Play dates can build your child’s self-esteem, improve their skills at interacting with others, and help your nanny make new friends. Not only does it break up the day for your children, but it gives your nanny a bit of a break as well and a chance to socialize with people her own age. These are wonderful benefits, but as a working parent removed from the situation, you think through some steps that will help you feel more comfortable.
- Wait until your nanny has worked for you for at least three months. When you hire a new nanny, you will likely need to feel out the situation to see if it is working for both of you. By the end of the trial run, you will feel confident in her abilities to care for your child within the context of a play date.
- Talk to the parents of the potential play date children first. If your nanny is meeting up with another nanny, you’ll probably want to have a quick phone conversation with the other set of parents. Understanding who the parents are and also their thoughts about their nanny will help you feel more comfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions such as, how did they find their nanny and her references. You also want to make sure your nanny knows everything about the children. For example, if the children have allergies, you may want to insist your nanny goes to their house, or only schedules play dates with those children outside of your home.
- Talk to your nanny about the rules for bringing play dates into your home. If you’re not comfortable with in-home play dates, it is perfectly fine to ask her to find ways to connect with new friends outside of the home. Visiting a local museum, library, or playground are all great options. Communication is key here because your can only uphold your rules if she knows what they are.
- Praising children for being good hosts is the best way to reinforce positive behavior you’d like to see them repeat. Share this philosophy with your nanny, but also make sure she is comfortable reminding your children about what is acceptable behavior when they play with new friends. The occasional meltdown over sharing toys, rude or inappropriate behavior, or dealing with other disagreements are a natural part of developing social skills among children. Your nanny should feel comfortable reinforcing your style of discipline even if it differs from that of the other children at the play date.
- Trust your nanny’s judgment, but also your own. Does your child’s new friend use bad language, or constantly watch TV when you have a stricter policy? Make sure you follow up with your nanny and ask her how the play date went. We all have off days, and so you shouldn't think one bad afternoon tells you everything you need to know about the other kid. But issues that keep coming up over a period of time suggest a pattern of behavior that needs to be watched and reevaluated. You invested time and energy hiring a nanny with good judgment, so she should be able to provide you with an accurate assessment of a play date. As the parent, asking detailed questions will help you feel comfortable as well. Asking your nanny questions also helps you learn about the positives of your child’s newfound friends and can be a great way for you to engage your child at dinnertime or bedtime.