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Play Date Etiquette

I am hoping to get some advice on the polite thing to do.

I have 2 elementary school age kids, who ride on a school bus daily. They have plenty of friends in general and their play dates fall in one of two types. School friends are usually dropped off or picked up by us from school and their parents collect them some time later. Occasionally the parents stay for a a bit to chat with us, but these dates are predominantly kids only. For our family friends usually the mother or the father stays – so both kids and parents have time with their respective friends (these happen more often on weekends or evenings when both families have finished work). I should also say that with school friends we host play dates probably twice as much as we send our kids somewhere. We like hosting and having the kids play at home is no trouble at all. My husband and I both work from home and kids that age do not need much supervision any more, one of us can step out to help and come back to our work.

One exception is a neighborhood girl of similar age to my kids. Her house is on the way to our home from the school bus and my kids have fallen into the habit of stopping there for a half hour play date a couple of times a week. This is always by invitation from the girl and her sitter, actually the invitation is extended almost daily, but my kids have sports after school some days, so not all days work. My impression is that it’s easier for the sitter if the girl has company, the kids have fun, and since the invitations keep coming (often the sitter will stop by in advance to get my permission to have them come over) it’s probably mutually beneficial. The mother of the girl has been to our house once staying over a birthday party and knows our kids too, no problems from her and she is at work during these dates anyway. I have recently made my children bring some snacks to share since I noticed they often get treating to snacks at the other place.

My dilemma is to what extent can I have this going on without reciprocating. As I mentioned above we host often and we find kids no trouble. The issue is that this kid comes with a sitter. We have invited them a couple of times and the lady comes as well and stays. It’s a bit awkward, since either we have to stop working for the whole time and chat with her, or send her join the kids in basement or backyard wherever they are playing, which seems impolite. It would be incredibly easier if she would be willing to drop off the girl and collect her later, but I haven’t dared suggest that. Don’t get me wrong, nothing against her personally, but this is still during the work day for us and not convenient.

What is the proper thing to do? Keep going as now, extend invitation occasionally and just bear the awkwardness, ask the sitter to do drop off? 0322-17

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Marie November 13, 2018, 9:08 am

    Suggest a drop off, and just explain the situation. Just remember the sitter gets paid to watch the kid, so she might not agree. If something happens to the kid while she was getting paid to watch her, she will get in trouble. Alternatively, the parents might not be willing to pay for her while the kids are at your place with her just being in the house.
    You can also offer her a chair and a pot of tea if she wants to work/study/read a book so you both can get some work done.

    All in all, don’t worry too much about the play dates. If the kids stay friends when they get older there’ll be lots of time to have the girl over without a sitter being in the middle.

    • staceyizme November 13, 2018, 12:11 pm

      Hosting a sitter at your own home is unnecessary. Either the kids can come or they can’t. The sitter is probably a very nice person but she is still a stranger and unknown to you. Offer to host the kids solo ONCE. If she doesn’t accept, then just continue as you are, currently. She might get points with the parents for arranging play dates and there is no question that generally when nannies arrange play dates between themselves, the visiting nanny stays with her charges. This is usually a chance for the hosting nanny to chat a bit, catch up on chores while visiting, and check up on activities or issues shared by the kids in question. For parents? No, not the same. (Although a pot of tea and a chair is HUGELY nice if you’re inclined in that direction. And her employers should be paying her even if she’s not there, since she is responsible for them and will be working at home or running errands for her employers in their absence.)

  • NicoleK November 13, 2018, 9:12 am

    I have a similar situation.

    My neighbors both work and they have a nanny. Their daughter is my younger daughter’s age. I often meet up with the nanny at the playground, or have them both over. The nanny often offers to take my kid while I go do something else. I would like to reciprocate, but the nanny feels like she is being paid to watch the girl so can’t dump her off at my house.

    I think I’m going to talk to the mom. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll bring it up next time I run into her.

  • Mary Sgree November 13, 2018, 9:16 am

    If I was the girl mother, I’m paying for the sitter—she goes with the girl. But obviously you dont need her there. I’d reciprocate by asking the girl over on the weekends when the parents are most likely home. A Friday night sleepover or a Sunday matinee.

  • flora November 13, 2018, 9:18 am

    Seems to me the easiest solution is to ask both the sitter and the parents of the child their preferences in this situation. Assuming the sitter is being paid, she may not be allowed to just drop off the girl or the parents may not want to pay her the extra hours if she’s not actually watching the children. Even if she does have to stay with the child, I don’t see anything wrong in explaining to her you and your husband are working at home. She may be just fine with playing games on her phone, being the first go to grownup in the house to settle disputes or working on a craft project.

