Keeping play dates fun

All children love to go and play at a friend’s house. Whether it is someone from school or just next door, playing with other children in their homes can be one of the joys of childhood. However, as a parent this can be extremely worrying, especially if you do not know the other child’s parents and their values. With the many different cultures in the UAE and the fact that some children are left in the care of house maids, it is important to know that other parents have the same standards about safety and respect.

You know your child better than anyone, so firstly speak to your child before they go and then judge your child’s ability to speak up or refuse if someone does something against your safety rules. Also, ensure that your child knows how to reach you or another adult caregiver at all times.

Have a frank conversation with the other parents about your expectations and, before you accept responsibility for their child, insist that they do the same with you. Even though it may be uncomfortable, your children’s safety is more important.

Here are some questions to ask other parents as you are setting up a play date in someone else’s home:

  1. Will they be there and available the whole time? Maybe the parents both work and have a house maid. You need to know who is going to be in charge of your child and who else will be present, like other adults or older siblings.
  2. Will the children be allowed to leave the house? Kids going alone to the park or cycling in the street may be normal for this family. You need to decide if your child is old enough for this and be aware of the potential hazards.
  3. Will they be taking the children anywhere? You want to know where your child is, who is with them, how they will get there, will they ensure a seat belt is worn in the car, and what activities they will be doing.
  4. Is there a pool or other water feature in the garden or nearby? Here in the UAE many play dates involve playing in the pool, but will they be supervised? Even children who are good swimmers can get injured or find themselves in trouble in the water.
  5. Do they monitor the use of computers, video games, smart phones and television programmes? Letting kids go unsupervised with technology can be as dangerous as leaving them alone in a public area.

After speaking to the parents of the other child, the response to these questions will help you to make the decision about whether or not play dates with this family will be in the best interests of your child.

Finally, talk to your child before and after each play date to review the safety rules and find out what went well and if there is anything that they are unhappy about.

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