Q&A: playdates

Sorry for the late post–I was off doing class parent duties (yeah–I know; I'm not sure how it happened either…)

Kate (one of many) writes:

"What's the deal with playdates? At what age do you start dropping off the kids and not having to stay and make polite conversation? If the kids know each other from school but the parents don't, it can be a little awkward. And how do you navigate different rules at friends' houses?"

I think this varies regionally. And by birth order of child. For my younger one, since all his friends were younger siblings of my older one's friends, we did drop-off from a super-young age, and just called it "can you babysit him while I go do X?"

Once they're in Kindergarten, I'd guess kids all over the world are being dropped off for playdates. Before that, I think it varies from region to region. Some of those differences are probably attributable to different expectations of independence regionally, but I'm also guessing that the demographics of the caregiver situation might have something to do with that, too. (In areas where there are more parents home they probably stay, whereas babysitters maybe don't stay as often?)

As far as the rules of the house go, I'd say the parents need to open that conversation up at drop-off in front of the kids. So, for instance, if you know you have a rule at home that generally doesn't fly other places (like kids being allowed to jump on the couch or something like that), you probably want to address it when you get there with a little, "Now pumpkin, even though we can jump on the couch at home, I'm betting no one can jump on the couch here" then look to the other parent for confirmation.

Otherwise, just ask at the beginning of the playdate if they have house rules, and remind your child to abide by the house rules. I'm assuming most kids have been somewhere else (if only a grandparent's house) and understand that different places have different rules, so it shouldn't be hard sell for the kids. And we're hoping the parents can be sanguine about differences and not get defensive about different rules.

How do you guys navigate the rules? And at what age did/do you start dropping off for playdates? (Don't forget to put demographic info about where you live.)

64 thoughts on “Q&A: playdates”

  1. We’re in San Francisco, and my 4 year old preschooler does not get dropped off. But she’d be ready to, I think that mostly has to do with the fact that I really like the moms of all her friends, so we’re always happy to socialize. In fact some of her playdates are with friends she might be somewhat lukewarm about, but the moms want to hang out.

  2. I am very interested in hearing the comments (great Q Moxie), and I have a follow-up question that I need to preface with some preamble…I’m new to the play date scene, and I recently moved to a new city. I’ve met a couple of mothers of kids around the same as as GB (1-2 yrs) and we’ve had a few play dates. I’m also interested in friendship with these moms too but I’m not sure how to navigate that. Our kids are too young for drop-off play dates so we hang out and chat and, so far, the chat is pretty good.
    When do I know that the other mom wants more than a play date? I feel like such an idiot posing this question because I think I should know the answer to this simple social situation but I absolutely don’t. Normally, I’d judge this based on invitations to non-child centred activities (dinner party, coffee) but we all have demanding jobs, little socializing time, and difficulty finding sitters that make those events unlikely.
    (Oh my…I feel like a freaking 12 year old asking about the rules of dating…)
    How have others handled this situation?

  3. We’re in San Francisco and my 4 1/2 year old gets dropped off, mainly with friends from preschool (and same deal if they come over). She also sometimes goes home with a friend and I pick her up from their house after work. It’s an all day school and I think the parent group self-selects for desiring independence since the kids go out on the city buses every day, etc. Anyway, the kids know each other well and it’s fine. Not that I don’t like the other parents–I do–but whoever’s dropping off usually has something they can use the time to get done. I always remind Mouse to “cooperate with Parent Name and follow the house rules”. She actually gets pretty annoyed if I stick around and chat, and lately she’s been asking if she can do sleepovers. Several of her friends do already, but I haven’t been quite ready. She’s going to try sleeping at grandma’s house without us over xmas and we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

  4. freaky that this is today’s post, I’ve been thinking of this all day!…we’re in Ireland and a little girl of my son’s age (about two and a half) is dropped over every Tuesday morning for two hours. As I only know the mum as an acquaintance, it’s actually a ‘business’ arrangement as she pays me for the 2 hours. The question I wanted to ask is for people with experience of that age group having playdates together is how to control the arguing and bickering over toys etc. I can see my son’s point of view as he is a normal two year old, very determined to point out to everyone’s what is ‘his’ etc. When he goes to creche there is none of the arguing and fighting…purely I imagine because he knows that the toys are there for everyone and they don’t belong to him. He is generally very good at sharing, but on home territory he just doesn’t seem able to cope! Hope that isn’t a thread hijack!At this stage I think maybe a 2 year old is too young for ‘playdates’ which is why I am glad it’s more business for me right now. The two kids do enjoy each other’s company and they are learning how to play together which is good but it’s hard and it takes a lot of skill to keep them occupied and under control. I am not sure how this would work in a very informal setting such as a drop-off playdate every once and a while.
    I think maybe 5 or 6 is when playdates come to the fore but when I was little I was only left at people’s house who my parents knew very well. And I think I would stick to that rule. They get loads of time to play together at school anyway, so if you were that uncomfortable making conversation with the parents I would give leaving my children there a miss. That’s just my opinion on something I actually know little about! I think if there is a lot of reciprocity as in Moxie’s situation, you babysit them today and I’ll watch them next week etc you have more confidence in setting ground rules for how it’s all going to work. If it’s a random playdate, ugh who knows how that is going to go!!

