'Who... caters?' Just all the things no one ever told me about playdate etiquette.


I’m a new school mum and for the first time in my child’s five years of existence, she is asking for playdates with kids whose parents aren’t my family members or friends I’ve known for decades.

Because of this, I have found myself in the brand new, slightly stressful position of either sending my kid off to a relative stranger’s house or having a strange kid come to mine and I have… questions!

Is there a handbook of playdate etiquette that I can borrow? Or is this all locked in the minds of the parents who have gone before? If this is the case, I need to pick your brain, so here it goes.

Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo on the complicated politics of play-dates. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

How does one initiate a playdate?

My daughter made friends at preschool that she used to see every day, but now she’s shifted to big school, she has lost contact with her preschool bestie. She’s asked me to organise a playdate with her so they can catch up but I don’t know what the done thing is here.

Can I just shoot her bestie’s mum or dad a text and ask to borrow their child for the day? I only know you through the various birthday parties our kids have been at together, including their own, we don’t really know each other yet.


I tried to think about how I would feel if I received that text and while I’d love for my kid to be invited to playdates like this, if you don’t know the person well does it also seem a bit… I don’t know… Weird? Like, I’m offering to entertain your child for a few hours on this particular date even though you don’t know me from a bar of soap? HALP!!

Should I stay or should I go?

At risk of putting The Clash’s song in your head for a few days with this title, it’s an important one when considering the playdate landscape.

Say I organise the playdate so the friend is being brought to my house for the day, do I invite the mum or dad in for coffee or am I making her or him feel obligated to stay when they really don’t want to?

If I’m the ‘dropper offerer’ (what? How would you explain yourself in this situation?) Can I just dump my kid at the doorstep and bugger off for a wonder-filled few hours of adulting or is that seen as poor form if I don’t stay to supervise my child’s behaviour?

Is there a rule that you stay for the first one but anything after that you’re free to go? This debate is making me anxious!

Claire and her daughter. Image: Supplied.

Who caters?

In 2020, making your child’s lunch for school is a minefield surrounded by a host of dietary restrictions. I made the mistake of offering ice cream to a kid visiting my house recently who quickly informed me that she can’t have dairy in a very matter of fact, five-year-old tone that was not flattering to my 40-something-year-old ego.

The moments that followed included a lip drop by my daughter who had to forgo the ice cream because her little mate couldn’t have one and a quick call to our visitor's mum to find out what she was allowed to have. Can’t these kids come with a menu?

Also, am I offending the mum/dad I’m sending my kid to if I pack her a bunch of snacks? Is that me feeling like no one else can cater for my child to the level I require so I’ve done it for you? It seems so helicoptery or snow plough parenty or whatever term we’re giving parents who care a little bit too much about their kids these days.


Can I tell your kid off? If so, how much can I tell them off?

I remember as a child my parents allowing behaviour from visiting friends that I was NEVER allowed to get away with. Did they just feel weird about disciplining someone else’s child even if they are in your house and their parents aren't there to do it themselves?

I don’t want to force my parenting style on your kid as I don’t want you doing it to mine, but is this all part of the building resilience thing? Kids need to learn from all types of people right?

Okay, really I just don’t want your kid to dob on me and tell you that I’m awful and then I become the playground pariah. Selfish much!

What if I break your child?

The first time my kid had a friend over I had a stress dream the night before that she jumped off the bunk bed and broke her arm. This did not happen IRL but it got me wondering how you are viewed by the visiting parents if you break their kid while they are in your care?

Mine does stupid stuff all the time, she climbs like a mountain goat and her favourite activity is giving her mother full-blown anxiety while jumping off the highest thing she can find (just a few weeks back she split her chin open on a wall she’d scaled at a restaurant, blood… everywhere!)

If your kid hurts themselves, am I the bad mum whose house you will never send your kid to again? This playdate thing is fraught with danger.

So if you are an experienced parent who has all the answers, please respond. I need some guidelines to live by before I mess up my daughter’s entire social future!

Feature image: Supplied/Claire Murphy.