It’s quite a milestone when your child has their first play date – suddenly they’re not a baby anymore and have actual friends! Completely new territory for you and them, so it’s perfectly normal to be a bit anxious or unsure about the finer details. Here’s what all parents think about – plus some handy tips to help things run smoothly – when it’s their child’s first play date.
1. Do I stay or go?
Sometimes it can be unclear whether the parent of the other child is keen for you to stick around or not. If your child is quite young then the expectation is probably yes, you’ll be coming along too – especially if they need help with going to the toilet or are likely to get upset if you leave them there. For a first play date it’s definitely a good idea to be there, particularly if you don’t know the other parent well or if your child has allergies, but if you get the feeling they weren’t expecting you (no cups of tea are offered!) then just explain that it’s your child’s first play date and if it’s okay, you’ll be hanging around. Your child will feel so much more comfortable with you there and you won’t have to worry! If it’s awkward, you can always just keep it to a short play.
2. Do I bring their younger sibling?
Many of us don’t have much option in this department, particularly if you have a baby who’s still breastfeeding or a little one not in daycare. Provided you look after them while you’re in someone else’s home, bring snacks and toys for them, and don’t let them run riot over the house or ruin the play date for the bigger kids, then most parents won’t mind at all. If you’re particularly worried, give the other parent the heads-up before the day so they know to expect your other child too.
3. Will their partner be there?
A lot of people work from home these days so even if the play date is during the week, there’s no guarantee that the other person’s partner won’t be there as well. But even if they are, it’s unlikely that both parents will be actively involved in the play date and chatting to you, so don’t be thrown off if you’re outnumbered initially. And if you’re wondering whether to bring your own partner too, don’t do it unless it’s on a weekend or another time when everyone isn’t working and they’ve openly extended the invitation to your whole family.
4. Do I bring snacks?
There’s no set rule for this one but the polite thing to do would be to bring some snacks of your own, particularly if the timing coincides with a meal time. If your child is particularly fussy when it comes to food and drinks, or they have allergies, then bringing your own snacks is definitely a good idea too. Just remember to bring enough to share with the other child – you don’t want food envy ruining the play date!
5. What kind of snacks should I bring?
If you’re worried about being judged on your snacks, leave the sugary stuff behind and opt for wholesome things like fresh carrot sticks and sliced apple. If you don’t care though, just bring whatever your child likes to eat, plus some extra for their friend. Best to avoid anything with nuts though, in case the other child has a nut allergy. It’s a nice idea to bring something for yourself and the other parent too, but not essential – the play date is for the kids after all!
6. Is the other child vaccinated?
This is rightfully a concern for many parents, particularly if they are pregnant or have younger children who aren’t fully vaccinated yet. There’s not much you can do if you turn up at their place and discover they’re not immunised (unless you’re prepared to leave), so if you are worried about this then best to ask the parent outright before the play date actually goes ahead. Even if they end up being offended, you have a right to prioritise your family’s health.
7. I hope it goes well
First play date nerves are not just reserved for the child, often it’s us parents who are more anxious about it! Will my child have a good time? Will the mum or dad be friendly? Will my child behave themselves? Will the other kid be good for my child? Unless your children have spent a lot of time together already (perhaps at daycare), there’s no way to know whether the play date will be a success or not. And even then, children can get tired or upset over minor things such as sharing toys. So just remember that this is only the first of many play dates to come, and if it’s a complete disaster you can always try again later or opt for a different friend. Child’s play is completely unpredictable so don’t have too many expectations, go with the flow and hopefully your child will have a great time.