  5. @chaosgirl…I totally get your question! I think I have pretty much given up on the befriending other mothers front…I am the stay at home mother version of the old cat-hoarding spinster lady! I just make sure the kid gets out and sees some other kids every now and then. Thank goodness I have a nice husband!

  6. I live in Toronto which I suspect would have similar cultural playdate “norms” as the east coast of the US. My daughter is 3 and I don’t do the drop off yet. Mostly I go along and on the day when I have help, my part-time nanny takes her to a standing playdate.Chaosgirl, it is SO like dating, eh? I have only lived here for 7 years so am also making friends out of mommy friends, if that makes sense. Like you noted, I find that the biggest barrier is time. If the other mom is doing fulltime paid work, it’s really hard to get together. Friendships that would form really quickly pre-kid take much, much longer post-kid.
    Another wrinkle that I find in my ‘hood relates to working moms. I have the luxury to stay home with the girl and also chose not to have a fulltime nanny. Most of the moms in the ‘hood are doing paid work and the v. v. few who don’t, most still have fulltime nannies.
    Net net, it’s a challenge to find playdates that are “nannyless”. For those who do have fulltime help, the nannies are to social convenors for the kids so if you don’t have one, you have fewer playdates.
    One final comment (have another slurp of coffee….), I found that the older the girl gets, the more important it is to have “real” things in common beyond “hey we have a baby the same age”. The first few years didn’t matter so much – there was so much to learn/discuss.

  7. Northern Virginia, mom to 1st Grade only child (boy).The grownups are still shmoozing at playdates for the most part ’round these parts. But I think that will end as we make more playdates with kids MM has met at his elementary school.

  8. DC ‘burbs here — actual expected drop-off (as opposed to saying “Do you want to run an errand/have coffee by yourself/sit alone and revel in the silence” once we know how things are going) tends to happen at 4. Younger than that, and you often need both parents around for refereeing/pulling the plug on a bad playdate. I suspect this has to do with the actual shared interest thing someone has mentioned about — once your kid is actually capable of interacting steadily with another kid for an hour or two because they like to do the same things together, at length, dropping off makes more sense.The SAHMs I know with nannies tend to have multiple children, so the moms and the nannies have other things to do than hang around for a playdate with an older kid.

  9. I did/do the drop-off thing weekly with my almost-2-year-olds, but it’s really more of a babysitting – my friend watches all three kids once a week, and I do the same. All other playdates involve the parents all hanging around, but we usually meet at the park or some public playspace anyway.This is in the Boston area.

  10. @chaosgirl. When I had my little guy all of my friends were either single/childless. So I started a working moms playgroup for my area so I could make mom friends. There are a couple of moms who consistently come to scheduled events/playdate or at least e-mail if something comes up. Since we can e-mail each other, it makes it easy to schedule an impromptu playdate or get-together with just one other mom.I’ve developed a pretty good friendship with one of the moms, we e-mail back and forth and even got our entire families including husbands together a couple times. It helps that her kids and mine have similiar temperments and get along great. So far, we’ve gotten together once when the kids weren’t around for a mom’s night out but clearly scheduling is a bit of a bear on that front.

  11. I am a long way from needing to worry about this but out of curiosity … do kids ever just go over to little Billy/Suzie’s house and play anymore or is it all structured now?

  12. I’m in the middle of figuring out playdates myself. My girl is 19 months, and I just want her to have social interaction with other kids. At the playground, she kind of stares at the other kids with fascination, but she doesn’t really know how to play. A neighbor has a boy her age, and I take her there once a week. It is awkward that the toys are HIS and he doesn’t want to share. Right now, I don’t want to just drop the girl off, but I would love to find a Mom to have a “drop off relationship” with.

  13. I’m with Meg – HATE that word.I’m in northern New England w/ a 2.5-year-old. We have not really done any of those words-that-shall-not-be-mentioned — although I have done childcare swaps with a friend whose son is the same age as my daughter. We had a regular one-day-a-week swap that worked ok for a while (he’d have the kids one week, I’d have them the next).
    Now, though, we’ve formed a babysitting co-op that is facilitating a lot more exchanging of childcare… so since the whole point is babysitting, there is no hanging out w/ both (sets of) parents. I really like it – my daughter is getting exposed to a whole bunch of different families, and we’re forming stronger networks in our community.
    I have no idea if that answers the question… 😉

  14. I should add that my daughter is in daycare 4 days/week, so we don’t really have a lot of time/need for more traditional playdates.

