if those pets could be kept in another room during the playdate.

6. Some things to remember for the playdate...

-At the start of a playdate, if you are hosting, take a picture with your phone of the visiting friend... in case she gets lost.  If you're not hosting, ask the parent to do the same.  It's easy since everyone has camera phones nowadays.  Plus, the other parent should appreciate that you think of that stuff and will be more comfortable with planning a future playdate with you as the host.

-Don't wavier on carseat safety.  If your child is still in a carseat or booster, remember to leave it in case they end up driving him somewhere.

- That goes for helmets too.  Bring a helmet if the playdate will involve biking, rollerblading, scootering, etc.  Tell the other parent your kid MUST wear it.

*A note about drop-off:

-I tend to be pretty wary, so I don't like to drop-off unless I know the parents already. If you don't know them yet, ask if they wouldn't mind it if you could hang out a bit together at the start of the playdate to get acquainted. This is the time you can check them out, their home if you're not hosting, their other family members, etc. The reality is that it's hard to do playdates with total knowledge of everything and everyone, but at least this way if your gut tells you something is not quite right, you can stay longer and turn it into a non-drop-off. Or, make an excuse and leave with your child (Yikes! I forgot Mary has a doctors appointment in half an hour, sorry!). Kind of like a blind date, you need an "out".

-Even if you're hosting, it's always good to get acquainted with the other parents.

-If I don't know the parents, I'll ask if the first playdate can be at my house or if it can be something we can all do together (a manicure with some shopping at the mall or just running around the park).  After that, you'll know each other better!

*A note about etiquette:

-Just because another parent hosted a playdate doesn't mean you have to. But if it happens a lot, and the other parent is always entertaining your kid, you should reciprocate sometimes. After all, it's basically free childcare, so volunteer to give them a break sometimes too!

-If another parent is always paying for dinner or the movie or admission to wherever, you need to offer sometimes in return. Or, you can offer a service like driving the kids to hip hop class next week.

7. Enjoy! Don't forget that playdates should be fun for kids and easy for parents - that's the whole point.

Playdate Evite

P.S. If you are inviting multiple kids, using something like evite.com will help everyone coordinate and see each other's communications (of course, reply-all on email works too, but sometimes we forget to hit reply-all).  Plus, evites are adorable!

Do you have any tips for playdates? Have you run into any issues and how did you resolve them? Please share!

Yours truly, Jade

Jade is the founder and CEO of Ahh! Products. Find her on

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