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Childhood Milestones: The Solo Playdate

As our kids branch off and make new friends at school, did you have apprehensions about that first playdate at his / her friend's house without your presence?  You know, the one where you just introduced yourself to the child's parent, and then left on an errand for an hour or two?  Tracy has a probing question for you.  She writes:

My son is 3.5 years old. Until he started preschool last fall his "friendships" were with playgroup friends and a couple of children of my friends, basically people I've known for a long time and trust with my child. But now, he's making friends in his school and I'm not sure how to support that while still providing the supervision and protection I think he needs. I would be happy to invite another child over to the house to play, but I am not really ready to have him go somewhere else to play until I get to know the other parents very well. If I feel this way, do other parents? I don't have a problem inviting someone over with the invitation for the parent to come as well should that be what they want. But how can I do this without offending the other parent if/when they reciprocate? Obviously if they invited me to their house I would have no problem, but what if they just invite my son? At what age have people just allowed their child to go to someone's home for a play date without them? Are other parents offended if I ask the questions like does anyone smoke at your house, are there weapons there, etc? I'm willing to admit to being considered overprotective in the eyes of some, but I can't help it. Any guidance from been-there-moms would be very helpful.


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My daughter is 5 and I still havent let her have a playdate by herself without knowing the family VERY well.I just make an extra effort to make friends with my DD friends parents and have them over here or suggest playdates at the zoo or other family oriented places.I worry about everything as well,but I feel like their is nothing that I wouldnt do to protect her and if that means resticting her socially a little bit that is just fine with me!

We start playdates with a newer friends with a trip to the park/zoo/coffee with parents to see if we are all compatible. Before solo-dates I say (in a exaggerated way with a big smile) "Smoke-free house with no weapons!" The other parent has always reciprocated, with a laugh. If I didn't get any response, I would have to ask more seriously and if that offends, well, good to know. We don't do solos if I am not extremely comfortable with the family.

When my son was about 3 I started letting him go on solo playdates...but only to the house of a boy whose mom I had known since junior high. He is now 5 1/2 and has started going solo to classmates birthday parties (well, there have only been 2 of those so far), and twice he has gone to a friend from school's house, whose parents I only know through his school.

I often see the mom of the friend he has had solo playdates with--pick up time at school, family nights at school. The fact that the kid's parents are involved in school was reassuring to me. His first solo excursion to their house was the kid's birthday party, so I got to scope out the place, and the mom was collecting phone numbers of all the parents in case something went wrong. The fact that she thought of this was also reassuring.

That being said, there are several other kids in his class who want playdates--I have given my number to their parents, figuring the kid could come to my house first.

On the other hand, my 3 1/2 year old has yet to have a solo playdate. He does go to playgroup without me, but I think when he starts asking for friends to come over, we will start with family outings to the park, or something similar. (I generally blame his not being potty trained on my hesitancy to set up solo playdates--he just doesn't have enough words to tell me if something weird happens at a friend's house yet.)

I'm still somewhat careful, but I'm CRAZY around this stuff.

Birthday parties, I came and looked around for about 15 minutes at then left around age 6 or 7.

Playdates, if I don't know the parents from some other venues, I still hang out for a bit. We had a sleepover birthday party in 6th grade and I was shocked at how many entrusted me with their children, sight unseen.

People aren't always honest about having guns or other questionable stuff or people in the house.

I think the age would vary depending on the child, how verbal they are, shy, etc.

My 5 yr old has only gone on a few solo playdates to homes of people that we are already good friends with. We already know their stance on weapons, safety, all of that. So far it hasn't really been an issue - he wants us close by and besides, we like to hang out with the parents. Its usually more of a group thing with all of us together.

My kids are older now, but I let them go around age four or so, but only to kid's houses whose folks I knew well. Never to homes I had not visited.

When having kids over, I always say when setting up the playdate, who I know, (other moms in the school) and that there are no guns in the house. This last part always gets a nervous giggle from the other mom, but usually they are relieved not to have to ask.

I have a fifth grade daughter, and I'm still uber careful. One classmate has asked about 50 times (no lie) for a playdate on her turf, but she walks home and is home alone for about an hour. Ummm....no thanks. It might be an economic necessity for that family, but my daughter isn't ready for that. And we haven't been able to work out a weekend thing to do a playdate on our turf.

We did do solo playdates early and sleepovers as well (sleepovers maybe at 3??)but these were moms I knew really well.

She tends to have playdates and sleepovers now with a core group maybe 4 or 5 girls, but all of the parents know one another quite well, from years in the same school, daycare or extracurricular.

My kids started solo playdates around 3.5 but only with people I knew really well. I always like to have the first playdate at my house also. I also always invite the parent- well actually the mom (I don't think my husband would like me inviting dads over LOL) so we can get to know eachother. My kids are still young so they have not done sleepovers yet. I invited one boy from my sons kindergarten class at the begining of the year and the mom said " Great, but I like to come on the first playdate if you don't mind". I told her I did not and we got to know eachother. I think the majority of parents are usually a little trepedacious about playdates.

This was my original question. Thanks so much for the feedback. I'm willing to admit that I'm overcautious at times, but it sounds like I'm right on with alot of you on this one. sarah, thanks for sharing what the other mom said to you. I've been wondering how to handle it and I think I'll say just that.

This may be unpopular but I've gotta say that in my opinion, we are creating a generation of kids who are scared to do anything. I do not believe that there are any more unfit parents today then there were in generations past.

Most PDX parents do not have guns in their house and do not smoke (and if they do, they smoke outside). I just don't get it. Kids fall down. They get into trouble. They get bruises. They lose their baseball games sometimes. They don't "win" at everything.

I have seen what happens when children are overprotected. No thanks. I want my daughter to be smart, aware but willing to take risks and experience life.

I just don't get it.

I have the opposite problem, my daughter (4.5) wants to have her best friend from pre-school over to our home. I've only actually seen her friend's Mom once, so she doesn't know me from Adam. If I were to try to invite her daughter over and give her as much flexible space as possible (she could drop her daughter off and stay or leave or I could pick her daughter up from pre-school or from her home (and I could only take her daughter out of preschool with a note or other communication to the preschool from her mother, etc). Other than "there is no smoking and no guns at my home" what I could I possibly say or do to give this lady some assurances? Maybe the girls are too young, or maybe we could try to get together with her Mom (and Dad if he's interested) for coffee, but I think she works (I don't). I don't want my daughter to be afraid of everything, but I'm new at this too. If her Mom is not interested, there's not much else I can do. Is there? Looking at most everyone's response, I feel like I'm not going to have much of a chance other than if she's brave enough to come and have a coffee somewhere.

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