The 5 rules of play

Play dates; some parents love them, seeing them as a chance to not only meet new parents, but also to keep an eye on the new best friend in their child’s life and check if they’re a good or bad influence. While other parents run a mile from anything resembling an organised hook-up, their minds on juice-stained sofas, terrorised pets and kids running amok amidst the good china.

But however you regard the modern play date, there’s no denying they’ve never been more popular, especially here in the UAE where soaring summer temperatures mean plenty of indoor time. And whether you’re a seasoned play date pro, or a newbie keen to get her hands (and rug, and sofa!) dirty in the play arena, we reveal the rules you should be following to ensure you get invited back every time…

1. Parents stay too…don’t drop and dash
Yes, the main aim of a play date is for the kids to have fun, but equally, you’ve been invited you because the other parent wants to get to know you better. Unless the person doing the inviting explicitly tells you it’s cool if you don’t stay, don’t assume you can drop the kids off then hit up Harvey Nics for a couple of hours. And always offer to help tidy up at the end!

2. Ask about bringing your nanny
With so many UAE households having a nanny, it’s a valid question to ask when invited on a play date: Shall I bring my nanny? It might be that their nanny can keep an eye on the kids by herself, or equally, that the parent hosting would rather not have so many people in the house, so always check first.

3. Organise activities, but keep it loose
When it comes to kids and their attention spans, one word covers it: goldfish. If you’re organising a play 
date at your house, don’t get bogged down in arranging lots of things to do or even attempting to stick to a schedule. The kids will be excited enough to play with a whole load of new toys. You could organise one thing, such as baking a rainbow cake, or laying out some arts and crafts, but don’t expect the kids to get stuck into something organised if there are trucks and dolls and water guns tempting them just a few feet away.

4. Bring siblings, but only if they’re age appropriate
A bored pre-teen on a play date goes down about as well as… a bored pre-teen on a play date! If you don’t want to spend the time fretting that your eldest is bored out of their skull, then leave them at home and only take the kids who have an age-equivalent friend on the play date.

5. Some things you just have to suck up
It might be that in your house chocolates and lollies are banned, or only dished out as special treats. You might have an iPad or TV ban or limit your child’s exposure to them. However, on a play date, it really is a case of ‘their house, their rules’, and no host is going to be impressed with you texting them a list of your preferences ahead of the play date - it’s rude. Of course, if your child has a food allergy or intolerance, speak up, and additionally, if the parent is selfie-mad but you don’t post pics of your kids online, then a gentle reminder is fine, but for the most part, you’ll have to grin and bear it and refrain from uttering the words ‘We don’t do that at 
our house.’

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