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Play Date Predicaments

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Play Date Predicaments

A Mum got in touch with us a few weeks back to ask for some thoughts and insights on “play date” and “sleep-over” etiquette.

The Mum explained that her children had recently reached school age, and had entered what felt like an unknown world of “play dates” and “sleep overs”. She was curious to know if there are some kind of “unspoken” rules or accepted guidelines around:

  • What age should children start having "play dates" (i.e. at another child's home without their own parent present - assuming the other child's parent is present)
  • At what age should children start having "sleep-overs" at friends houses?
  • Whether you should you meet the parents prior to your child having a "play date" or a "sleep-over" at their friends house? If so, how should you go about meeting them? (e.g. do you ask them out for a coffee, or is a quick introduction OK?)
  • How do you approach another parent to ask if their child can have a "play date" or "sleep-over" at your house?
  • How do you say no to a parent that asks for a "sleep-over" or a "play date" (for both situations, to a child coming to your house, or your child going to another child's house)

This is not something I’ve ever thought much about before, and not being a parent myself I couldn’t exactly offer any insights based on experience or prior knowledge, other than acknowledging that “play dates” and “sleep overs” are helpful for socialisation and building friendships for young people.

I doubted there would be any research around about it (and after a quick search I only found one study examining the effects of play dates on improved social skills for children who have disabilities) which I didn’t think would be particularly helpful to this Mum who was after some general guidelines.

So, I sent a message out to our “Who’s The Expert” contributors who very kindly agreed to share their tips with us!

Melissa from Intuitive Behavioural and Educational Strategies
A former teacher, parent to three children, PHD candidate, who provides educational services throughout the world via in-person and Skype sessions. Her specialties include reading and literacy training, helping those living with special needs, early childhood education, attachment parenting and more. 

Shared her insights:


Play dates can be a lot of fun for children and a great break for parents. There is no one size answer for “at what age is it best to begin play dates”. Consider your child’s maturity level, how well he or she listens to directions from those who are not their own parents, and consider any special needs which may require additional support form an adult.
 
Sleepovers should be an option for children who feel comfortable at a friend’s home, assuming that you also feel comfortable with the situation. It is extremely important for a child to have access to you via phone call in case of emergency or anxiety. Often, you will be able to calm fears about sleepovers and still have the child stay over. However, if your child needs to come home, do not shame him.
 
If you feel it is necessary to say “no” to an offer for a play date or sleepover, be honest and clear. Perhaps now is not the right time, but in another six months, a child may be ready. Instead, offer another option such as a play date at the park or a daytime pajama party which ends before bedtime, but includes pajamas, ice cream, and movies just like a typical sleep over may have.
 
Most people will understand if you or your child have concerns over the age or stage of development and sleep overs or play dates. If your answer of “no” is not well-received, be patient. It may take time for the other party to understand that you are merely looking out for your child.



Surbhi from Positive Parenting
A mother of two and homeopathic physician was excited to share her views about play dates with us:



Personally, I believe play dates should be a mutual arrangement with parents depends on their child’s age, interest and hobbies. If a child is under the age 3, play dates are usually social event for both kids and parents. But for older kids, it is must.

Pre-plan whole event in term of timing, games, snacks etc. for avoiding any at moment inconvenience. It is best to discuss and plan ahead, the better you are organised, the more fun you can have.

I also prefer to keep the numbers low. With fewer kids, there is better the chance for quiet and independent play. Fewer kids are also easy to manage.

As a parent, play dates are an ideal time to set a good example for kids. It can be done easily by being a good host and good guest. For example when you are a guest, make sure have drop-off and pick-up on time, insist on helping with clean-up, and when you are a host, do not forget to collect necessary information about child (such as ask about emergency contact number, any food allergies etc.)

At last, have fun and enjoy the day is most important to create an awesome memory for future.

Sometimes, we all may have a bad day and not so good experience at play date. It could be because of any reason such as bad behaviour of other child. And due to this experience, if you are ready to give up, then there is no harm to say “no” for next event, by using humble words.



Thanks so much to our parenting contributors for sharing their insights and experiences on play dates and sleep overs!
 
Until next time, we would love to hear your tips on how you plan and manage play dates and sleep overs too.
 
Let us know in the comments below (if you have a website, feel free to include the link) 😊
 
If you have a topic you would like us to include, a tip you want to share, or you would like to feature as a contributor on "Who's The Expert" get in touch (let us know if you would like to receive email alerts!) or join our facebook group!

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Nicole
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My kids are still pretty young, but I am already thinking about when I would feel comfortable with different social interactions that will take place. Great post; especially love the reminder that each child is different so while we can research until our heads are numb, the best indicator for readiness is our own child.