After school in our neighborhood is usually a bustle of activity as kids ring the doorbell to play or my children ask to go over to a friend’s house. I want my kids to develop friendships and to enjoy playing at their friends’ houses.
But I also want to make sure they’re safe and they don’t wear out their welcome. So, we’ve come up with a short list of guidelines for neighborhood play. Here are six important do’s and don’ts to share with your kids for playing at a friend’s house:
1. DO tell a parent or caregiver exactly where you are going.
Most kids know to ask permission in the first place, but don’t automatically think about checking in before heading to another friend’s house. I’ve been the embarrassed mom calling around to neighbors’ homes looking for my children because I thought they were one place when they’d long ago left for another. Make sure your kids know to ask permission before going to any new place.
2. DON’T walk to the friend’s house or back home by yourself.
Even if you know all your neighbors, your streets are probably open and public. We use a buddy system where at least two of my children walk together, an older child walks a younger child home or the parents step outside to watch the child walk safely to and from houses.
3. DO clean up any snacks or toys that were played with before leaving.
Cleanup is part of the play day; it’s a thank you to the friend (and the parents) who opened their home and it makes it easy to welcome play days together. My phone call to give a 5 or 10-minute warning that play time is almost up is a great way to remind kids, and give them time, to clean up.
4. DON’T stay alone in a house with another adult.
Talk your child through possible scenarios so that she is not left alone with an adult inside the house, even if you know the parents. Decide whether this would include an older teen in the family, an older friend or babysitter.
5. DO call to ask permission before watching any movies, online content or playing video games.
This serves two purposes. First, you still have a say in what your children are watching in another home. Second, it allows you as the parent to be the bad guy if your child is having a hard time saying no to the friend. This also gives you the option to decide whether this is a good time for your child to head home.
6. DON’T forget your manners.
Teach your child to address the parent or caregiver with eye contact and a pleasant greeting and, before leaving, thank the parent for letting him play. You might need to role play these to help it become second-nature.
Though I love the idea of my kids having the same kind of freedom to spend afternoons roaming the neighborhood to play as I did growing up, the world is a different place. These six rules will not only help safeguard our kids but will also help them be a good friend and playmate.
What rule for playing at a friend’s house would you add to this list?