20/05/2009 06:26 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Playdate Survival Guide

They weren't call playdates when we were young, were they?

You had a friend round to play, and sometimes had tea with a mate.

But now we are well and truly in the era of the playdate, and many mums find them a bit of a minefield.

Who do I ask? Does the mum come too? What do I feed them? How long do they stay for?

Want to know the dos and don'ts for handling playdates? Here are my tips for how to come out of a playdate sane and alive.

  • Do invite others, don't wait to be asked
    Ask your child who they'd like to have round for tea and approach their mum or dad
  • Don't let it go on for too long
    Two hours is plenty, or after school till 6pm. Make sure the visiting child knows where the loo is and any places that are out of bounds
  • Do reciprocate
    If your child has been invited to someone's house, generally the etiquette states that you should invite them back to yours. And if you can't, do explain, otherwise the other mum is going to start wondering what her child did wrong.
  • Don't worry if you get rebuffed. Some parents just don't do playdates, for all sorts of reasons
    And many children are too shy to come to a stranger's house alone. Some will want to come for a play, but not stay for tea.
  • Do encourage them to play rather than watch TV
    A little TV can be useful at the end to help them wind down, but otherwise, send them off to play. Smaller children will appreciate it if there's an activity, but don't feel under pressure to lay on a full crafts table.
  • Don't worry if your child gets invited by a family you don't know
    They are unlikely to be axe murderers, planning to sacrifice your child to the Goatgod. If they were, you would have heard about it via the PTA.
  • Do ask the child, not the parent, what they want to eat for tea
    I can guarantee that when a mum says airily "Oh, he'll eat anything", that is the best sign that they will refuse whatever you offer.
  • Don't take it personally if they don't eat
    All children have their foibles, and many will refuse food that's unfamiliar. And they may have different ideas about food, for example, children who say they like spaghetti may be referring to the tinned version.

    I had a visiting child who asked for raw carrots, then refused them because they were in round slices and not the batons he expected. Another child claimed to be a banana fan, but only when he had a whole fruit to unzip - this I discovered after I'd presented him with a plate of banana slices.
    No matter how much you try to get it right, you often won't, so don't sweat it.
How do you manage your playdates? Or do you avoid them like the plague?