Play Dates – What Questions Do You Ask Parents You Don’t Know?


How well do you know the parents of the kids your children play with?

Stella is in a large public school and only knows two kids in her class from last year.  And I only know one of the sets of parents.  This can be a con to going to a large public school.  We see it as a pro in that Stella gets to constantly meet new people and the diversity of those people is great.

However, I’m approaching that dreaded stage in life where play dates and slumber parties and sleepovers will soon be the norm.  Up until this point, I’ve usually crafted the play dates as excuses to get together with my own friends.  And I’m just counting down the days until Stella asks or gets asked to get together with a child I don’t know.  Whether he/she is from school, soccer, etc.

I know at some point, I’ll just have to let go and have a little faith.  But after reading The Kindness of Strangers, I’ve got to say I’m a bit freaked out.  Send my kid over to a strangers house?  Yikes.  What are their rules?  How lenient are they about x, y, and/or z topics?  Exactly what goes on behind closed doors?

How do you deal with parents you don’t know?

I know a lot of you have older children than Stella and have already dealt with this.  Some more often than others.  So, help those of us that are embarking on this scary journey.  We need your wisdom!

What do you do when your child is invited over to a family’s house that you are unfamiliar with?

Do you insist on meeting the parents first in another social setting?

Do you ask a list of specific questions?

What questions?

About what topics?  (Guns?  Movie ratings?  Video Games?  Screen time?)

What else am I missing??

4 Responses to Play Dates – What Questions Do You Ask Parents You Don’t Know?

  1. Tricky. One additional question I might offer to consider is if any other family members currently live in the house….say a random cousin or uncle etc. or if a parent works from home (lots do where we are) and if so consider if you are comfortable with who the other parent is etc. it has not happened to me, but I have known people to send their child for a play date and the mom runs an errand leaving the kids behind with the dad home working and the visiting child’s parents have never even met the dad. I usually ask how they supervise their kids when playing outside ( some stay outside, some don’t and depending on the age of the kids and location of the house this may be a concern). I don’t worry about tv too much yet. I ask about pets and if they put the dogs up when they have guests. I think guns is a good idea to ask about for sure but not sure how to broach that topic. I haven’t read the book you reference, but for balance, check out Lenore Skenazy’s book called free range kids. An interesting perspective if nothing else. Can’t say I totally agree but again, at least provides some balance.

  2. So far, with my 8 and 6 year old, I’ve still been on every play date (meet at the park or something) — especially for the first couple of times. You sort of ask broad questions about them while you’re there and you just know.

  3. We go case by case and we let our gut feeling guide. I say no to sleep overs for my 9 & 10 year olds if I don’t know the parents well enough. My 6 year old has only been asked by close friends or neighbors. If a close friend of mine knows the family well, I take that into consideration. I tell my kids what they should/shouldn’t be around (I.e. violent video games,aggressive pets) and what inappropriate behavior might look like and tell them to get a hold of me if anything/anyone makes them uncomfortable for any reason. I have declined future offers or focused on time at our house if I didn’t like what happened. I don’t worry too much about screen time or food (unless it is an allergy thing) for a short playmates. Parties at a venue are usually ok with us. Meeting up at the park is always a good start. I prefer a setting with multiple kids or where a close buddy/sibling will be there as well so that they watch out for each other. If you aren’t comfortable with a sleepover, you can say we aren’t ready for that yet or have early am plans so you need to pick them up at 8 or 9. I really haven’t asked a lot of questions, but try to go with my gut and teach my kids how to handle certain situations. While I want to keep them safe, I don’t want them to feel like the world is out to get them. If I am a host, I try to ask parents if there are any foods/shows/pet fears that they want me to consider when a child comes to my house.

  4. I had this come up at the beginning of the summer. I dropped my kid off for a playdate with a family we didn’t know well. From there, I went to run errands. The whole time I was out, I was obsessing about guns. I didn’t ask them, should I have asked them, etc. When I came back to pick up my daughter, I was told by the mom, “We have a pool and the girls went swimming. Is that okay?” My girl is not a strong swimmer and my preference would not have been for her to swim without me there. I had a good laugh at myself because deaths by drowning in backyard pools are significantly higher than gun related deaths. Here I was worrying about the completely wrong thing! Good topic!

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