  15. Vancouver, CanadaMy son is only 2, so no drop off yet…unless I know the mom really well. I don’t think that there is a right age or time for it. I think that it is whenever the parent and child feel comfortable. It can be as early or late as you want, as long as everyone is in agreeance. For me personally, I like being there for now. Sometimes a little adult conversation is good!
    One thing that came to mind when I read this post is something that happened to me once.
    I was watching an acquaintance’s son once, and when they come over to drop him off, Mom proceeded to tell me all the rules that I had to abide by and the schedule that I should follow. 1/2 an hour of reading time, 1/2 an hour of craft time, 1/2 an hour of free time (that wasn’t exactly it, but I’m sure you get my point). I had to follow all her rules that she made up with her son. I was looking forward to my son and hers playing together and now I had to follow her schedule? Nope, wasn’t going to do it. They played together, they had fun and that was the end of that. The next time she wanted me to look after her son, I said no. I don’t want the pressure of knowing that I am not following all of her rules, or wondering if I’m doing it right. I mean, I can see where she is coming from. I have fought the urge to do the same. I have never told her this, and I still talk to her every now an then, and our kids do get together once in a while, but only when she is around to in-force her own rules.
    And I agree that the word “playdate” should be banned. 🙂

  16. So. CA, with a 3 year old boy:What if you schedule a playdate with someone and they think it’s a dropoff and you think it’s a mom’s get together??? That would be awful. Just sayin’.
    I am not ready to do dropoff playdates mostly b/c I don’t think it’s fair to anyone to expect them to referee alone the troubled world of 3 year olds (someone recently mentioned to me that they had earthquake-proofed their house before they even had kids so babyproofing was easy….and I’m still wondering what the difference is between earthquakes and 3 year olds). But I look forward to the day when I can do a dropoff playdate and know that there aren’t going to be any major issues that crop up in the 2 hours I’m gone.
    Any playdates we schedule now are still more with the moms in mind than the kids….though as vacation approaches I’m slowly wondering how I will survive 2 weeks of constant Train Playing without some little dude to come over and ease my pain for an hour or two….don’t care who the mom is, just someone please come and rescue me from being the voice of Percy.

  17. This is kind of funny to me, having a two-year-old, since for me playdates are just as much, if not more, for me as for my little girl. Actually we just call it “getting together and letting the kids play.” I guess it’ll be different in the future, but right now it strikes me as quite weird, the idea of dropping her off to play at someone’s house without me. I want to play, too!

  18. Southeast US – 2 boys, 8 and 15 mo.The eight year old has been having drop off at a friend’s house to play events since PreK- age 4.5/5. Prior to that it was group activities where the parents all stayed – like a birthday party. Drop-off watch my kid seems to be more between adults who are already friends than moms you’ve met through your kid – at least until the kids are old enough to ask to play with a certain friend and can go to the bathroom by themselves.
    The baby has been to my friend w/a kid’s house and she and her daughter have been to ours but we both stayed for the visits. If she wanted to run an errand or needed me to watch her, she’d say so. Wouldn’t really be about the kids playing since they tend to ignore each other except to fight over toys. He’s in daycare 5 days a week. I think he gets plenty of socialization so I don’t feel the need to arrange anything specifically for him at this point.

  19. I love the dating analogy. In that analogy, I apparently got married on a first play date. Once.The rest have all been skip-the-kiss, handshake-at-the-door. No, wait, two were ‘we’d love to be friends but neither of us has enough life space for friends at the moment’. Friendly, good conversations, but not enough space in life to drive us to rearrange our limited space more often.
    Most of the playdates my kids go on (and there aren’t many, really – they mainly want to play with each other, at this point), were drop-off starting around 5 years old (preK or K), but the host mom usually makes it clear if you can go and do something fun while they play.
    @chaosgirl, my ‘we have crossed the line into friends’ mark is either a) the offer to be standby backups for picking up from school/bus drop-off, or b) the playdates always end up rolling into dinner time. If either happens, I know that there’s more range her than just ‘mom of my kid’s friend’.
    I have a lot of old friends with whom I can’t spend more time, kids-of-like-ages notwithstanding. Many of them have a distance issue – that is, it takes an hour to get there. Many have life schedule differences – I work, they don’t, or just ‘busy weekend’ vs ‘busy week’ disconnects.
    @zimbabweanjen, 2 1/2 is hard. I recall having 2 1/2 year old twins as being a constand round of refereeing EVERYTHING. Two minutes of management, followed by 30 seconds of good play, followed by two more minutes of management, coaching, modeling, etc. It was a bit easier with friends dropping by, but we had to prep the heck out of it – 1) Let’s put away everything you don’t want to share. (Funny, the more work required to clean up, the more stuff they decide is probably okay to play with), 2) reminders of how the play situation goes, and when to call for help with a problem, 3) set up something to DO, even if it is just ‘race around outside’ or ‘show him your garden’, that kind of thing. And then we’d still end up playing referee.
    I sometimes wished I could grow two arms out each knee (front and back) so I could just wade in between them and block them from the latest round of fury at each other. But then they turned 3, and … ah, yeah, much better. At 4, better still.
    @Cobblestone, we did have neighbors who we could have drop-by-and-play kind of playdates, and then they moved to Buffalo. WAAAAHHHHHH! They were also not US natives, so their expectations were much more relaxed. Most playdates I’ve had were split on the US vs Non-US native lines. All the UK/Canada/Sweden transplants were ‘drop them by, they can play in the yard until they’re sick of it, I’ll feed them something, see you in a few hours if you have something you need to get done’ kind of things (would have been more unscheduled if they lived anywhere near us); The US ones tend to at least start out very scheduled and coordinated. If our schedules are similar, then we have more overlap, but as the older sibs get older, that starts being more of a problem, as they’re off to event X, class Y, etc.
    Mainly not a lot of help, I guess. But still wordy! :wince:

