My Playdate Invitations Not Reciprocated

Updated on December 23, 2016
C.M. asks from Minneapolis, MN
32 answers

I have two girls, grades 4 & 3. I routinely plan home playdates. I do this for the benefit of my children to make connections with friends outside of school.

My concern is these invitations are very rarely reciprocated; I planned ten playdates over the past two years & we received one playdate invitation in return.

I don't expect tit for tat, but I feel like a schmuck for creating all these playdates & not receiving fun invitations for my girls in return. My girls are well liked by girls & boys, teachers & other parents.

What am I doing wrong? Should I stop putting energy in to playdates & refocus on something else my girls enjoy?

I may have just answered my own question.

What can I do next?

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answers from Los Angeles on

It was like that here too. I enjoyed having kids over. It wasn't a lot of extra work for me, and it kept my kids occupied, so it was worth it for me.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My house is typically the house where kids hangout. (I've hosted my kids friends for New Years for the last 13 years.) Often my daughter's only go to a friend's house if it is their friend's birthday. I actually am thrilled the kids like coming here and that my daughter's like to have friends over. I spend quite a bit on food though. My 8th grader is having a Christmas party tomorrow night and another one on Friday with a different friend group. I think it is great and she is so appreciative because the other parents don't like to host as much as I do.

Lots of parents are really busy. Some parents don't like to have kids over if their house is messy. I understand this completely. I am a stay at home mom and have time to shop and clean. I'm more than happy to host.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It's human to "keep score". Yes, I'd be upset too. Play dates means extra food and preparation. So if a parent sends her child to an at-home play date, then she needs to clean her home and reciprocate.

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answers from Rochester on

I rarely have playdates at my house for a couple of reasons. 1) Our house is not very big and we are somewhat cramped for space. Adding extra kids is hard. 2) Our yard is not fenced in, so if they play outside I feel like I need to be out there with them. 3) We live clear on the other side of town from where my kids go to school so, there aren't any of their friends in our neighborhood. We are kind of out of the way and transportation adds another layer to the planning of a playdate. 4) When the kids were younger it was hard to work around nap times. 5) My husband does not have a consistent work schedule and it can be difficult to plan something around his work schedule, my work schedule, and both kids' schedules. 6) I'm a teacher and frankly, after spending all day with other people's kids, I really just want to spend time with my kids. 7) My kids rarely ask to have a playdate. They are both a little introverted like I am and we all just want to come home and decompress.

Yes, I feel a little guilty for not reciprocating when my kids do get invited to playdates (which is actually really rare), but playdates just don't really work for us. It has nothing to do with not liking my kids friends or their parents. I don't think you are doing anything wrong. It probably isn't anything personal.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Some of my kids have lopsided relationships where we do most of the hosting or their friend does most of the hosting. When my kids frequently go to a friend's house but the friend doesn't come to ours, it can be that the friend has a bigger house, fewer siblings, a dedicated play space, or a really attractive feature such as a pool, or ATVs and a place to ride them, or a skating rink in the yard, etc. that makes the kid want to stay at his own house. Sometimes the kids have a bit of anxiety too.

When we end up being the host almost all the time, it's usually because the kid lives in a condo or smaller house with no yard, or has younger siblings he wants to get away from, or maybe a parent who just doesn't want an extra kid around for some reason (messy house, weird work schedule, illness, etc.).

That said, at your kids' ages, they should be planning things with their friends. I don't "plan playdates" - my sons ask if they can make plans with so-and-so, we check the calendar for our options, they pick up the phone and call their friend, ask if they are free to get together (either that day or the next, etc.) and then will say "do you want to come to my house or do you want me to come to yours" and then the plans unfold from there. There is only one friend where I do the reach out, and it's because they don't have a landline and the child doesn't have a cell phone (neither does mine) and it's easier for the mom to respond to texts, so I text with her to firm up plans. I would just start with figuring out who your kids are really friends with (or want to be friends with) and start to build relationships with those families.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

yes, i think you just talked yourself right into where you should be. don't you love it when that happens?
you say you don't expect tit for tat, but to some degree you do.
how about just having playdates because you and your kids enjoy them? when my boys were this age i worked a lot, so it really was a lifesaver having my village help out by inviting my kids over from time to time, but honestly, we all loved it best when it was our house full of shouts and laughter and fun.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I took it as a compliment that others wanted to have my house as the place to be.

