Questions to Ask Before a Play Date

Girls playing tea party

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Play dates are a terrific way for kids to deepen new friendships and explore different neighborhoods and cultures. Once they're past the toddler stage, children will most likely want to go over to friends' houses without mom, dad, or a caregiver tagging along.

Allowing kids to go on play dates without you is important to help encourage independence, but it's still smart to get some key information from playmates' parents or guardians to make sure your child will be safe while having fun. Here are some questions to ask other parents before a play date at their house, and tips on how to inquire without being too intrusive.

Why Ask Questions Before a Play Date?

Many parents are hesitant to gather information from a potential playmate's mom or dad because they don't want to be seen as that parent. You know, the pushy helicopter parent who tries to control everything around their child.

However, remember that when you hand over your child to another grown-up, even temporarily, you are entrusting that person as a guardian. Think about it this way: You wouldn't drop your child off at a childcare center or a school without checking it out thoroughly first; the same principle applies here.

Unfortunately, homes are not always safe spaces for kids. Some 3.5 million children each year are treated in emergency departments for common household accidents, from poisonings to recreational injuries to unintentional gun usage. Chatting with a fellow parent about what sort of activities your children will be doing and what basic safety measures are in place will help protect your child and give you more peace of mind.

One way to avoid coming off as suspicious is to frame any questions you may have as conversations, not an interrogation. Present your questions in a friendly and respectful manner, let the other parents know that you would expect them to check on these details about your household before their child comes to your home.

What to Consider Before Sending Your Child on a Play Date

It's a good idea to reach out to your child's friend's parent or guardian a day or two before the play date so you have time to reflect on any concerns. If you're meeting this person for the first time, take a few minutes to get to know them generally. You may exchange information about where you're from originally, whether you have other children, and when you joined the school or organization where your kids met.

Once you've established a basic connection, you can discuss anything that you feel is important to ensure your child's safety in their home. You may have specific concerns related to your individual child. If your child has an allergy, you would inquire about things like snacks and pets, of course. But there is some playdate-related information that is useful for all parents to know.

Who is Supervising Your Child

How closely will the kids be supervised? Will one of the parents be home or will there be another adult caregiver present? Where will the kids play, and will a parent or caregiver be nearby in case the kids need something or a conflict or other problem occurs?

Leaving kids to their own devices is never a good idea, whether they are home alone or with a same-age peer. Only three states have official laws stating a minimum age that a child can be home alone: Illinois (14), Maryland (8), and Oregon (10). Experts at the Nemours Foundation say that kids under age 10 shouldn't be left home unsupervised.

But you don't want your child being supervised by an untested or unknown caregiver, either. If you find out a sibling, another family member, or a babysitter is in charge, find out that person's age and background information. Try to introduce yourself personally to that guardian before dropping your child off.

Before leaving your child in the hands of any other grown-up, remind them to never let anyone invade their personal space, make them feel uncomfortable, or urge them to keep secrets from you. Remember: Kids' personal safety isn't always about stranger danger; it also pertains to people they know.

Whether There are Guns in the Home

In the U.S., one out of every three homes with children has a gun, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And almost 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded gun that is not locked securely away. The AAP and the ASK/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence urge parents to ask about guns before a child goes to a friend's, relative's, or neighbor's house to play.

Bear in mind that just talking to kids about the dangers of guns is not enough. According to the AAP, research shows that children may still be curious and tempted to handle guns. Nor does simply hiding the guns enough since may still look for them. The most effective way to reduce firearm-related death and injuries is to keep guns out of the home, and if they cannot be removed, to make sure they are locked securely away from children and teens says the AAP.

What the Kids Will Be Doing

While you don't want to pressure the host to concoct elaborate playdate activities, it's possible to get a general sense of what's planned so you can protect your child from potential physical or emotional harm.

To get a handle on physical dangers, you can ask if the kids will go outside to play and, if so, whether an adult will accompany them. If they ride bikes, will they be required to wear helmets? Is there a pool, trampoline, or ride-on toy available that's known to cause injuries?

With younger and younger kids becoming digitally literate, there are ways for kids to be exposed to disturbing or harmful content even during a "quiet" play date in the safety of someone's home. It's worth asking your child's friend's guardian if the kids will have access to a computer or another device, and if an adult will supervise and be in the room if they do.

If you don't want your child to watch anything that's rated higher than PG or PG-13 or to play a video game that's rated higher than "E," specify your preference. Don't assume that all parents go by your rating preference. Some parents may be fine with allowing an 8-year-old to play Call of Duty or watch an R-rated flick.

If you don't agree, simply say that you haven't allowed these things yet for your child (although you can see that many other parents do, and what's scary for one kid may not be for another). Simply explain that you don't think your child is ready for more mature content yet.

A Word From Verywell

There's no need to feel embarrassed about asking questions before a play date. Knowing essential details about any household your child is visiting is an important part of parenting.

Do not dismiss any concerns you may have; listen to your gut instinct. If you don't feel completely reassured after you speak to the host parents, trust your feelings. Offer to host the play date at your house instead or suggest that you or your caregiver take the children to the park to play. Budding friendships are important, but your child's safety is paramount.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Leaving Your Child Home Alone.

  2. Nemours Foundation. Leaving Your Child Home Alone.

  3. Korioth T. Parents advised to ask about guns in homes where children play. AAP News. 2014;35(6):27. doi:10.1542/aapnews.2014356-27d

  4. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics.

  5. Dowd MD, Sege RD. Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population. Pediatrics. 2012;130(5):e1416-1423. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2481

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.