Q&A: playdates

Sorry for the late post--I was off doing class parent duties (yeah--I know; I'm not sure how it happened either...)

Kate (one of many) writes:

"What's the deal with playdates? At what age do you start dropping off the kids and not having to stay and make polite conversation? If the kids know each other from school but the parents don't, it can be a little awkward. And how do you navigate different rules at friends' houses?"

I think this varies regionally. And by birth order of child. For my younger one, since all his friends were younger siblings of my older one's friends, we did drop-off from a super-young age, and just called it "can you babysit him while I go do X?"

Once they're in Kindergarten, I'd guess kids all over the world are being dropped off for playdates. Before that, I think it varies from region to region. Some of those differences are probably attributable to different expectations of independence regionally, but I'm also guessing that the demographics of the caregiver situation might have something to do with that, too. (In areas where there are more parents home they probably stay, whereas babysitters maybe don't stay as often?)

As far as the rules of the house go, I'd say the parents need to open that conversation up at drop-off in front of the kids. So, for instance, if you know you have a rule at home that generally doesn't fly other places (like kids being allowed to jump on the couch or something like that), you probably want to address it when you get there with a little, "Now pumpkin, even though we can jump on the couch at home, I'm betting no one can jump on the couch here" then look to the other parent for confirmation.

Otherwise, just ask at the beginning of the playdate if they have house rules, and remind your child to abide by the house rules. I'm assuming most kids have been somewhere else (if only a grandparent's house) and understand that different places have different rules, so it shouldn't be hard sell for the kids. And we're hoping the parents can be sanguine about differences and not get defensive about different rules.

How do you guys navigate the rules? And at what age did/do you start dropping off for playdates? (Don't forget to put demographic info about where you live.)