AT THE DOOR
Drop off’s at the door may be stressful for your child for many reasons. They are (potentially) saying goodbye to you and entering a home that they may or may not have visited before – making it unfamiliar territory! If your child is feeling nervous and the playdate doesn’t involve parent participation, I suggest sticking around for part of the playdate, even if it’s only 5 minutes, to help your child adjust to the situation. You could make your extended presence even more beneficial by asking the host parent what the kids will be up to during their playdate – your child will feel much more assured once they know the itinerary of their date.
If your child is feeling nervous about saying hello to a new adult (their friend’s parent) I suggest practicing with some go-to phrases that your child can memorize and whip out when feeling nervous. In our Dining + Social Etiquette class we call these our “elevator pitches.” A good one to start with could be a simple: “Hello” with a smile. Slowly, you can work your child up to a: “Hi, its nice to see you again.” Remember, this may be really difficult for your child at first, try not to show disappointment if they forget or become too nervous to use their greeting.
First, find out if the playdate involves parent participation, which is usually the case with younger children. If you prefer to stay, perhaps to calm your child’s (or your own) nerves about being apart, you could always bring dessert and suggest “tea and cake” with the host parent as a way to socialize while still being near your child.
Second, if you are dropping off your child, it is your responsibility, as the parent, to be clear about expectations during a playdate. If you prefer that your child not consume any “junk food” or refrain from watching TV – be sure to let the host parent know this to avoid any disappointments. Further, if your child has a specific diet (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) it is best to be prepared by packing a few items – especially if the host parent has not inquired about your child’s food preferences/restrictions prior to the playdate.
Third, once you find out what time the playdate is ending – be sure to be on time! If you’re running late, communicating with the parent via phone or text is appropriate so that the host parent (and your child) are in the loop!
Finally, be sure to reciprocate the offer by hosting the next playdate!
PLAYING WITH TOYS
Remind your child that when visiting their friend’s home its important to be mindful of which toys are open to play with. Giving examples of some of their sentimental toys can be a good way to illustrate boundaries.
In most cases, food will be a part of your child’s playdate either in the form of a quick snack or a meal. This can be a new experience for your child – eating in a potentially unfamiliar environment with potentially unfamiliar foods! In our Dining + Social Etiquette course we encourage children to try everything once, even a very small amount, since every new food is a new experience. Let your child know that by trying a little bit of the food they can finally discover where the food lands on their “favourite foods scale.” Further, remind them that every dish tastes different based on how it is cooked. They may not have enjoyed spaghetti at last month’s restaurant, however, it could taste very different when made at home by their friend’s parent. The exception to this rule, of course, is restricted foods or allergens. In which case, your child can politely say: “I’m sure it tastes wonderful, however, I can’t have _______.”
When you arrive to pick up your child, don’t be afraid to ask your child and their friend if they had a chance to clear up their toys together. By asking both kids, you aren’t singling out your child and potentially making them feel uncomfortable. Further, you are showing that you place importance on your children cleaning up after themselves – especially when at someone else’s home. If the kids haven’t cleared up, encourage them to do so while you wait and chat with the parent.