We enjoyed getting to know our daughter's friends and I always knew what was going on. They were always well fed and safe here.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

My son is in 6th grade and his very best friend who we have hosted at by this point over 50 playdates, a couple of sleepovers, come to every birthday party. Has never in seven years asked my son to his house.

His mom has taken the boys to the movies or out for pizza, but never ever to their house.

I don't know why...has never happened. And we love his parents...the four of us go out to dinner a few times a year as couples without the kids. But never an invite over. In fact with all my sons friends we have had over I don't think he has had but a couple reciprocations.

My daughter has invited friends over and never gotten an invite back. Eh, it happens. Her best friend is one of seven kids they don't have anyone over....but we keep having her friend to our house. My daughter has other friends who have invited her over to play and some we have had over and some we haven' real reason why other than time. There just isn't enough time to have a get together every weekend.

So having a 6th and 4th grader, playdates are usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours with kids who have been friends for years. I have stopped keeping track of who has asked us back over if my son or daughter want to have a friend over I call or text and ask and just host them. We do this once or twice a month.

Just keep asking kids over to play and if they keep coming nothing is wrong. It lets the kids bond outside of school. Plus having them at your house, you know what they are doing. Good luck!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When my older kids were younger, I worked. My kids were each in an activity or two (one interest, one sport like) and we went flat out. Add little ones into the mix - playdates just weren't on my radar. We got together with family friends or with neighbors where it was easy. If it wasn't easy - we didn't do it. My friends found the same.

By grades 3 and 4 the kids should be instigating it. Both kids. We had a few instances where my child either had or went on a playdate, and I could tell that while they got on at school as part of a group, one on one, they didn't click so well outside of school. That's ok. Not all playdates are going to result in regular visits to each other's homes.

We are also introverted. We've had some kids/families request playdate after playdate and we like them fine, just don't want to see them that much. Doesn't sound like you press people for them - but that's just another consideration.

We had a neighbor boy who came here but rarely invited my son there. His mom just didn't like having kids in the house. She was a nurse and tired (shift work). It was far easier for the boys (very active) to come here, and I was ok with it. I didn't take it personally.

Another friend of that same son had every latest toy, xbox game, huge space for basketball, parents catered to kids - so my son loved going there. Unless the kid asked to come here, my son never thought to ask him back. I'd remind him but ultimately - they loved playing there (and who wouldn't).

Some parents feel they have to go all out. They have to do a craft or their kid has some social issues and doesn't know how to entertain friends for 2 hours. So for some, it's a big deal and work to have kids over.

I would not take it personally :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Not everyone likes having people over to their house for a host of reasons. I don't like having people over and don't make the invitation. If we're to get together with people we plan going somewhere. We also have 5 cats and you would be amazed at how common an allergy it is. Even if the child isn't allergic there is someone in their house who is and would suffer from the dander and cat hair they'd take home with them.
If you feel like you are doing more work then you want to then stop doing it. Don't expect a tit for tat, it will never happen. Different families are going to do things differently then you because they are busy or prefer not to do the things the way you do or their house is too small for guests or they have an elderly family member living with them who won't like the activity or any number of other very valid reasons for doing their own thing.
If your girls enjoy them and you don't mind then keep doing it. If it's a problem then stop.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Remember that the other little girls are not the "lady of the house" where they live - mom makes the rules. You are being a very gracious hostess (and a fun mom). Don't take it out on the other little girls for their moms not reciprocating. Other moms, will do what they do. But you should keep doing what you are doing - in your daughters' teen years, you will be VERY happy to know that your girls and their friends feel comfortable at your house. Don't give up simply because other moms aren't doing what you do!

ETA: In addition to my advice to not worry about the other moms, I am also now realizing your daughters' ages, you said 3rd and 4th grade. Although it is great to encourage their get-togethers, they are getting to an age where for developing good social skills they should be taking some initiative to make plans themselves. (And when you describe the low number of invitations they've received "over the past two years", that might just indicate that some parents started taking a more hands-off approach earlier on.) When children are learning to take the initiative to "make plans with friends", there is a learning curve like with any other new skill, so a low number of invitations might just mean that the children are still learning to focus on how to make plans. And it's a balancing act - they need mom's permission to invite someone over, BUT, mom herself is not arranging the playdate...all of that has to align.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I think it's great you're providing play dates for your girls. I think you have to weigh whether it bothers you enough that you're not being reciprocated to not have as many or if the joy it brings your kiddos is more important.

There is also merit in being the house where kids are comfortable to hang out. In very short order, your kids will be tween/teens and the advantage of being the place where kids are welcome will be priceless.