  20. also chiming in that I hate the word–anybody remember the Simpson’s episode where Marge schedules a playdate with Ralph? It’s awesome.Anyway, @Cobblestone, if Billy and Suzie don’t live on your block and your kid isn’t old enough to cross streets on their own (there’s another discussion, but 4 is certainly not old enough!) …and said kid is still too young to call up a friend and make their own invitation…and kids no longer leave school on their own but get signed out to parents at least in the early grades…and if families have various work schedules, impacting whether kids leave school when the program ends or stay for aftercare and kids may have some kind of weekend or afterschool lesson (nothing crazy in our case but Mouse has a weekend swimming lesson) …and there might be family commitments and birthday parties and whatnot…yeah, you kind of have to schedule it. It maybe feels like it should be otherwise, but there you are. Not to say we might not text a friend on a rainy Sunday afternoon and see if they want to do something, but a lot of the time they’re not available, for similar reasons.

  21. I say the drop-off happens when they’re old enough to play with each other without the constant Mama-helping-to-navigate-the-whole-sharing-issue. So, about 4?I’m in Minneapolis. Apart from her cousins, who Eldest has had sleepovers and such with and for those events we’ll slow down the car enough to toss her in the direction of their door, she has just one buddy that we do drop-off playdates with. I can’t imagine there are hard and fast rules around this stuff, as it seems soooo much to rely on knowing the parents, the gut feeling of leaving Precious One in their care, etc.
    I imagine we’ll start doing more of these as she grows older. So much depends on the comfort level with the parents. I think that’s deserving of a whole ‘nother topic.
    O snail, climb Mt. Fuji, but slowly, slowly! As they say.

  22. Small college town in the South, we do drop-off playdates with our 5 year old on weekends often – sometimes scheduled in advance, sometimes, “are you guys free this weekend? let’s touch base Saturday by phone and see if that afternoon looks good.” At this age, two 5 year old girls playing together are actually much less trouble than one 5 year old getting into it with her 2 year old brother. We started drop-off playdates at about 4, but they have definitely increased since 5.We have 3 families with similar-aged children within a couple of houses, so we do also do less-scheduled playing; we see them outside and go outside to join, or go over and knock to see if S. is interested in coming out to play. This is weekends now, but included evenings when it was lighter out. Formal playdates are more likely to be kids who live a little further away, kids from school whose parents I don’t really know well.
    I did do “bring your kid over and let them play and we’ll have a mommy playdate” before we got into the dropoff playdate age. Honestly, most children younger than 3 do not really play together, though they may play in parallel. I’d call it a mommy playdate and that made sense to most people. We also used to live across from a park, so got unscheduled ‘play date’ time by just hanging out there at likely hours.

  23. NYC outer borough. 4.5 yo girl (PreK) & 2.5 yo boy.This is on my mind a lot.
    My daughter has regular dropoff playdates with one friend, who happens to be our upstairs neighbor. The kids are very close and in each other’s houses a minimum of once a week–sometimes as many as 3 times. (@ Cobblestone: there is very little structure. Usually at our house they draw or play with playdough or build a clubhouse/swimming pool/garden with all the bed linens in my house. At the other girl’s house they usually dress up and play music and “do ballet” or play a game or with the dollhouse. At some point there is fruit and crackers. Dinner too, once every few weeks.)
    But this friendship between the girls evolved–it started when they were 3 and there was a lot of the moms hanging out on each other’s couches and having to guide things. Which was actually great for us because now we (the moms) are very close and forever dropping in on each other to borrow something out of the fridge, calling to see if the other needs something from the store, or looking after the other’s kids (my son or her 2.5 yo girl–who also play together sometimes–or 9 mo) when the other goes to drive carpool or move the car (alternate side).
    Anyway, this is the only kid in the neighborhood that I feel really comfortable having over for long periods. I know what she’ll eat, what she likes to do, how to referee her bossiness, and when to remind her to pee.
    I’ve gone to other playdates with my daughter in the guise of making it a double playdate–a lot of her peers have 2 yo sibs and I wouldn’t leave him anywhere but upstairs–but really I feel like I can’t expect other people to have a good grip on her personality after really brief meetings. I guess I should get over myself, but I frankly don’t want to be put in the same position. Sometimes I don’t manage whatever situation *my* kids are in very well; adding another person to that after-school inferno often seems like more trouble than its worth.
    Oh, and we don’t have a hell of a lot of toys (I mean, we’ve got plenty, just not as many as most other people seem to), so what if someone comes over to play who isn’t into art projects or playdough (the fallbacks)?

  24. We had next-door neighbors (who moved away after only 9 months and left me grieving for more than 9 months) who had boys just exactly the right ages to play with mine. They’d run back and forth every afternoon until I didn’t know what house/yard they were at. I got to know the mom, but we weren’t yet “friends” when they moved. But it was the first time, and the only time, my children have had regular after-school playmates. No one else is in walking distance, thereby requiring a playdate. And I have not, in seven years, mastered the art of playdates.What do you do if you invite someone over to play and they don’t reciprocate? My child will ask me to invite them again but it feels awkward and I don’t.

