Play-date Ground Rules: Rude or Helpful?


Recently I have been talking to moms and reading stories on Facebook about play-dates gone sideways. Play-dates are almost essential for our kids but especially for many moms and dads who would like the day to go faster or some adult interaction. I mean the summer is LONG. I don’t know about anyone else, but when my kids have other kids from another family to play with, things go so much smoother. However, we are all different people with different rules for our homes and children. This makes play-dates stressful sometimes. How do you communicate to your parent friends what your ground rules are for play-dates at your home without sounding harsh?

Recently I had a large play-date at my house. I love to host and I have a big back yard. In order to keep some sanity for the play-date I sent out a group message to the moms the day before. Sending this message out via group made it so that no one felt singled out like they’ve done something wrong and it made it so that if they had any issues with the ground rules they could ask ahead of time or simply not come if something was a deal breaker. The message read:

“Hey Ladies! If you would like, we are going to have some water fun in the back yard at my house tomorrow. I will have lots of watermelon for the kids to munch on and water available. I am thinking about starting around 9ish and going until just before lunch. I plan on us staying outside, with the exception of potty breaks, of course. Hope you all can come.”

This little blurb solved a few problems I thought may come up.

  1. Watermelon – This indicated that I would be providing a snack, so that they didn’t have to pack anything if they didn’t want to, or they could pack something if their child doesn’t like watermelon. I would not be opposed to getting something from my house for anyone who wanted other snacks but that would be the main snack I would provide. One of the moms did bring a big box of applesauce pouches to share as well.
  2. “Starting around 9ish and going until just before lunch” – Timing can be so hard sometimes for both the host and for the visitors. The visitors don’t want to overstay their welcome but also don’t want to just leave before it feels right. The host may have plans to go somewhere that day or need their children to take a nap. Putting out a rough time frame really helps both parties. 
  3. “I plan on us staying outside, with the exception of potty breaks.” – This one I have learned from experience. When kids feel too hot or get bored, they tend to run inside. This poses some potential problems.  The door opening and closing about ten thousand times letting air conditioning out and letting flies, dirt, everyone’s shoes, towels, clothes and all kinds of stuff in. This isn’t as big of a deal but it can drive a parent crazy. Another issue with having some kids inside and some kids outside is that you can easily lose track of where everyone is, assuming they went inside. I have a two year old and I could accidentally assume he’s inside when he could actually have walked around to the front of the house and be close to or in the busy road we live on. This makes it easy to keep everyone and everything accounted for.

Now there are some things in this message that I didn’t cover, like:

  1. Don’t come over if you or your child has been sick. – Hmmm, this is a tough one. How do you put your foot down about germs? I actually had two people keep their kids home for my play-date listed above because of illness. I would say that just being upfront about when your child is sick is a good way to say that when you come to my house, I would like your child to be well. You can also always be a little covert if you are worried about the other kids’ health and say, “Hey now that my kid is past this illness, would you like to have a play-date?” or “Now that flu season is behind us, would you like to have a play-date?”
  2. Don’t let your kids break my kids’ stuff. – If my child breaks something of someone else’s I am mortified and will replace the item. There are some parents that aren’t as mortified or they are but their kids are just hard on toys. I also don’t like other kids destroying my kids’ stuff because some toys were gifts and some things I simply spent money on and would like not to have to replace.  One way to combat this is just having your play-dates at a public place. Saying, “Hey, your kid is breaking all of our stuff,” may not end well especially if you really like the person and their children and don’t want to hurt their feelings. There are public parks and Chick-Fil-A to preserve these friendships and get togethers until the kids learn to play a little bit more respectful.

So what is the verdict? Rude or helpful? Honestly, with most things in life, you can make something sound nice as long as you deliver it with kindness and tact. Sending out a friendly message before a play-date calmed my nerves and I don’t think anyone thought it was rude. I’m going to say helpful. What do you think?


  1. I think your message was great. It sets up the rules in advance and leaves no room for confusion. I would find it helpful not rude at all.

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