All Akimbo: Navigating the independent playdate

By Kim Blakeley

lego-blocks.jpgMojo has just entered the world of playdates without his mama. And a couple of his friends have started hanging around at our house without their mamas, too.

Are there any good reference books out there to tell me how to navigate this unfamiliar territory?

I’m just not sure I’m handling things just the way I should.

I have lots of questions, like, for starters, is 5 an appropriate age for this kind of thing? It seems like lots of kids his age are doing it, so I’m assuming it’s all good.

It’s just that Mojo is still pretty much a baby in my eyes, albeit an increasingly gangly … err, independent and sociable one.

I’m not sure I’ll ever feel entirely secure about him going to the homes of people I don’t know very well. I mean, I would never leave him with someone I don’t think is responsible – but how do you know what someone is like when you’re not around? What kinds of things do you ask/look for before you allow your child to go on a playdate without you?

And what about kids who come to our house to play?

I’m never sure if I should stick close to the kids or leave them be. Come up with activities or just let them do what they want. Make them play together or wait for them to sort out their own interactions. Ugh.

There’s one who rummages through cabinets and closets, and he seems to find closed doors irresistible. I try to keep an eye on him but sometimes I have to go upstairs to put Moxie down for a nap – and sometimes I just have to go to the bathroom – leaving our belongings vulnerable to his curiosity.

apple1.gifI try to provide healthy snacks, but one rejects my offers and asks (and not so gently) for other options.

All this, though, I can muddle through. I think I’ll figure it all out in time. By the time Moxie grows her social butterfly wings, I’m going to have this down.

But one thing has me really stumped: One of the mamas of Mojo’s friends sent an email a few weeks ago asking my husband and me if we would let Mojo go to his friend’s birthday party – at a venue in a town about 45 minutes away. In their van. Without us. And then they are coming back for swimming at their neighborhood pool.

I have yet to respond.

I know that seems rude, but I just can’t bring myself to agree.

I hate to deprive Mojo of an opportunity to hang around with his friends at a big celebration/adventure like this. I don’t want to turn him into a social outcast. But I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. What would you do?



  1. I would probably go along, following them in your own car. And I have a 5 year old that I would not allow to swim anywhere without my own supervision.

  2. Thanks Angela. That’s good advice, and it’s kind of what I was thinking. I’m a big stickler for car seats, so I’m thinking I’ll ask that she take his high back booster seat, too.
    And I’m so with you on the swimming lessons. It’s really nice to hear that I’m not way off base on these things!

  3. I’m still paranoid about my 8-y-o swimming without me 🙂 Mine’s about to go overnight with her Girl Scout troop in a few weeks and I’m feeling a leeetle crazy about it. I think we have to go with our gut and not worry about what other parents might consider rude.

    As far as the snack rejection by playdates, what is UP with that? I have the same problem!

    -Shannon M.

  4. Yikes – overnight? I would so be more than a leeeetle crazy about that right now. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but this letting go thing is sooooo hard, isn’t it?
    You’re absolutely right about following the gut and not worrying too much about what the other parents think. Our kids deserve that from us (whether they think they want it or not).
    I can’t understand the snack thing. Mojo might demand other choices from me but I can’t imagine him doing that to another mom. In the past, he’s just not eaten whatever was offered.

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