  25. I’m just wondering when “playdate” entered the lexicon. I don’t remember and can’t imagine my parents or anyone in their generation talking about them when I was a kid.And I’m with some of PPs, I hate the term. Maybe I’m just irked by the formalizing of yet another social interaction that I’ll have to get the hang of somehow.
    I still don’t have any other mom friends here in Paris, so I haven’t found out how and if it translate into French culture. However, school here starts at age three, so I assume that I’ll start getting invitations at that point. If anyone else in France has any experience with this, I’m very interested to hear about it.

  26. re: the Mommy Playdate …DD is 2 and I have been attending playgroups & ‘dates since she was about 10 months old, and *only now* am I starting to feel anything like “real” friendships with any of those moms. Plus I’m pretty extroverted and can talk the paint off the wall, so it probably takes even longer for people who aren’t like that. So for those who are not feeling the connection, I would say keep showing up and give it loooooots of tiiiiime.
    FWIW, the little one only occasionally remembers the names of the kids she sees regularly, but mostly they are interchangable to her as far as I can tell. Parallel play only at this point — no pretending, no sharing, no games. From what I’ve read, I won’t start looking for “real” play until about age 4. So it makes sense that’s when dropoff might begin.

  27. I’m in Toronto, Canada.So far all of our playdates have been with parents as well. I actually had one scheduled a couple of weeks back with one of my sons classmates, and she just wanted to drop him off (which was a bit dissapointing to me, since I also wanted to make some “mom friends”). It didn’t end up happening, since my son got sick at the last minute, but I’ve been thinking about this ever since.
    My son isn’t ready to be dropped off. Not at birthday parties, and not at other people’s houses (save for one friend who he’s been in school with and known since he was 6 months old). He’s just about 4, for reference.
    I am a work at home mom now, but I do have a nanny, and she tends to take my 2 boys (4 & 2)for playdates in the afternoons. I do have a group of moms whom I’ve been friends with since my first was born, and we do occasionally get together, but it’s hard, since we live far apart and have such varied schedules.
    I think my son is young, though, as it seems that most of the kids on his (Junior kindergarten) class at school do the drop off playdate thing. Toronto is a very difficult place to make friends, though, it seems, as people are all so busy, and not often interested in people they don’t know!

  28. I hate the word “playdate” too. It just implies that we’re working way too hard to schedule our kids’ social lives. I understand we’re past the random drop-in with the kid down the block days, and I accept that we have to schedule playdates, but I just hate the term.And you know what’s another thing I hate? The playdate where the other parent just wants to compare baby milestones and/or brag about her kid.

  29. @Julie- I had to laugh at the earthquake proofing comment. Earthquake proofing and babyproofing are indeed very similar!Also So Cal (San Diego), WAHM. 20 month old daughter. We stay for play dates now, but Hubby and I are thinking about the babysitting swap idea.
    @chaosgirl- the only non-child, non-spouse time I socialize right now is lunch time during the work week. Anything else is just too hard. If there was a play date mom I thought I wanted to be real friends with, I’d probably invite her to lunch during the work week.

  30. This is mainly for Parisienne – I’m British, live in Montpellier (south of France) and have 2 daughters, one very, very nearly 7 (27/12) and one 4.5. Both started school at 2 (yes, I know, it freaks everyone out but seriously? It was perfect for the girls, really cool and laid back).I find the French very “individual”, as in, once they’re in their homes, they stay there and don’t invite “strangers” over, so playdates of any kind are mind-bogglingly hard to put together.
    And with two kids it’s worse – 3 girls don’t play together, and one will inevitably be left out, but finding 2 sets of parents free (and willing) at the same time is virtually impossible.
    I think this whole thing would be easier in Britain.
    My best success (when the girls were smaller) was to hook up with an English-language group, where we did lots of Maman-kid playdates, and even got as far as a few “no kid-maman only” events, until our busy schedules got in the way.
    Now, we do playdates, but it’s nearly always us (or occasionally other English-speakers) who instigate them.
    As for drop off, we’ve done that with Carla (the elder daughter) since she was about 4 and with Lydie (the younger) since she was about 3. She even did sleepovers when she was 3…
    Guess this isn’t very helpful for N. American readers, but hope it is for Parisienne (feel free to e-mail me if you want any more help!).

  31. Northern Italy.I have recently become friends with an Irish woman who lives in the same town and her daughter is 6 months older than my son(who will be 4 in Jan). We have started doing the play-date thing at one another’s house, but as other PPs have mentioned it’s as much for us as it is for the kids. It can be a bit trying as there is also my 2 year old thrown in and lots of noise and shouting (us mothers, not the kids)and I come home more stressed than when I left.
    Much prefer the park for these kinds of encounters.
    And definitley not ready to do the drop off, unless the zoo keeper is a friend. Don’t think this will happen anytime soon, as my friend’s children are tiny and not ‘playing’ yet.

  32. Among my friends it really came down to potty training. Once the kids were able to use the bathroom relatively independently, drop-off playdates started happening.

  33. Re: the word playdate…(IMO) it’s just faster than saying “Should we get the kids together to play?” And it implies someone’s house vs. a public area like a playground. And also a small number of kids vs. a gaggle. Do people have the same objections to “playgroup”?I don’t know–the *only* thing on my daughter’s schedule is full day PreK. Any casual meetup to fill the hours between 3:30 and 5:30 is most welcome.