I know it's hard when you feel like you're more invested than the other moms. Just remember why you're doing this.

Kindness is never wasted. 😊

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Let's put this in perspective. It's been 10 playdates over 24 months so it's not like you are doing them all the time. And IMHO, scheduling "playdates" is for much younger children who are not able to speak and ask a friend of they want to come over. Let your children invite their friend(s) over if they want them to come. Of course, the rule has to be that they ask your permission first, but let them decide who and when they want a friend to come over. Even if they ask you to set it up, decline. Teach them social skills by making them do the inviting themselves. And not on a text - an actual person-to-person conversation. Social skills are lacking now because of the age of technology. There is still nothing better than an actual verbal conversation!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

My house was always the house where all the kids hung out. I was fine with that, because that meant I knew where they were and what they were doing. This was especially good once they became teenagers. Having them all in my living room playing video games meant they weren't out doing something stupid.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If your kids enjoy them and you like having kids over, keep scheduling them.

If not, stop.

It's really that simple.

Please don't keep score. It's not worth the energy, because you can't guess what is going on in someone else's life.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I don't think you are doing anything wrong. When my kids were younger We use to be the house where every hung out. Play dates were done 95% of the time at my house. There were a couple of friends who would invite them over but for the most part it worked one way.

So I'd say to decide if you want to set up these play dates for your daughters and understand that other parents will probably not reciprocate. It stinks but you can't control how others choose to spend their time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Other parents probably aren't reciprocating because they stopped scheduling playdates for their children years ago. In my experience, I noticed most kids at this age make social invitations themselves (after getting parents permission) Sometimes parents have to step with logistics help if necessary after the kids have talked to their friends. I would stop all the planning and managing for them. You can just say, "you may have a friend over Saturday after lunch until 4:00" please let me know if you decide to invite someone. Then let the kids handle it, or come to you with any questions, but make them put their own energy and effort into it. You'll see how much social time is really important to them, and also which friendships they put effort into as well.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

If you stop keeping score, you will be much happier. If you don't feel like inviting kids over as often as you do, then don't. That is totally fine. But I advise you to not set a fire and salt the earth over it.

When your kids are older, you may find yourself wishing that you had fostered a 'hangout house' where all the kids end up. You don't have to worry about where your teenagers are or who they are with if they are home having a good time hosting their friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Play dates get more rare when you get into the grades your kids are into (over 7 yrs old).
Kids are starting to get involved in extra curricular activities.
Sign them up for taekwondo, or a sport, or gymnastics or dancing or an art class, or girl scouts, etc.
You can certainly try different things but at this age I'd do no more than one activity per child.
They'll have plenty of socializing outside of school - and you'll suddenly understand why you're all too tired for play dates anymore.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I'm not sure if you are still looking for responses, since you've answered your own question already. ;)

I would ask a few things, though. 10 playdates over 2 years isn't really all that many, unless they have been with the same kid(s). If each one was a different playmate, then really you've only had one playdate with the other kid, and maybe they just didn't reciprocate after that one for whatever reason. As a group, it may feel like it should have happened, but if they were all different kids, then they are individuals... not a group, and it was one playdate.

Now, if these quarterly(?)ish playdates were with the same family every time, then yes, I'd say... well, gee... you'd think after 2 years they would do the inviting once in a while. But I'd also wonder why you hadn't questioned it before now.

But lets look at them as individual families. Do they have one child, who plays with one of your two? Or do they have multiples? When you hosted, was the invitation for the one child to play with your one child, or was it for *both* of your kids. If for both, maybe the other parent isn't quite up to hosting your two together. You never know what is going on in other people's lives.

Are you kids well behaved? I mean... I know most parents think their kids are. But, are they well mannered? Do they follow instructions, help clean up, eat what is offered, etc? Are they loud and rowdy, messy, questioning of adult instruction, bossy with their playmates, fussy about toys, or anything else that might indicate to a fellow parent that entertaining them might be *difficult* or not fitting with their home environment? (I'm not accusing you... just curious... what one person perceives as jovial and outgoing, another might perceive as loud and obnoxious... its all a matter of perspective. But, as an example, my own children were relatively quiet, and knew well what an inside voice was and were able to use it without constant reminding... and my husband works shift work and often naps or is sleeping at times when the kids were not yet in bed for the night... playmates, I often found, had little understanding of "no running and yelling in the house... do that outside or play something more quietly inside... Dad's napping. Constant outbursts, shrieks, squeals, banging toys around, and so on... Not *bad* kids... but definitely didn't fit into the environment of our home at that time.)

