How to ask for a playdate without putting the other parent on the spot?
January 13, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

How do I ask the parents for a playdate without putting them on the spot? Also, is it creepy to suggest that we are happy to have the parents just drop their kids off for a couple hours?

I am the mother to a happy, sociable 4-year old. He doesn't have any brothers or sisters or neighbors to play with so we are interested in playdates with his preschool friends. But of course, not everyone is going to be interested back, especially when the kids have siblings, or complicated schedules, or live far away, etc.

It's a small suburban preschool; our interactions seem very personable but this being the Midwest I just don't know. (I grew up in Russia and New York so I tend to be really direct which does not seem to be the preferred MO in Minneapolis where we are now).
posted by rada to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Just ask them. Leave out the "happy to have parents just drop their kids off" thing, that can be decided upon after they agree to a playdate. (FWIW, in my experience parents have always just dropped their kid off and asked what time to pick them back up.) Just say, "Hey, Kid Rada has mentioned a couple times that he'd like to have you kid over to play sometime. Would you be open to having a playdate?" and then see what they say. That is how we arrange them for our son. Pretty casual.

(also, I don't get why a kid having siblings somehow reduces the likelihood of them having a playdate.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:49 AM on January 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

You are overthinking this. You just say "Oh hi, Junior talks about your kid all the time! Would you like to drop him off Thursday at 2 for a playdate and pick him up at 4?" And then get out of the way when they stampede to your door. Some parents will want to stay and visit for a while the first time, though.
posted by raisingsand at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2014 [16 favorites]

Heh... I was born and raised in the U.S., but I still know the awkwardness of asking for a playdate - it's almost worse than asking for REAL date! Keep it casual and non-committal: try, "Hey, if you ever have the time, we'd love to have you over for a playdate", and give them your phone number." Then the ball's in their court. I wouldn't bring up the idea of them dropping the kid off solo UNTIL you'd had at least one or two successful playdates.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:50 AM on January 13, 2014 [14 favorites]

We have three children, seven and under (and we are from the midwest), and one of the things we appreciate is when people offer to let one or more our kids come over for a playdate. It's good for our children in terms of socialization, but it also opens up the calendar to get some things done that are harder otherwise, or simply to rest a bit. We extend the same offer to others, and they often take us up on it.

I think the way to word it is to extend the playdate as an offer to help others, while acknowleding that it's "no trouble at all" as you look for opportunities for your own kids to get to know others. I think if you sell it as being mutually beneficial, it won't come across as creepy at all. Not that simply asking for a playdate is creepy, but it casts it in a way that is perhaps more comfortable for you.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:51 AM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I found it really hard (and still do) to arrange playdates for our only child. I think it's just not something a lot of parents are interested in these days. A couple of things that seem to help:

1. Ask other parents of only children. It's much easier for them to arrange, and they are more likely to be interested in socialization.

2. Propose a detailed arrangement that they can simply approve or decline. "Little Rada would love to have Little Rando over. Could you drop him off at 1:00 on Saturday and pick him up at 4? We could also drive him home, if you'd like."

3. Propose 3 or 4 times and then move on to a different family.

4. Get Little Rada involved in non-school activities. Sports, arts, music, etc. It seems like parents in these groups are much more likely to be on board with playdates, for some reason. Plus, they provide good socialization in and of themselves during periods when you can't get playdates set up.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I (mom of two) would dearly love to be asked! However, I'd suggest going to some place neutral like the playground with both parents first. If it works out, offer to host the other kid on his own.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:07 AM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

My experience is that an invitation to a playdate is universally received as "Oh, thank goodness! Another warm body to extract all that kid's ya-yas!" especially past infancy. Our son has a richer social life than we do. You're really offering to do them a mutally-beneficial kindness, not putting them on the spot at all unless you're inviting yourself over to their house. I agree that only children (or two children close enough in age to have the same type of fun) seems to work better. Most of the "first playdates" have been on neutral ground (local science museum to which we have a membership, playground, etc) which gives a good chance to confirm that everyone gets along.

I would be slightly weirded out by being asked to drop my son off though, if I didn't know you (he's 3, it hasn't happened yet). I'd kind of worry that you liked my son but not me.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:10 AM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have everyone's contact info, I've always find it easiest to email to ask for a playdate. I can include a few times that were good for us, leave room for them to suggest another time, and let them decide if they want to come too or just drop their child off. (If they don't want to come too, you could offer to pick their child up from preschool too along with your own, and have them pick up at your house later. Though that may be a strategy for after they know you better.)

