Since Oliver started preschool I’ve had to be a little bit more sociable myself. I’ve suffered with school gate anxiety since before he started. On the one hand I was excited that there would be a group of adults that I would be in regular contact with. On the other hand there would be a group of adults that I would be in regular contact with!! What if they hated me? I had no doubt Oliver would make friends and that play dates would soon feature. So that got me thinking about play date etiquette. For the socially anxious, sometimes a little guide can be helpful. So I asked other parents who blog, here are their top tips…
Firstly, it starts before you go. Be prepared.
“I always jokingly mention that my kids can be a handful prior to the playdate. It’s not false but I have this fear that one day everyone will see how badly behaved the kids can be and I’d rather prewarn them! This then leads to the ‘your kids are so well behaved’ comment if the kids haven’t managed to put each other in bad moods!!”
– Carla, Random Thoughts of a Twenty Something
“Unless you are driving, take a hip flask. Take sneaky nips as the house is trashed around you. Mutter that’s your child isn’t like this at home, it must be because they get on so well. Stagger home 2 hours late.”
– Naomi, Tatooed Mummy
If drinking on the job isn’t your thing, at least prepare yourself mentally. And drown yourself in tea. But probably not too much if you’re a nervous pee-er.
Then there’s the protocol for arranging play dates with a parent of the opposite sex
“When you’re a dad arranging a playdate with a mum, it can feel awkward – like you’re asking them on a date! So if you’re arranging (or on) a playdate with a parent of opposite sex, mention your partner lots so you can be sure they don’t get the wrong idea. Unless you want them to get the wrong idea”
– Simon, Man Vs Pink
Food is a minefield. There are so many differing opinions.
The thing I always struggle with is “are you kids allowed to eat cake” or “mine only drink water” issues… and then the fall out from some kids having juice and others allowed only water. I once gave my kids squash at a house where the kids didn’t drink squash and it caused WW3! So my tip would be: never get enticing snacks out of your bag without checking with the other parents! No one wants to cause a snack related meltdown!”
– Amy, 2 Boys, 1 Mum
” If your child is a fussy eater (like mine!) don’t stay for lunch or tea when going on a play date. The food will invariably be ‘different’ (even if it’s exactly the same as what you make at home) and you want to avoid your child telling the host that it’s ‘yucky’. Embarrassing”
– Amiee, Mum Amie
“I have a huge thing about bringing things eg cake. Loads of people do even when asked not to bring anything but I find it really annoying: if I’m hosting I have bought everything so it doesn’t get eaten and I just end up eating it later and feeling unhappy about my weight and secondly play dates should be a cheap way to meet up with people if both the host and visitors are spending money on things it’s cheaper to go out. When several people go round and I’m the only one not to bring anything I feel rude.”
– Kate, Counting To Ten
“Always take Cake or posh looking biscuits…”
“Chocolate biscuits and cake!!”
“Sometimes I take cake but I also don’t want them to feel that is necessary if they come to ours, so I make that clear! I just love cake 🙂 And I don’t do it if I know that person is trying to be healthy!
If I take snacks for my little one I make sure I take enough to go around as the others will naturally want some too! I try to make them as healthy as possible so as not to put any parents in awkward situations if they’re not comfortable with less healthy options (our snacks our generally healthy anyway but I do allow a biscuit if we are at someone else’s and it is offered.)”
– Rebecca, Taylor Made Ramblings
My suggestion – have something, but perhaps leave it in the car or your inevitably large handbag until you know the time is right. If the time isn’t right then just eat it when you get home.
Shoes off or shoes on?
“I never know if to take my shoes off in other people’s houses so I do anyway but always make sure to wear socks as I hate my feet out.”
– Jessica, Beauties and The Bibs
Shoes on or off is a huge thing for me, at home I wear enormous slippers and have carpets, if I go to a house with wooden or tiled floors my feet freeze because I have raynauds. So if you invite me over don’t be surprised if I’m wearing woolly socks and/or bring massive slippers. Or put the heating on ready for my arrival! Haha.