  • lkb November 13, 2018, 9:43 am

    No advice to offer but I wonder whether the sitter should be paid extra if she is watching additional children. I agree with flora (above) that asking the sitter and the other parents seems to be the best plan.

  • bopper November 13, 2018, 10:21 am

    I think you don’t want to do something that a) takes hours away from the babysitter b) makes you incur an obligation…that is , oh since you have the kids over every thursday, no need for us to have Edna babysit!

    So one thing to do is talk to the babysitter and say “We work from home during the week, so on an ongoing basis we won’t be able to sit and chat while the kids play. So you are welcome to sit with the kids in the basement, watch some TV in the living room, or come back at 5:00 and pick them up.

    • Anon November 14, 2018, 6:56 pm

      I think this is a great suggestion. Give the sitter a few options that you’re OK with, and let her choose whatever works best. She may say that it works best for her if your child comes over to their house, in which case you can be absolved of guilt/obligation.

  • Devin November 13, 2018, 10:44 am

    Talk to the parents. They may have instructed the sitter that she is to stay with their child regardless of other adult supervision or maybe they would be happy to ask the sitter to drop off the child and run errands for them while she’s free from child care duty. You never know what sort of arrangement they have. It would also be nice to check in with them and offer to provide snacks if your kids continue to be guests more often than hosts. Offer to pick up a bulk box of everyone’s favorites next time you’re at the store. Even though your kids are old enough to not need constant supervision, it must be great to get a little more distraction free work time!

  • DGS November 13, 2018, 10:49 am

    Talk to the parents and the sitter. She is on the clock as far as payment, so there may be an expectation that she stays, or the parents may prefer that their daughter is more closely supervised. It may be that she can run a quick errand (for herself or for her employers) if they are ok with her doing drop-off, or it may be that she can play games on her phone or read a book whilst sitting at your kitchen table, enabling you to get back to work. I would also offer to pitch in for a snack every once in a while, or to drop off a new board game or movie for the kids to play or watch while they are over at their friend’s house, as a gesture of good will.

  • Kitty November 13, 2018, 12:12 pm

    I’d probably speak with the girl’s mother, and ask if her daughter can come over for a play date for an afternoon in the next few days/next week. That way, the mother knows what’s going on, and could plan ahead, telling the sitter that on X day, she won’t have to watch her child.

  • EchoGirl November 14, 2018, 2:19 am

    I’m going to agree with the people saying that if this situation is working and everyone is happy, there’s no need to force a change to the system just to keep the “scales balanced”, as it were. Sending the kids over with snacks (so that the parents will not be out of pocket for the extra children) seems like a good way to keep from burdening the other family; unless there’s an actual issue arising (which there doesn’t seem to be), I think OP’s family is fine to leave everything as is.

    • Angela Allen November 14, 2018, 12:43 pm

      This exactly.

  • Julie H November 14, 2018, 9:31 am

    If I were the other parent who hired a sitter for my child, but everybody enjoys having your child over, then sending some snacks is more than sufficient. Maybe for the holidays or a birthday, send the other parent and the sitter a heartfelt card about how much you appreciate the play dates and how much fun your child has. Gratitude and acknowledgement are great to have!

  • Alda November 14, 2018, 5:10 pm

    The few times I’ve come across this situation, you would continue to send your children- but you would give the nanny a really nice Christmas/holiday gift from your children. Gift card for $25 to $50 type of gift. If you can’t afford that, then just realize that imo you are unwittingly taking advantage of the nanny. Even if she prefers to have your children there also, and I know that you are not doing this to get free babysitting.

  • Anonymous November 14, 2018, 6:06 pm

    I’d continue just having the kids play after school as they always have. The other girl’s parents might realize, before too long, that if their daughter is making her own plans after school, and behaving appropriately at OP’s house, then she might not need a babysitter after school anymore. Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, and a lot of private organizations now do “home alone” courses for slightly younger pre-teens, in addition to babysitting courses that start around eleven or twelve. But, back to the issue at hand; I don’t see this as an etiquette problem; I see it as a child growing up, and growing out of the need for direct after-school supervision. And, if anything did go wrong at Other Girl’s house when she’s alone after school, she’s already familiar with the OP family, so she could call them.

  • Saitaina Malfoy December 24, 2018, 11:35 pm

    The sitter is responsible for the child’s care and well-being when the children are in her custody and cannot just let them over without her without direct and explicit permission, so you need to talk to the parents.

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