Play date etiquette

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As a parent, I find there are few things more terrifying than my child asking to go and play at a neighbouring friend’s house. Play date etiquette surrounding these situations is just so….confusing.

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I find play date etiquette can be horrendously confusing, especially when it comes to playing with the neighbours’ children.

Bizarre as it sounds, this is all a bit new to me, despite having been a parent for almost a decade. Having school friends or family friends round to play is nothing new, but friends who live in the neighbourhood? This is new territory for us as a family.

We recently moved from a street where there were few children. We lived at the top of a hill with a major A-road at the bottom so the few youngsters who lived nearby were never allowed out for their own safety.

It’s completely different where we live now. There are quite a few kids the same age as Helen and Izzy, no steep hill and the closest A-road is a comfortable distance away.

This has been great for the kids, magnificent in fact. They’re making friends and it’s wonderful to watch. It has, nonetheless, put Mrs Adams and I on a steep learning curve.

For instance, how is one to react when your child wanders into the kitchen and excitedly declares: “I’ve just seen Bob outside. Can I go to his house. His mum has said I can?”

When I hear such words, my world stops. Okay, actually, no it doesn’t stop, but it does turn a little more slowly as I process the various issues that must be faced here.

Do I know Bob? If not, well the answer has to be an automatic no. This will naturally lead to a meltdown from my child / children who won’t appreciate part of a father’s job is to keep his offspring safe.

If yes, I do know the child concerned, I have to figure out if I know the mum / dad? If not, it’ll be no.

If the answer to the previous questions is yes, are they the kind of people happy to host my daughters? Do I know exactly where they live? Do I have their contact details?

Before agreeing to anything, shouldn’t I go to their house myself and check Bob’s mother has genuinely said it is okay for my kids to go and play? If I do this, doesn’t it look a bit presumptuous? If I agree, do I say no more than 30 minutes so they don’t out-stay their welcome?

There’s then the issue of swapping contact details. Call me old fashioned, but I feel better if we’ve got each other’s numbers, so we can contact each other if there’s an issue.

We then stumble into the “man” issue. I’m male and the main carer for my kids.

Mums, in my experience, think nothing of swapping contact details. I, however, am a guy. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I live with this mild paranoia that a mum might get the wrong idea if I appear to offer my mobile number too readily. Is there the possibility it might look slightly inappropriate?

Putting such issues aside for a moment, might it look a bit too formal if I insist on swapping mobile numbers before allowing my kid to play in another family’s house just a few metres away?

Speaking of formal, I excelled myself the other day when I was asked by a neighbouring mum for my phone number. I was just about to hand over one of my blog’s business cards when it occourred to me that would be the kind of thing Jacob Rees-Mogg probably does.

I stopped myself just in time and scribbled my number down on a scrap of old envelope. This approach struck me as much more in keeping with the informal nature of a play date.

I think a lot of my concerns come from the fact we’re new to the area. We’re still getting to know the neighbours and they’re getting to know us.

In time we’ll all get to know each other and each other’s kids. We’ll all have each other’s phone numbers, who knows, maybe, just maybe, we’ll create a WhatsApp group (perhaps I should suggest it? Mmmm, no, too soon, we’re the new family on the block).

We’ll also learn what days such and such is free and so and so isn’t. We’ll all know each other’s limits and know when 30 minutes is too long or when an hour isn’t long enough.

That’s my hope anyway. Even if I find the etiquette slightly terrifying, I’m just happy the kids are making friends in the neighbourhood.

Do you feel this way about your kids in the neighbourhood? Do you worry about your kids outstaying their welcome or feel the need to have the neighbours’ phone numbers? As I say, i’m new to this so tell me how to handle these situations, I’m all ears.

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

24 thoughts on “Play date etiquette”

  1. We’re not currently at the stage of the kids being old enough to walk to someone else’s house without me dropping them off, so I’ve not had to experience this dilemma yet. I can see how it can be a dilemma though! I don’t think you should worry about asking for numbers/handing yours out though. It just shows that you care as a parent and that you would take the safety of someone else’s children seriously if they were in your care. That’s no bad thing. #BlogCrush

    1. That’s a very kind thing for you to say about swapping phone numbers. It’s certainly how I would view things if someone gave me their number. Best of luck when your kids reach that age.

