Play dates can be a blessing or a curse - depending on if you're the lucky host this time around. Truth be told, it can be frustrating to have families into your home who don't show a basic respect for your house rules. While you can't necessarily hand over this list without seeming a bit overbearing, you can teach by example. Keep these 6 standards on hand for the next play date, and use them wherever you go!
Timing is Everything. Just as you wouldn't want a real date to show up 30 minutes late, keep on schedule with any appointments you have for playing. Likewise, avoid being too early. Most moms I know are still finishing up with their tidying just minutes before guests walk in the door, or a child's napping schedule may be affecting by an unexpected arrival.
Come Prepared. While everyone forgets a diaper at one time or another, some parents have been known to use a host home as their own personal retail outlet. Bring a well-stocked diaper bag, complete with an extra change of clothes, and anything your child would need on a typical afternoon out. Just because your host home has socks in your tyke's size, doesn't mean they want to lend them out --- indefinitely.
Ditch Dietary Demands. It's probably OK to let your host home know if your child has a serious or life-threatening food allergy, but beyond something high-risk, it's usually not appropriate to dictate the dinner menu. If strange eating preferences (your kid won't eat anything orange, for example) could leave your child hungry after snack time, make it easy on your host by bringing your own. (And if at all possible, use the experience as a way to encourage an expansion of Junior's eating habits.)
Be Watchful. This isn't the hair salon, and while it may be tempting to turn play time into an excuse for unfettered adult conversation and the chance to "shoo" kids into another room, it's still your responsibility to keep an eye on your kid. Not only should you be checking on the children regularly to avoid any incidents, but doors should remain open at all times. While it would be nice to trust that all kids are well-intentioned, lack of supervision can encourage the worst of behaviors (even in your own "angels".)
Leave it Better Than When You Came. If you're one of those parents who never requires your kids to clean up their own mess --- play dates may not be for you. Not only should kids be encouraged to keep toys and clutter under control during the course of the play date, but each parent should follow up to make sure that everyone is instrumental in the final cleaning of any play areas. Be sure to allow 15-30 minutes at the end of each play period to get things looking as good as when you arrived.
Turnabout Is Fair Play - You may never get to the place where you're comfortable hosting the next play date at your home, and it may be understandable if you're experiencing extreme circumstances (a smaller-than-average home, a spouse that works the overnight shift, or a house that is located in an area too far away for comfortable driving.) Make every effort possible to keep your turn in the rotation, however. If you have to take play time to a relative's home, pitch a tent at a park, or turn the time into an opportunity for a field trip, for example, then do it! The variety may be more welcome than you think, and the parents will appreciate that you're giving as much as you are receiving from the arrangement.
Do you have play date pet peeves that you just can't deal with? Communicate the best you can by making the rules and playing by them. Your example can go a long way!
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