Julie Cole: The Baby Machine


Playdate Etiquette

Find out what you're doing wrong

most of our playdates end with a few little guests looking like this

A friend recently suggested that I blog about playdate etiquette. At first I felt panic—there’s playdate etiquette? What social rules have I been breaking that I didn’t even know existed? After a moment of thought, I felt sudden relief—with a crew my size, we tend to do the playdate hosting so my opportunity to commit such offenses is fairly limited. Phew.

But then I got to thinking—why haven’t I noticed some of my visitors participating in behavior that might not be acceptable? Surely I have been annoyed by guests at some point? Twelve and a half years of playdates went running through my head and still, I came up empty.

This left me scratching my head—what are these unwritten rules around the playdate and why haven’t offenders annoyed me? I chatted with some mamas and discovered what the annoyances are and can now explain why they don’t bother me.

Annoyance #1: playdate guests who overstay their welcome

Some mamas reported that guests can make them feel anxious when they’re still lingering around as the dinner hour approaches. For a couple of reasons, this has never caused me stress. Firstly, I’m happy to have someone hanging about to chat with while I’m getting dinner organized. Just think of them as someone to watch the kids as you get dinner on. Another option would be to throw some snacks out and delay dinner so the fun can continue. Alternatively, invite your playdate guests to stay and just make more food. We perform the “fishes and loaves” miracle daily at my house. When I really do need to cut a playdate off, I simply say “Great to have you guys but I gotta get these rugrats fed and out the door to soccer/ballet/taekwondo/whatever.” So whether you feed your guests or chuck them out of your house—there’s no need for stress.

Annoyance #2: older child comes for playdate and doesn’t want to do the activity you planned

Don’t make plans. Let the playdate take whatever direction the kids want it to. The very best playdates are the ones where I don’t even see the little visitors—they disappear into the pack playing outside or doing dress-ups in the basement. Ditch the activity planning because you’ll be surprised by how well they can entertain themselves. Besides, playdates often free up some time for a busy mama—just ask the mothers of singletons. Take advantage while you can.

Annoyance #3: they leave and your place is a dump

Admittedly, big messes don’t get my knickers in a knot, but as the play is winding up, I tell kids (mine or not) that it’s time to tidy up. Sure, I sometimes discover a hidden mess in the basement, but that’s what basement doors are for.

By keeping the focus on the “play” part of the playdate, you should find your stress levels decreasing. But what am I missing here—what other playdate offenses are being committed out there?