  2. So great that the kids are making friends in the new area! I wish we lived somewhere where we could allow a little more freedom – not really easy in south-east London. Good luck finding your way round the ettiquette 🙂 #blogcrush

    1. Oh Hayley I know what you mean. It was a corner of SE London we moved from and nobody let their kids out. Moving here has been a real eye-opener.

  3. This is such a good post. My eldest 3 are all teens now yet I still feel I should have numbers for parents when they’re round someones house but apparently this is cringeworthy stuff!!! Aaarrgghh !!! Love the Jacob Rees-Mogg comment , he would so do that!!! #BlogCrush

    1. Yes, was a bit daring to compare myself to Jacob Rees-Mogg but there you go! I imagine he desire to know what your kids are up to is even greater when you have teens.

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  6. This post made me smile. I remember feeling similar feelings and as a woman, I felt I was expected to ‘get it’ from the get go. I didn’t. Doesn’t it feel so odd letting your precious child go off and spend hours in the care of a complete stranger!! There is an element of trust and faith needed here (and that can feel difficult, right?) – and keep communication between you and your children going. That way you’ll know of something is off. Otherwise – don’t worry about the contact details thing – do what you need to do! I cringe at some of the things I did and didn’t do when I look back. I’m pretty sure, though, that most of us do. Good luck, I’m certain you are doing great xx

    1. Interesting, yes, I am sure I’m unwittingly committed some major faux pas over the years! As you say though, we’ve all done it. Yes, I should simply do what I have to do to get hold of those contact details. I like your style.

  7. Ha ha …Jacob Rees-Mogg indeed! It does seem as if this will all sort itself out as you get to know these neighbours better: there is nothing like your kids to introduce you to new people! No doubt they are all thinking the same thing so will hardly be surprised if you ask for, and offer, contact details. Axe murderers aren’t generally in the habit of offering their telephone numbers unsolicited so I don’t think they will be offended! Nice one Jacob … I mean John!

    1. Oh the kids have done a superb job of introducing us to the neighbours! Oddly, I have never knowingly swapped contact details with an axe murderer so I guess there is something in what you say.

  8. yes, it’s a confusing world, probably more so for a Dad. Kids are great for introducing you to the new neighbours, that’s for sure.

    1. Dreadfully confusing and while I don’t wish to make a big thing of it, yes I think us dads do have a slightly rougher deal because everyone expects mums to deal with such things. C’est la vie!

  9. My kids are only just 3 and 1 so this is not something that we have had to deal with, we also live a 20 minute drive from any kids haha. As a kid I grew up in a small town and my best friend (to this day) lived right down the road and I can remember her riding her bike down to play with us because our parents didn’t let us go other places much. I honestly with they would have let me go to her house it was 5 minute walk and a 2 minute bike ride. I would have been able to make more lasting friendships and not have to fight to keep them after we moved away and start our own families because I couldn’t make those lasting bonds.

    I know that I will be sure to put forth the effort even if it comes off as too much so my kids have the chance to make those friendships. Man this has me thinking of how I would handle a lot of things as they get older. #blogcrush

    1. Good luck as your kids grow and you have to handle these things. As it happens, I lived somewhere very rural as well so didn’t really come across these circumstances while growing up.

  10. I can’t say I envy your position, and I know I’d be asking myself the same questions. I think you’re right to insist on contact details first though.

    A possible ice-breaker could of course be “Your Bob has just invited my daughter over – if that’s not what you had in mind I’d be happy to have Bob over for [insert time here]”.

    The kids still get play time, you avoid being too presumptuous while still introducing yourself and getting an opportunity to size the parent(s) up as hosts.

    1. Yeah, that’s kinda the approach I have taken as it happens. thus far it has worked but wowzers, it is sometimes tough figuring out what is and isn’t acceptable.

    1. Oh it will Dave I’m afraid. A couple of years into school and these are the questions you will face. Best of luck when you do face the sleepover question.

  11. My eldest is just getting to the age where she can go and play at her friends houses and I’m like you – I definitely want to know the parents, and I definitely want to have their contact details. But as long as I can direct message them on Facebook, I’m not too bothered about a phone number. But yeah I totally get all your worries on this – it’s a minefield out there! #blogcrush

    1. Oh but Facebook isn’t ideal. You’ve got to have the Messenger app on your phone etc. etc. It is a minefield. Maybe I should write that etiquette guide!

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