There will always be some kids whose schedules is just so busy you never get together. Try to just let that go and focus on people who are available.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:41 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have done it crossing paths with people during pick up and drop off; I have also left notes in the mailboxes at school of people my daughter mentions ("Hi! I'm fjdlfjdsl's mom! She would love to get together with your daughter for a play date! my cell number is 11111111 and you can call or text anytime! We could meet at a park or the girls are welcome to play at our house."
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:43 AM on January 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hi, I'm from the Midwest, and I would LOVE it if one of the mothers from my kids' schools reached out to me and offered one of my kids a drop-off playdate at her house. That would be heaven!

@raisingsand is right - "and then get out of the way when they stampede to your door."
posted by hush at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

As the father of a 5 and 2 year old, play dates are something that our family can't live without. A couple with two children of similar age approached us early on with a "hey just drop them off" play date request when we only had the one child. At first it did seem weird, and mostly because I was trying to figure out how to reciprocate the request/time. These parents are now my SO and I's best friends. In fact I was at their house on Saturday and then they came over to ours yesterday.

Just ask. Worst case is they say no. Best case is you (and your child!) develop great new friendships.
posted by Big_B at 10:37 AM on January 13, 2014

I left a note at the preschool for my daughter's friend's Mum, which included my number. She texted me and we set it up for a play-centre. I am quite shy, but my daughter is really exuberant and outgoing, so it's hard sometimes for me to put my awkwardness aside for her sake (still working on this). My little one is beginning Kindergarten in a few weeks, so I suspect the issue of having friends to play, and dealing with other parents will shortly get easier due to practice!
posted by dil.emma at 1:37 PM on January 13, 2014

Thank you everyone for your responses. Yes, you would think there'd be a stampede but no, that's not my actual experience. I've struck out with 3 moms and dads so far, hence my post.

I did find a few useful tips here so for future readers, my takeaway is:

1. Find other single-child parents (thanks Rock Steady)! Your suggestion feeds into my suspicion that those with siblings aren't as motivated because their own kids provide built-in playmates. Perhaps that's the reason I struck out... all three have siblings.

2. Suggest weekends instead of weekdays after work. (Thanks Rasing Sand for giving me the idea even if it goes against your actual suggestion). It would make sense that free babysitting is a net gain only for those who don't do day care but for those who get their kids after work, a playdate would just cut into the only family time they have during the week. I will try to suggest weekends instead of after work playdates.

3. Leave notes (thanks Dil Emma)! I am not shy at all but I think a note is a great idea because it's too difficult to exchange/remember contact information during the drop-off/pick-up hustle. I also like that it answers my original question, how not to put other parents on the spot!
posted by rada at 2:25 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

rada: Yes, you would think there'd be stampede but no, that's not my actual experience. I've struck out with 3 moms and dads so far, hence my post.

Yeah, it's weird. We had to work so hard at getting my daughter together with her friends outside of school. It's better now that she is approaching teenagerhood, but it was really quite shocking that getting parents to drop their kid (or kids) at our house for a few hours was such a struggle! The thing is, once you find a few parents that are amenable to it and you have had a few successful playdates, it becomes increasingly easy to set up repeat playdates with those parents. Couple other notes I'll add: 1) Age four is probably on the low end of "drop-off" playdates, so you might try the "meet at museum/park/playplace" thing at first. 2) The idea of weekday after-daycare playdates is totally foreign, even to me as a very pro-playdate Dad. Stick to weekends until you have reached Expert Playdater level.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:48 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned the timing--we and the full-time-daycare parents that we playdate with have settled on Sunday mornings from about 10-naptime as the best time. (This is when we had his birthday party too, and several parents thanked us for the sensible timing. Obviously we do not hang out with a churchgoing crowd so YMMV.) The only time I've offered a weeknight has been when I knew the parents had something going on that would be more convienient to deal with child-free. Most weeknights, the kids have seen each other all day and the parents have just enough time to serve dinner before it's time for bed.

The other best time has been over long weekends when folks are not likely to be traveling (teacher in service days, MLK day.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:30 AM on January 14, 2014

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