General Question

hoteipdx's avatar

Is it "normal" to leave your child w/ another family for a play date?

Asked by hoteipdx (251points) August 24th, 2008

We have a four year old daughter. She has a friend at school. Her friend’s parents have scheduled two play dates with us, attended two birthday parties, and run into as at a local bar once. We like them, but they aren’t old friends or anything like that. Both play dates have involved this awkward offer by the mom to take our daughter during the play date so that we can do our own thing, run errands, etc. It’s a nice offer, but that is not what a play date is in my mind. I feel like it is odd for her to constantly offer us time to ourselves while she takes our daughter and I think she sees me as odd for refusing.

I do not think we will change our behavior anytime in the near future. I am more interested in social norms. What happens on a “normal” play date?

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28 Answers

lefteh's avatar

So you go over to their house with your kid, let the kids play, and you stick around?

hoteipdx's avatar

Right. I stick around while the kids play. Normal, right?

cak's avatar

Maybe you are looking for more of a play group, not a play date.

hoteipdx's avatar

What is the difference between a play group and a play date?

cak's avatar

At 4, though, more or less, they are starting to do the play dates, without Mom.

Play dates, are usually just the kids playing – not the moms gathering and staying. I did both, but at four, it was pretty important to start letting them play, alone.

Play groups, the moms usually stay and socialize and the kids play; however, that is not as normal at 4 – usually 2 & 3. I’m sure you can still find a play group, though.

cak's avatar

The mom might not want to feel as though she needs to entertain someone – no offense to you. She might want someone to play with her chld, but then go about her day, as well.

I have a 14 yr old and a 5 yr old. Both have done groups or play dates, but usually, about 4 – I stopped doing the play groups.

It sounds, though, like you want an outlet (social), as well and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but it just might not be what she’s looking for.

hoteipdx's avatar

This is very helpful & timely. I am actually NOT looking for a social outlet, at all. I just didn’t want somebody else to feel burdened with babysitting, so to speak. Also, I like to hang out with my daughter and see how she plays with her friends, etc. I am actually the dad & not terribly interested in hanging out w/ other moms. I’ll gladly take my geeky sci-fi novel to Starbucks and chill for an hour. Thanks for the feedback.

augustlan's avatar

As long as you feel comfortable with the family, it is perfectly normal to leave the child for a play date. If you’re not sure that it’s a safe environment, stick around until you are.

lefteh's avatar

Yeah, I would say that as long as they offer to take her, and you are comfortable with them, it is perfectly normal (and perhaps expected) for you to leave and come back to pick her up later.

cak's avatar

OOPS! Sorry Dad!! :)

Hey, some Sci-Fi novels aren’t geeky!

Cut yourself some slack, try it for a couple of hours and enjoy. Return the favor, if the others feel comfortable and observe them play, then. Also, remember when you aren’t around, your daughter will be able to start some more problem solving skills on her own. It’s very helpful – especially with kindergarten right around the corner!

Trance24's avatar

I stopped having play dates around the age of 4. It was either my friend came over to my house or I went to theirs and played for the day and then came home. It wasn’t a matter of baby sitting it was a matter of having a friend over to play.

osullivanbr's avatar

Our daughter often goes on “play dates” to other peoples houses, and neither me or my wife stay around for them.

It’s always considered that that’s the way it will be. If my daughter was going to someone else’s house, they’ve normally have activities planned or just let them play away by themselves. Similarly when other people’s kids stay with us.

It’s not meant to be a social gathering for the the parents. I see it as just a bit of fun for the kids. It also acts as a nice social skills development exercise. What I mean by that is, Mommy and Daddy aren’t here, how do I behave, how do I interact with the other kids, and the other adults.

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

It’s good you enjoy being with your daughter. If you think this person is trustworthy—it is also good that your daughter be able to play with her friend alone. And to begin to see you, as a person, separate from her.

Snoopy's avatar

Well….I am going to come down on the other side of the debate. I have a 3 and a 4 year old. We go to what people are calling play groups (a bunch of us gather at a park w/ our kids). We socialize some, but the focus is more on the group of kids getting together.

Additionally, my 4 year old has a classmate from preschool who also has a 3 year old sibling. So the 3 of us go there and vice versa.

At this point, I can’t think of anyone where I would let my 4 year old go by himself without me. Protective? Probably. But it is not like I expect this to continue until he is in grade school. I say err on the side of caution and go w/ your gut.

I would have to know the other parents extremely well before I would let my kid stay somewhere by himself at this point…..

ninjaxmarc's avatar

Swingers maybe?

Maybe your daughters are just bestfriends.

Poser's avatar

If you trust the parents, take off and enjoy some time alone. When my son was younger, I’d offer to let his friends come over and play with him with the expectation that their parents would reciprocate. It’s a win-win-win. Kids win, and both parents get some time alone.

marinelife's avatar

You and this couple just have different ideas of play dates. Neither is wrong or odd.

Many couples use play dates as exchanges for alone time. That does not mean you need to do that if it does not match your comfort level.

You could say, “Perhaps I will leave Susie when we have known each other a while, but Bill & I only leave her with extended family right now.”

If you are willing, you could offer to have their child so she can have “alone time,” but you don’t even have to do that.

One thing I would urge you to do is listen to your gut on this. Who cares what they think? It is your child, and your right to say who or when or if you leave her with someone.

Bri_L's avatar

I have a 3 year old and a 4 going on 5 year old (1 month shy). We have let our son go on play dates with his friends for about a year.

What we did was the first time we invited them over for lunch or something so we could get to know them.

Also, if they are a little younger it is easier to understand why you would want and expect to stay. I don’t see why anyone would question it. I would.

In the end, you make sure you do what your comfortable with.

hoteipdx's avatar

Thanks for all of the feedback. I was only gone for about an hour, then the mom had to go shopping. It was at a nice park, so I felt totally comfortable. We have some VERY different values from this family so I would be uncomfortable w/ more time at their home alone at this age, but they are good people who respect kids. So, thanks to Fluther, I was able to let go a little and my daughter was very happy to have the time to play with her friend.

lefteh's avatar

Glad to hear it!

augustlan's avatar

Congrats :)

Bri_L's avatar


ninjaxmarc's avatar

you rock as a parent.

galileogirl's avatar

Maybe you all aren’t going to believe this but there was a time when kids decided who they wanted to play with and they went up and knocked on the door and asked if their friend could come out to play. I started doing this about the age of 5. There were few parent supervised activities beyond scouts. In the summer and on weekends, you could pack a sack lunch and meet your friends and take off for hours, climbing rocks, poking around construction sites, sliding down hills on flattened cardboard boxes and organizing our own games.

hoteipdx's avatar

I know that gallileogirl is right. But, things seem different now. Maybe they aren’t, but I think they are. That would be another good fluther question.

augustlan's avatar

@gailileo: Ahh, the good ole’ days. I do wish my girls had been able to experience the freedoms we had…but I’m way too overprotective to have allowed it!

Eureka's avatar

When my son was little, there were 7 kids in his age range in our neighborhood. All of us mom’s took the kids on a rotating basis – one afternoon a week, so that mom could go shopping, get a hair cut, or just sleep. It worked out very well (until my son gave them all the chicken pox….) Anyway, maybe she is hoping by watching your child, you will offer to watch hers?

Dutchess_III's avatar

My kids never had a “play date.” They played with the other kids whenever they came around, or, when they got older, they went to their house.

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