Without knowing anything about the other kids/families, it's hard to say what might have happened. If the playdate kid is a younger sibling to older kids, maybe the mom isn't accustomed to having other moms come over and hang out while the kids play anymore (if that was how you did it when you hosted). Or maybe they are past the point where they feel up to *managing* kids that age... if there are older siblings, their youngest may need very little supervision at home on a daily basis. And with older siblings, there are more responsibilities, likely more out of the house activities that the kids are chauffeured to, and a more harried parent taking care of it all, just trying to keep sane.

Do the parents of the kids you hosted both work in each case? I can see where a household with both parents working outside the home, and multiple kids at home would just make hosting a playdate the very last thing you'd ever want to take on. And having nothing to do with you whatsoever... just a general over scheduling of life, as it goes on.

Sorry it turned out that way. You may find that if you move on and let this go, that other invitations turn up as your kids get older and more independent. Not everyone has the time or inclination to host other kids. Sure once might be doable, but would that lead to the feeling of an ongoing obligation? I don't know.
But life goes on, and things change. Doesn't sound like you plan to dwell on this, and I wouldn't. Nor would I hold it against anyone. Just be wiser about how you devote your time going forward. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia!

You are keeping score. You may have "HELICOPTER MOM" written on your forehead too. In other words, you are overly involved. Yes, your kids are young - but they don't need play dates every week or month.

YOU might have the time, but other parents may NOT have the time. Stop and breathe.

Try connecting with the other parents and not seeming desperate for attention for you or your kids. Do NOT keep score. Let it be.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I suggest that you make a couple of adjustments.

First, stop doing the planning, except for your girls' birthday parties.

Second, stop doing the planning, and allow your girls to invite a friend over (after school, on a Saturday, or when your schedule allows). BUT, establish the ground rules with your daughters. No invitations are issued without checking with you first. In other words, they don't tell Elsa that she can come over, and then they inform you that they invited Elsa. The answer will be no. Instead, they ask you "mom, may I invite Elsa to come over on Friday for a couple of hours?" and then it gets written on a calendar.

And maybe sign your girls up for a club or group (Girl Scouts, a church youth group, lessons of some kind) where they'll socialize.

Keep your home welcoming - have some quick easy snacks ready (pretzels, raisins) or a go-to favorite food to make (a cheese dip or nachos, and keep the ingredients on hand), and bottles of water or juice. Let your daughters know that these foods are for when guests are over. Stay present but not hovering (pass through the room from time to time).

You'll establish the kind of home you want - where friends can gather informally and naturally.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

These families might have other kids involved in things or crazy schedules, the parents might have lots of breakables and don't want kids running in their house, their house might be a hoarder house, they might have something like alcoholism in the house that they don't want other kids exposed to, they simply might not want other people in their home.

With all of that said, we love for our house to be the house people want to come to. We know our kids friends, they are comfortable at our house and around us, we hear what's going on in their lives. So while it can be a pain (and expensive) to always have a house full of kids, it's also better the older they get.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Your last line is perfect. Stop putting energy into playtimes with other people's kids. Focus on your own.

Some families are busy. My son homeschools now and so we don't see a lot of his 'school' friends as often as we used to. Plus, I'm not around to casually ask, after school is over, if an afternoon playtime would work. I make a lot of effort for my son; sometimes things work out, sometimes we go off and have our own adventure. It's not often reciprocated, but I'm okay with it. Would it be nice? Sure. But most of his friends have siblings or the parents are busy or... life just happens. We have a couple of neighbor kids whose parents I am friends with; they come over to play while the adults chat. It all works out.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You may - or may not - be doing anything wrong.

If you want to look at the possible negatives, you might consider that you are choosing the wrong people, that you are trying too hard, or coming on too strong, appearing to be needy for friends for yourself or your kids.

Or conversely, there could be many positive reasons that are coming back to bite you: that you make it seem so effortless that no one realizes you really don't want to do it all the time, or that you are doing so much perhaps that others feel they can't possibly keep up or do it as well, or that they don't want to clean (or they just can't manage it because they suffer from depression which, believe me, is a huge impediment to getting the house ready for "company." Or, maybe they feel their house isn't as nice or spacious as yours, or they can't bake the snacks you serve or their kids don't share well or they don't have enough toys. One or more of them may have a spouse who works at home (I do) or perhaps an elderly or disabled relative lives there, and having other kids over would be disruptive.

