12 Important Questions to Ask Before a Play Date

What--and how--to ask before your child goes to a friend's house to play

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Don't be shy about getting important information before a play date. Getty Images

School-age children are making new friends and forming new social circles on their own, and are spending more time socializing on play dates. And because they're not toddlers or preschoolers anymore, they'll be going over to friends' houses to play more often without mom, dad, or a caregiver tagging along.

If your child wants to go over to a friend's house to play, be sure to get some key information from the other parents to make sure your child will be safe while having fun.

Here are some important questions to ask, and how to ask them.

Why You Should Ask Questions Before a Play Date (and How to Do It)

Many parents are hesitant to get some necessary information from a potential playmate's parents because they don't want to be seen as that parent. You know, the pushy, helicoptering parent who tries to control everything around their child.

But the truth is that knowing some essential details about your child's friend's household before a play date is an important part of keeping your child safe. Some key tips to keep in mind when talking to the parents of your child's friend before your child goes to his or her house to play:

  • Do not be afraid to ask. You are handing over your child and putting your trust in another family. Think about it this way: You wouldn't drop your child off at a childcare center or a school without checking it out thoroughly first; the same principle applies here.
     
  • Frame it as a conversation, not an interrogation. Present your questions in a friendly and respectful manner, and be sure to let the other parents know that you would expect them to know all these details about your household before their child comes to your home.
     
  • Do not dismiss any concerns you may have; trust your gut instinct. If you don't feel completely reassured after you speak to the host parents, trust your feelings. Offer to host the play date at your house instead or suggest that you or your caregiver take the children to the park to play.

    Questions to Ask Your Child's Play Date Host

    Some of the questions you should ask before you drop your child off for a play date:

    1. Who will be home, and how closely will the kids be supervised? Will one of the parents be home, or will there be an adult caregiver present? Where will the kids play, and will a parent or caregiver be nearby in case the kids need something or a conflict or other problem occurs?
       
    2. Are there guns in the house? In the U.S., one out of every three homes with children has a gun, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And almost 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded gun that is not locked securely away. The AAP and the ASK/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence urge parents to ask about guns before a child goes to a friend, relative, or neighbor's house to play. Bear in mind that just talking to kids about the dangers of guns is not enough since, according to the AAP, research shows that children may still be curious and tempted to handle the guns. Nor does simply hiding the guns enough since may still look for them. The most effective way to reduce firearm-related death and injuries is to keep guns out of the home, and if they cannot be removed, to make sure they are locked securely away from children and teens, says the AAP.
       
    1. Will the kids have access to the internet? Will the kids have access to a computer, and if so, will an adult supervise and be in the room with the children?
       
    2. What movies, TV shows, video games, etc. are allowed in your house? If you don't want your child to watch anything that's rated higher than PG or PG-13 or to play a video game that's rated higher than "E", specify your preference. Don't assume that all parents go by your ratings preference. Some parents may be fine with allowing a 8-year-old to play Call of Duty or watch an R-rated flick. If you don't agree, simply say that you haven't allowed these things yet for your child (although you can see that many other parents do, and what's scary for one kid may not be for another), and simply explain that you don't think your child is ready for more mature content yet.
       
    3. What are the kids going to be doing? Will they go outside to play, and if so, will an adult go with them? Will the children ride bikes and if so, will they be required to wear helmets? Will they play anywhere near the street?
       
    4. Is there a pool, trampoline, or bounce house, or other common hazards that have been known to cause injuries? (Read about important safety tips for kids for summer and all year-round.)
       
    5. Will the kids be supervised while eating? (This will be especially important if your child has any food allergies or intolerances; if so, you will want to make sure that the parent or caregiver will know what to do in the event of a reaction such as, say, administering an Epi Pen.) Will the supervising adult know what to do in case of choking?
       
    6. What pets do you have in your home? Is your pet friendly with kids? If your child has any allergies to pets, this will be an important question. You should also be sure to specify if your child is afraid of or uneasy around certain pets (such as dogs or hamsters, for instance).
       
    7. Will you leave the kids alone at any point? Some parents feel that it's okay to leave, say, 7-year-olds alone for a bit while they go to the store. Others (including you) may not agree. Find out before your child is dropped off whether or not your child may be left unsupervised, even for a few minutes.
       
    8. Will you be driving anywhere with the kids? If so, you may want to leave your car seat or booster seat.
       
    9. Are there any rules in your house my child should know about? For instance, if kids are expected to take their shoes off inside the house or keep down the noise while playing, it might be helpful to know that beforehand.
       
    10. What can we bring? This is a question that many parents forget to ask when a family hosts their child for a play date. Sending along some extra snacks or toys may be a good idea if it's welcomed by the host family.

    Finally, be sure to go over some safety rules with your child, such as the importance of never letting anyone invade her personal space, make her feel uncomfortable, or urge her to keep secrets from you, her parents. Remember: Kids' personal safety isn't always about stranger danger, but can have to do with people they know.

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