  34. Moxie:This is a great thread. I’d love to see a follow on (or maybe comments from the folks here) on how they deal with leaving kids at homes where you know the families have guns. Also, do you ask when you don’t know if they have guns?
    For several reasons, this is a personal issue for me. It is something that worries me (again for reasons i won’t go into) though my DD is a few years from independent play dates. Does anyone else have this fear? How do you handle it?

  35. Adelaide, Australia@chaosgirl, I moved cities 8 months ago so totally understand the making friends thing! I’m a SAHM so that may makes things a tad easier as we spend lots of time having playdates. I’ve only done three things with new friends without kiddos though. What we have done is invited the whole family around for a kid friendly dinner and that has been a great way to socialise and for hubby to meet some people too.
    Re dropping off for playdates, my two are 19mths and 3 so we aren’t quite there yet, I guess around the age of 4?

  36. Great comments! I also struggle with the issue of reciprocating. I work outside the home and have 3 children spaced close together (ages 7, 5, 3), so it can be a lot of effort to have another child over or to host a mom I don’t know very well. Clean up the house, have snacks on hand, etc. My 7 yr old gets invited over to friends’ houses a LOT and I feel like I should be keeping track of who/how often and then inviting those friends to our house. What is the etiquette there?Also, I’ve noticed that some families are just more into the playdate social scene and seem to enjoy it. I’m not and worry that it could have social ramifications for my kids. Do they miss out if they only interact with friends at school and are not always having one-on-one time with different friends outside of school? On the other hand, I don’t want to prioritize friend time at the expense of time with siblings. There are only so many hours in the day!

  37. Our family lives in a Maryland suburb about 20 miles outside of Washington,D.C.We recently moved and my 5 year old son started Pre K at the neighborhood elementary school. I’m still very new to the whole drop off playdate thing. The majority of his playdates are with families that we’ve know since he was a toddler, as we moved a mere one town over. However, in our new neighborhood it seems the majority of playdates are drop off. This could be because it is a small neighborhood and the school is in walking distance to everyone. A lot of families are second generation, with one of the parents growing up a few houses from where they now live and grandparents still in their childhood homes. I think this lends itself to a vibe that is more what we experienced as kids (60s,70s,80s). We’ve only done drop offs with a friend from his class who lives in the neighborhood. The boy’s mom was really great about it when I said I was new to the whole drop off thing. She was like does he have any allergies, foods you don’t allow, is playing Wii okay, etc. Pretty much we’ve decided no Wii/PS2/TV but snacks, even cookies are okay. Oh and because of the ridiculous amount of deer in our neighborhood she reminded me about checking for ticks (even as late as October) on my son. So at the end of this big old ramble I’d say having a direct conversation with this mom helped me a lot. Oh and the mantra “Different families, different rules.” has helped tremendously!

  38. I am a nanny in Marin County, CA, right next to San Francisco County. The children in this area have playdates, playdates, playdates.@ meg – I don’t have a problem with the word so much as I do with the concept. I am not fond of playdates, because I believe they often end up being just one more scheduled thing for the children. The children have 1 hour dance lesson. One hour swim lesson. One hour soccer. One hour this and one hour that. Oh, it’s a great relief for the parents and I suppose it teaches the children something. What it doesn’t give the children is time to engage and learn social skills of like aged children. These social skills take a long time to hone. It takes a while to learn how to stand up to the bully of the group. And it doesn’t all get done in one hour. The children of today have a schedule that is just plain too full. I am working with a 14 year old right now, who had playdates up the wazoo, and doesn’t have any notable social skills. Always adults huddling around, interfering with the development of a pecking order. It gave this child an overinflated ego. I so wish for him that he would have been given the chance to just play and get dirty.

  39. @ Jutta, that’s totally not how I come at a playdate. If anything, it’s a chance for the adults to have a conversation, ideally in another room; we only intervene if there’s an active dispute, or if the kids seem to need help moving on to the next activity (there is less of this with kids who are more familiar with each other). Or to cut apples.

  40. Boston area, ma: anyone up for a mommy and toddler playdate with a 2.5yr old? Now that we have slowly ventured into the mommy dating/personal dynamics of a playdate I was wondering if anyone else has experienced a mommy “break up”? I had the ideal, ideal, ideal playdate situation, great mom adorable kid, my daughter loved them both, we had so much in common and we were in and out of each others home every other day.Then, without warning or explanation, I was dumped and really I am so lonely but I dont know WHERE to start making friends again. I feel like eveyone around me has already made their friends and now I, who had always felt a bit smug about ow lucky I was to be friends with this mom, am left playdateless and having to start again from scratch.

  41. Orignally Denver, Colorado, but right now in Alice Springs Australia. Kid is 3.5 year old girl.I think playdates are crazy… really (and I too hate the word).
    I tried this when my daughter was around 12 months (with other moms there, no drop offs obviously) and I was excited there were a couple other kids (babies really) around and we moms got to socialize. Then it turned into a “let me invite you to my Tupperware party, and candle party, and everything party”, and for me I felt totally used… and I still wanted to hang out with them minus the getting hit up for buying stuff I didn’t need. Needless to say since I wasn’t into that scene I was “dumped”… I think getting kids together to play is fine, I really hate trying to make everything super structured… Kids have enough of that at school eventually.

