Children's playdate etiquette
When I was little and was bored with my four brothers and sisters – I would disappear next door to play with my best friend. We would practice endless baton routines with The Carpenters' Mr Postman Please blaring in the background on a record player. I had an open invitation and my mother always knew where to find me.
Today, playing with your best friend is more formal. We fit in 'playdates' between swimming, football and French. The spontaneity is gone. I know one mother who has playdates booked months in advance. She's a working mum and pencils in her daughter's name between items like 'Ian's review' and 'Ops meeting'.
Children's playdates: the etiquette
If you are new to the wonderful world of arranging your child’s extra-curricular play time, here are the unwritten rules.
- You must know the parents of the child you wish to invite on a playdate, or at least be able to recognise them in the playground. This is critical in order that you don’t ask the wrong child over to play.
- You must make eye contact with an adult when you drop off your child. Once a mother whom I barely knew dropped off her daughter while I was in the garden. It turned out my six year old had answered the door (despite attempts to teach her not to) and they quickly disappeared upstairs. I kept looking at my watch wondering where they were, and had no idea there was another child on the premises for whom I was responsible.
- If the playdate is after school, you must serve tea, otherwise the child will get home tired, cranky and hungry (instead of just tired and cranky).
- You must not serve cereal or chocolate for tea. Preferably make something from scratch and it absolutely has to include some sort of fruit or vegetable. I once realised during a playdate that I had nothing in the fridge or freezer to serve for tea, so I boiled pasta. I was even out of butter. The poor child asked if we were just having “plain spaghetti”.
- The children must not be watching telly or playing video games when the parents pick up. This is very bad.
- You MUST reciprocate. This is the whole reason for playdates. Yes, your child’s friendships are important, but let’s face it, we all love it when our little darling is at someone else’s house playing happily. I swear one dad almost jumped out of the phone and hugged me when I asked his daughter to ours on a Bank Holiday Monday.