One thing is for sure, DO NOT TAKE A POORLY CHILD
“1) Taking a poorly toddler round someone’s house is like taking a dump on their doorstep. Don’t do it. 2) If they’re potty training get ready to grovel when they pee on their carpet. Yes this has happened to me.”
– Frances, Whinge Whinge Wine
“Oh yes, definitely agree with not taking a poorly child. In the past I was almost lynched for declining a toddler who had been puking for the entire morning but “had stopped now”.”
– Sophie, Sophie and Lily
But what about kids behaviour?
“The thing I find the hardest is their TV’s and DVD players etc – my son goes straight for them so I usually spend most of the time removing him from those areas….with that in mind always take a favourite toy with you as a ‘distraction’. Last time we had a big group play date Arthur bit another child when they tried to take a toy he was playing with….it was a really difficult situation and I ended up reprimanding him in a way that I wouldn’t usually do just for the benefit of the other parents….now whenever we go anywhere to play I am constantly watching him just in case he does it again…although since this incident we haven’t actually been invited back”
– Sarah, Arthur Wears
Sharing is a huge talking point…
“Try to relax with regards to sharing. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with your child if they don’t want to share! They go through phases and they will learn. I used to get so embarrassed and flustered when Ernie went through his phase of not sharing. I thought it was something I was doing as a parent but it really isn’t! They all learn eventually and will still have their moments even then!”
– Rebecca, Taylor Made Ramblings
“People always expect children to be great at sharing, but they’re not! So if we’re having a play date at our house I put away any of the kids favourite toys (like the soft toy that they sleep with or a brand new Paw Patrol toy) and put out toys that are easy to share like the train set or Lego.”
– Niki, Play and Learn Every Day
Be aware of quietness
“My tip this: if you think your just turned three year old is being suspiciously quiet go and check she’s not been enticed to open every single drawer at her friends house and emptied out all her clothes. If this happens the next time she has a playdate at home she will repeat this new trick”
– Lauren, Belle Du Brighton
How would you feel if they did it at your house?
” Be responsible for your child’s behaviour, it is not the host’s responsibility to discipline your child. If they wouldn’t do it at home, it’s in everyone’s interests if they don’t do it in someone else’s house, otherwise things can get awkward and you may find you don’t get invited back. I have had parents tell me that they think other people should be able to tell their child off if they do something wrong, as it teaches them social skills, or something, but no one actually wants that job, it’s yours!”
– Lucy, The Parent Game
“Don’t take a ride on toy for your toddler to play on, especially if your friend has real wooden floors; ESPECIALLY if her baby is only a few months old and sleeping in a basket which your toddler keeps bumping. Also don’t let your toddler use your friend’s sofa like a trampoline, particularly if your friend is breastfeeding her preemie on the same sofa. Most of all, don’t do these things on the same occasion. (We’re still friends, but I’ve never invited them back into my house.)”
– Kate, The Less Refined Mind
Last but not least, TIDY UP!
Nearly all of the parents who contributed to this blog post mentioned tidying up.
“I always tidy up after ourselves, 9/10 the room was already untidy but we always leave it tidy”
– Jaymee, The Mum Diaries
“I always take my shoes off, always always always tidy up before we leave and I always being either cake or lunch (even a contribution towards) depending on when we are going to be there”
– Katy Gibson
“I always take our shoes off immediately and I make sure we tidy up as best as possible before we leave.”
– Rebecca, Taylor Made Ramblings
” I heard a horror story of someone turning up at 10 and not leaving until 5. Don’t over stay your welcome and offer to tidy up even if they say no”
– Emma, Farmers Wife and Mummy
And if it all goes tits up? Try not to worry too much, you could still be friends
“First play date I took my son to, was a lady I had met through playgroup, older than me, walks into her house, cream sofas and so neat. She was fine letting my then 18month old run about and climb, as much as I pulled him off sofa. Knock on the door her mam, so I was introduced, my son took the whole of a few seconds to climb on the sofa, throw up and proceed to play in it. Never been so embarrassed!! Was really lucky she laughed and we’ve actually become best friends! ( the next time I went alone for a vodka, I ended up tipping my vodka and coke over the same sofa 😳) were still friends she just covers them now!”
– Jo, First Time Valley Mam