  42. I don’t like the term because…dates. Dates have pressure and expectations and OMG will they LIKE me?I used to have “Mom, can I go over to Karen’s house?” and moms who wanted to get together did so over coffee, and nobody called anything a date, consarnit.
    And now I feel old. Very old.
    I’d tell all you whippersnappers to get off my lawn, but dude, my lawn is frozen solid. If I saw you out there, I’d have to invite you in for hot cocoa and give you a blanket.

  43. Ottawa, Canada.My daughter is almost 2. She regularly goes to “playgroup”, which is basically unstructured playtime at a community centre. The downside to this is I never know who will show up; sometimes it’s a great group of parents/caretakers/kids, other times it’s, ahem, less fun.
    I’ve also scheduled “playdates” for myself & my daughter. So far these have been with friends of mine (from pre-kid days) who have similar-aged kids. It is a “date” in that it is scheduled; we live too far apart to just knock on the door and drop in. But it’s basically unstructured playtime for the kids and chat-time for the moms.
    At 2, we’re definitely not ready for drop-off playdates. Maybe when we’ve spent enough time with another mom & kid that I feel they really know me & my daughter (and vice versa)…right now, not so much.

  44. @akeeyu, cracked up on the ‘old’ comment. We say that, too (when feeling old, we just say, and HEY, you kids, get off my lawn! – on the other hand, our house is in a college-student rental neighborhood, and actually do have to say things like ‘don’t pee in my flowerbeds’ and, sigh, ‘get off the lawn’ (I’ve lost more bushes to people walking through them… Grrr. Started planting prickly things just to stop the trend…).) Um, anyway, I’m old, too.@Jen – As for the guns, I don’t always remember to ask. I have asked a few times, but how do I know if they’re telling the truth? (Have you got ‘protecting the gift’? – I think it talks about how to ask about such things effectively.)

  45. My daughter is nearly 5. I’ll do a drop-off or host a drop-off if I know the kid well and know she and my daughter can play together mostly happily and independently. Otherwise, I, too, want other mother friends. I’ve worked full-time since she was born, so I think that’s inhibited socializing a bit. I have an 8-month-old, too, and I’m hoping other mother dating will go better this time around. I’m also hoping that with so many of us losing our jobs, maybe we’ll have more time for socializing, especially as I have lots of work friends I’ll really miss. That would be a silver lining to all this.

  46. @Jutta – I live in the East Bay, and I know MANY kids who are like the 14 yr old you describe. They’re like dogs who were not socialized as puppies. My boy is just 5 weeks old, so this stuff isn’t my most pressing concern, but I am actually wondering if I will be able to find ‘normal’ (not sure what less-loaded term to use here) kids for socializing, without the helicopter parenting that seems to be all the rage in these parts.@Jen – For me it would be an issue of 1) is the gun loaded, or is ammo stored nearby? 2) is the gun SECURELY locked & kids absolutely don’t know where the key is? If the answers are No and Yes respectively, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. More to the point, I would go more on my feelings about what kind of person or what kind of ‘vibe’ I got from the prospective playdate mom (and/or dad) as opposed to possible dangers in their home, such as guns, swimming pools, large dogs, much older kids, etc etc. BUT, I grew up in Texas in a responsible gun-owning household, and have never had a strong feeling against guns.

  47. @Biwani I live in Cambridge, my kid is 2, email me if you want to meet a socially awkward parent who is bad at making conversation and friends! and isn’t that enticing? ha!

  48. Washington DCI have a 2 1/2 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. The 4 yo has been on drop off playdates and is happiest when I leave her. I have dropped the 2 1/2 yo off at a birthday party under extenuating circumstances with people we know well. The issue we have has more to do with hosting since we have a small house, not tons of toys, no yard to speak of and the kids share a room. It is becoming particularly challenging to manage 4 year old playdates in the same space as the 2 1/2 year old. One of DD’s friends teases DS to tears and frustration fairly often. My current line is: We are playing at our house. DS lives here too. We are kind to everyone in our house and while you are here, you have to play with him as well. Fortunately this isn’t a problem with most of the kids we play with, but if anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this, I’d love to hear them.

