As your kids reach school age, they will start requesting something often: playdates! These allow kids to hang out with their pals in a home setting, or just somewhere away from school grounds, where they can talk about interests, do fun stuff, watch movies, play games, and more.
For some parents, playdates are a scary thing, especially for young children. Do you really trust leaving your child at someone’s home you barely know, or with another parent, without your supervision? Conversely, do you really want the responsibility of taking care of someone else’s child?
There are good and bad things about opening your home to your kids’ friends.
10 You Know Where They Are: Good
You might not be old enough to remember that old PSA “do you know where your children are?” but it was very popular through the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. If your kids want to play with friends, having them do so at home is a big relief to you. You don’t need to worry if they are up to no good, are out and about in an unsafe neighborhood, or at someone’s home that doesn’t have your same rules.
Sure, they might be loud, raiding your kitchen, and running wild. But at least you know they’re safe.
9 They Might Mess Up Your House: Bad
You might have the most wonderful child in the world, but add a few friends to the equation, and many kids act differently in groups. They’re partly excited, partly looking to fit in. Nonetheless, a group of kids, or even two, could spell trouble.
If they’re somewhere else, at least you don’t have to worry about the aftermath. But if they’re in your home, this could mean spilled drinks, crumbs everywhere, and messes. Nip this behaviour in the bud by letting your child know you’re happy to invite their friends over as long as they know cleaning is their responsibility. When they know they’re the one who will be left with the mop and the broom after their friends leave, they’ll be more inclined to ask everyone to be respectful and clean.
8 You Can See How The Kids Behave: Good
You might only know your kids’ friends by seeing them briefly at school-related events, or in the school yard during pick-up time, and hearing about them from your kids. But having them in your home gives you a better idea of what kind of kids they are and whether they might be a good or bad influence.
Does this child say please and thank you? Do they have proper dinner etiquette, flush and wash their hands after using the bathroom? Help clean up before they leave? All of these things give you great insight into the company your child keeps, and what (or potentially who) could be driving bad (or good) habits.
7 They Might Report Back To Their Parents: Bad
While you probably have nothing to hide, you still don’t want nosy kids peeking around your home and reporting details back to their parents, like that you have a really big and expensive TV in your living room, or that your kitchen isn’t as spotless as theirs.
It really shouldn’t matter, but it might make you feel uncomfortable if you think the child is talking to their parents about all of the things their friend has at their house that they don’t, or conversely, how little their friend has.
6 You Get to Know Their Parents: Good
You can tell a lot about a child from their parents, and getting to know your child’s friend’s parents is always a good idea. You guys don’t need to have a dinner date or go bowling together or for a night on the town. But if their child spends time at your house, the parents will likely have to come pick them up.
At this point, you can use those few minutes while the child gathers up their things and puts on their shoes and jackets, or inevitably tries to extend the playdate, to engage in some small talk and get to know their parents better.
5 They Might Be a Bad Influence: Bad
If you allow a friend to come over and then discover that they are a bad influence, it will be tougher to try and have your child distance themselves from the friend now that you’ve opened your doors and home to them.
And while you have every right to discipline a child who’s in your home – they need to follow your rules in your house – you might feel uncomfortable telling someone else’s child to watch their language, or to say please when they ask for something.
4 You Control the Activities, Food: Good
Your child might love going to their friend’s house because their parents let them play video games for three hours straight while snacking on cookies and potato chips, which might not be something you approve of. Having the kids stay at your place means they have to follow your rules.
That means maybe you only allow friends over if they play outside for at least half the time or limit the use of electronic devices. And you can encourage healthier snacks. Sure, enjoying junk food and sweets once in a while during a playdate is fine. But this way, you don’t worry about your child coming home with chocolate cookie crumbs all over their face every time.
3 Worry About the Responsibility: Bad
Taking care of someone else’s child is a big responsibility, even if they’re just coming over to play for a few hours. You have to worry about the same things you do with your own child, like getting injured, choking on food, or having a tantrum.
The worry is especially intensified for kids who have allergies and require things like Epipens. Make sure you’re aware of all allergies and that kids have taken any required medication, or have devices with them, and that you are comfortable using them in case of emergency.
2 They Will Feel Comfortable There: Good
There’s no place like home, as Alice in Wonderland said. And your kids will feel most comfortable in their own homes with their own toys, rules, food, and parents. Especially for shy kids who don’t make new friends easily, having their friends come to your house, at least initially, can help them feel more comfortable.
They can also feel a sense of control and confidence, since they don’t have to awkwardly ask to use the bathroom or request a glass of water.
1 They Might Get Too Comfortable: Bad
However, your child’s friends might get too comfortable in your house as well to the point that your home becomes a revolving door where all of your child’s friends come visit as they please, grab things from the fridge, and help themselves to whatever they want. If you’re fine with this, great.
In any case, explain to your child that they must ask permission to have their friends over – every time. And the kids cannot overstay their welcome. As long as ground rules are set, and you're all on the same page, it can work out for the best.