Before sending your child on a drop-off play date, these are questions every parent should ask–for your child’s safety and for your own peace of mind. Here are the top 8.
Now that we’re a few weeks into kindergarten, my son has started asking if he can have his new friends over, and if he can go play at their houses as well. On the one hand, this is wonderful – making good friends was one of my top goals for my son this year and I’m so happy he’s found some buddies so quickly. On the other hand, though, this totally freaks me out.
Why? Because this type of play date, the “drop off playdate”, is a new thing to our family and comes with a whole host of questions and concerns we haven’t had to address before. The biggest one being, “How do I effectively communicate with the parents of my child’s new friends to ensure he’s safe, comfortable, and happy at their homes without coming off as a totally over-protective helicopter parent?”
Luckily, my husband was able to attend a wonderful talk on this subject hosted by our local toddler-group a few years ago, so we’ve been thinking about these things for a while. What he learned there, plus some polling of my mom friends with older kids, has led me to come up with this list of things to discuss with other parents before my son is allowed to play at their house.
Yes, some of them are a tad uncomfortable. Basically it boils down to this: I’d rather deal with a little awkwardness and know my children are safe, then forego these questions in the name of politeness. Ready for my list? Here we go…
- Who will be at the house?
This question covers a lot. It will fill you in on what adults are present (will it be the parent you know, or someone else?), as well as whether or not any older siblings and their friends may be present. It’s a good idea to at least meet whoever will be supervising the kids, and to make sure you’ve exchanged contact information.
- What will the kids be doing?
This is a good way to establish some of your preferences and rules with other parents. For instance, you might not be OK with your child spending an entire afternoon watching TV or playing video games. And even if you are OK with movies, you might want to mention that you’re not cool with anything above a certain rating. It will also help you to make sure your kiddo has everything they need to participate, such as rain boots, bikes and helmets.
- Will the kids be on the computer and, if so, will they be supervised?
Yes, this one starts to feel a little uncomfortable but it’s important. If you wouldn’t leave your child alone with the internet at your house, then you need to make sure they don’t have unsupervised access elsewhere.
- Will you be driving anywhere? If so, and you’re comfortable with others driving your child around, you may need to leave your child’s car seat with them.
- Will there be lunch/snacks/dinner?
This is just good to know to help you plan your day. But it can also be a critical point if you have a child with allergies or dietary restrictions. If your child does have special dietary needs, consider offering to bring a snack for everyone to the playdate to make things easier on your host.
- Do you have any pets?
Nothing like showing up to a new friend’s house and being greeted by a Pit Bull at the door! This is also good info to have if your child has allergies or a fear of dogs.
- How do you handle disagreements? Again, this one can be a little uncomfortable but it’s good to know that everyone is on the same page as far as what are (and are not) acceptable discipline practices.
- Do you have a gun in the house?
Yep, this one is going to be awkward and uncomfortable. Ask anyway! And don’t stop there, ask if it’s kept locked up and in a separate place than the ammunition. It’s also a good idea to ask about any other possible safety hazards, such as swimming pools or trampolines.
One final thought about drop-off play dates. Along with doing your due diligence, you also want to consider whether your child is mature enough to speak up for themselves when they feel uncomfortable in a situation. Make sure your child knows she can call you to pick her up at any time (and that she knows how to do so). Finally, many kids just don’t know what to say when they’re feeling uneasy and want to go home so rehearse a few short phrases they can use such as, “My stomach hurts, please call my Mom”.
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