  49. Rural Pacific Northwest, USOne of our closer neighbors, T, has a boy a few months older than our 13-month-old DS, so given the geographic isolation here, we were going to be friends & have our kids play together a ton whether we really wanted to or not! 😉 There just aren’t a lot of pre-K & under kids around here. When T asked us over to her place to play the first time, she called it a “playdate,” but we’ve never referred to it as that in a long time. About an hour’s drive away is a bigger city where we can take parent-child swim lessons, do kindermusik classes, or go to toddler playtimes at the library, so that’s where I’ve made some other mama friends, none of whom live anywhere near us. Things do need to be scheduled in advance because of the driving distances required, but that’s part of rural life. The upside it that when kids are older, they can play outside all day, and won’t need much structured play time.
    We used to live in a large US city, and everything about the scene was structured. Moms groups, play groups, structured play. Big city life lends itself more to that kind of structuring I think.
    re: Guns. Negotiating “playdates” (ugh… I know) & gathering info about a gun-owning family was part of a discussion enu & I had here about a month ago. So now I’m going to obnoxiously quote us via this link!
    http://www.askmoxie.org/2008/11/qa-keeping-kids-safe-on-social-networking-sites/comments/page/2/#comments
    @biwani – My heart is kinda breaking right now reading your comment about getting dumped by a mama friend you thought you had meshed with so well. Just know that her behavior is not the norm, and most people are not that callous. So try not to be too scared about putting a toe back into the water. I’m going to venture a guess and say it’s her, not you. The older I get, the more I just see that some people have deep unresolved feelings of inadequacy, and sometimes feel threatened by very small things.
    It’s too bad that we can never really get the honest feedback we deserve about why things ended. If you have a gut feeling about it, that’s probably accurate. But I’d just chalk it up to personal issues. Some people are very uncomfortable with intimacy. She may have felt terrified and vulnerable because suddenly you were so close, and in her past, maybe that has not been a happy thing for her. Maybe she saw her child really connect with you and that was threatening. Or maybe her hubby made a comment to her about your great rack? Who knows? I’m really sorry for your loss. Allow yourself to really grieve it, maybe take a short break from the scene before it’s time to move on. Keep your head up!

  50. @Jutta and eccentriclibrarian, I know what you mean about the upper middle class Bay Area scene! Mouse takes less lessons (swimming) than just about any of her friends even though she goes to an extremely non-helicopter-oriented preschool…and she’s 4 1/2 and hasn’t started team soccer yet, so her life is probably RUINED, omg!!!I wanted to recommend a book I read recently, Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau http://tiny.cc/FsjhL …it’s not a prescriptive book, it’s an ethnographic study where they went and lived with American families of various economic levels. The most interesting part for me was what the way they discussed the problems of the middle class–not just that the kids are overscheduled but that all of their activities are structured by age group–many such kids never interact with anyone who has more than a 6 or 9 month age difference, many of the sports and lessons are sex-segregated too, and many are in schools that are frighteningly homogeneous on other factors…so not only do they have adult interference constantly, they pretty much NEVER interact with anybody different from themselves; lower-middle class and poor kids, by contrast, tended not to be signed up for so many activities, and tended to play with a range of kids either from their extended family or their immediate neighborhood and were much better and dealing with different types of people, though they were much less able to hold their own in interactions with adults in authority positions. Anyway, super interesting book, made me think a lot about how I can make sure that Mouse isn’t constantly with people only of her gender/developmental level/ethnicity/socioeconomic class. Or in activities targeted exactly to a particular gender/developmental level/etc.

  51. The issue is we are so spread out as a society now. I don’t know any of my neighbors very well, and the only one with kids well I tried and tried to do stuff with her but she was never into it. So I gave up. I have two friends who live 10 to 15 minutes away and we “hang out” when we want to, taking turns going over one anothers house, the kids are still to young to interact alone (1 year to 2 years) but we arn’t all over them.I have done “mommy groups” where a large group of women meet at someone’s house once a week and it’s like 10 babys. It can be overwelming but fun, I met moms in that group who became friends later, but I found it hard to get to know anyone at those meetings, hopefully I met someone who I could email outside the group and get with.. was my motivation.

  52. @charisse – Soccer. Oh man. I say – resist it as long as you can! I see, from friends, how it becomes an amazing force that takes over the entire family’s life.

  53. I think you can’t ever underestimate how flaky other pleope are. Back when my daughter was itsy-bitsy and an only child, I used to organize playgroups at our house. I’d scurry around cleaning up for an hour or so, try to keep things tidy and getting all stressed out, and then at least 50% of the time, nobody would come. I have very happy memories of the times when it actually worked, but as far as providing regular peer social interaction, I did much better by agreeing to nanny for another little girl my daughter’s age. That was one of the best things I ever did for her social life, although giving her a little brother is probably #1. My daughter is a 3rd grader now and she tests high probable for Asperger’s. I think she is on friendly terms with almost everybody in her class at her private school (and we all worked pretty hard to get her to this neutral/mildly positive position), but there’s only one other family at school that regularly invites us for one-on-one stuff (we do get a fair number of birthday party invites). I used to work a lot harder at trying to book playdates, but Saturdays are so busy now (therapeutic riding for my daughter, free Lowes projects with the kids, grocery shopping, shoe shopping, flu shots, haircuts, yard work, confession, astronomy club stuff for my husband, cleaning the kids’ rooms with them, taking stuff to Goodwill) that it’s challenging just to take care of basic, routine tasks. We don’t have to do each of those things every week, but we do have to do at least four of them. I suppose we could make more of a point of inviting other kids to join us at Lowes or star parties. There’s also Friday after school, Sunday afternoon (after everybody gets out of church), and those long summer months. I actually have not a bad acceptance and completion rate with playdates, it’s just that it all seems to depend on me. I need to get more proactive about it, because we’re getting very close to the point where it’s totally child-driven, and I’m pretty sure that unless we work really hard now, she’s eventually going to be frozen out. Saturdays–so busy, summers? Large families–create own social

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