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Stay-At-Home Dad: Play date dos & don’ts

Updated: March 25, 2013 6:12AM



My two sons are officially on the play date circuit. At least twice a week, my 6- and 5-year-old boys are invited over to a friend’s house, or I host one of their buddies here.

I attribute our packed play date schedule to winter hibernation. An indoor play date is a great way to occupy the time stuck inside. Bubba and Peter also seem to be at an age where play dates are more valuable. As toddlers, my boys seemed content having each other as pals.

Regardless, I’ve noticed a few things while hosting and sending my kids off on play dates. There are some dos and don’ts:

DO schedule a play date for at least 2 hours. I’ve found this is the minimum amount of time for the childless parent to run an errand, clean the house or simply relax. Any less time away from the kids feels like a tease.

DON’T expect your house rules to be enforced at someone else’s house. For example, you may ban toy guns, abstain from video games or outlaw makeup. Just don’t expect the parent hosting your child for a play date to follow the same rules.

DO be on time. Chances are both children are excited for the play date. Arriving late will have both kids bouncing off the walls. You also may want to extend the play date. That’s fine. Just communicate the extension with the other parent. All sorts of horrible things flash through a mom or dad’s mind when his or her child doesn’t return home on time.

DON’T feel obligated to schedule a bunch of activities. I’ve planned play dates at fun lunch spots and visited children’s museums with my boys and their pals. Yet, Bubba and Peter seem to prefer play dates where they simply hang out in our basement with friends.

DO offer to pay if another parent is taking your child on a play date to the movie theater or out to lunch. Chances are slim that they’ll take you up on it. But you’ll come off as appreciative.

DON’T forget to exchange phone numbers.

DO offer some sort of meal or snack if you are hosting the play date.

DON’T forget to ask about dietary restrictions. Even if you are sure peanuts or dairy products are safe, it’s always best to ask. Plus, simply asking lets the other parent know you’ve got your stuff together.

DO let kids give their friends a tour of the house. Last week, Peter proudly showed his friend every room of our humble home. The walk-through included a glimpse of my bedroom, which looked like it just hosted WWE’s Summer Slam. The tour also stopped in our bathroom. The unflushed toilet was a shade of orange.

DON’T be afraid to offer help in the bathroom. I always feel weird about it. But whenever my sons’ friends use our bathroom, I let them know I’m willing to be of assistance. I figure it’s better to help them and feel awkward than to send them home with a pair of dirty underwear in a bag.

DO keenly observe your child at play. I find it interesting to see how my children interact with friends. Peter is rarely bossy at home, but he can be somewhat demanding on a play date. Bubba is a pushover with some kids but not others.

Hosting play dates can be interesting and valuable. But there’s also a flip side. The more you host play dates, the more play date invitations you’ll receive. And much as I enjoy hosting a play date, it feels even better to ship my boys off to someone else’s house for a couple of hours.

Is anybody busy on Wednesday afternoon?

Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business reporter who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.

He can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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