Ten play dates in 2 years doesn't seem like a lot - it's one every 2.5 months which is hardly an imposition. But I get that you're really feeling more rejected by not being invited than you are put out by the effort.

May I suggest that you contact a community group - perhaps the Newcomers Club if there is one (ours doesn't serve only newcomers, and I think I was in it for 12 years) - or you put up flyers at the children's wing of the library asking for other parents who are interested in play groups for preschoolers. Say something appealing about it "rotating" from home to home, so that each person only hosts maybe every 8 weeks. We did that for years - same group, always moving from home to home, and it never got annoying. We even did a monthly collection for the food pantry - which provides a service and makes it more likely that people will show up rather than default on the group's "mission" to help needy kids. Maybe you can put a notice in the free section of a community newspaper too. If you got just 6 families, you could do something every week or every 2 weeks and it would be fun but not a huge effort.

Otherwise, look into programs at the library, the local children's or science or art museum, see if the craft store will organize something even once a month (it would help sell craft supplies if they need an incentive and if you all learn something you want to do again). You could do Christmas ornaments, bird houses, picture frames, Easter baskets, 4th of July flag decor, a zillion things. And a whole bunch of Home Depot stores around us (and maybe elsewhere) do a craft program every year to help kids make Hanukkah menorahs - it builds good community relations - and the kids make great creations out of paint sticks and small tiles and hex nuts and even paint stirrers. Maybe a local farm would allow you to plan a pumpkin picking day, complete with pumpkin carving or painting, or maybe a strawberry picking day. Is there a sledding area or snow tube place that caters to small kids? They might love to have some customers on a weekday morning when little else is going on - we have a small hill ski area nearby, perfect for people trying things out.

Try being creative in this, and maybe find a partner family to help you brainstorm it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I know how frustrating that can be. I am not always great at reciprocating, but I do my best because I know how I would feel if it was the other way around. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. A few thoughts that might help...

Do the moms typically stay when you invite the kids over or is it a dropoff play date? 3 and 4 year olds are pretty young to be dropped off, especially if it is someone's oldest child. I understand you are comfortable having young kids that age at your house, but others may not be comfortable yet having other kids left in their care.

Do you expect - or possibly do they THINK you expect even if you don't - for them to take both of your girls? With siblings close in age, especially when they are the same gender - it can be hard to separate them for play dates. Others may feel guilty only inviting one, or it's possible something you say or do makes them think you expect them to invite both (I don't know you at all - nothing in your post indicates this, it's just a thought I had based on situations I've been in myself). If you think this might be the case, try to find a way to slip into conversation that you're encouraging the girls to make separate friends, or make sure that when the child comes to your house, your other daughter doesn't play with them. You don't have to always keep them separate at your own house, but it might make the other parents feel like you're ok letting one daughter go while the other stays home.

Do the other moms work? Reciprocating play dates is much harder for a working mom than a stay at home mom.

How well do you know the other moms? If it isn't a dropoff play date, but you don't know each other well, some moms may not be good with small talk, especially in a house where there aren't many distractions. Suggest meeting at a park so you can get to know each other better without the awkwardness that sometimes comes from being at home with a "stranger."

I hope it gets better for you! Please don't give up. Eventually, the invitations will come.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Binghamton on

Lots of good answers and I'll echo ten in 2 years isn't a lot unless they were all with the same two or maybe 3 girls. I have always hosted more often than not. Luckily most do reciprocate but there have been some over the years who are lame. I tell myself I'm not doing it for the other mother's sake. I'm doing it for my children's enjoyment. And it does usually occupy them which makes my life easier. So I doubt you're doing anything wrong. Just decide what's important to you. For me it was my kids having friends over to play bc they enjoyed it so much. If you decide the same, you'll have to remind yourself of it but hopefully eventually at least a couple of mothers will reciprocate.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I think i have planned 10 this week between my 2 kids. Not really, but it feels like it.

There are many reasons my kids may not be invited. One parent has a new baby, another has an in-law staying and there is not much space. Another lives in an apartment and they can't have noisy kids running around bothering the person.

Some kids prefer my kids to go to their house because they may have some special feature that we do not have (maybe a pool or large field to run).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

if we were a playdate area we would go to them but not have them.. we have 2 big dogs, and i would make it clear that no one comes over due to those dogs. i fear that my loving never bit anyone before dog may hurt someones kid so i prevent that by keeping others out of the house.we will meet you at a park, at your house, but due to dogs we prefer that we not have playdates at home.

(my one dog is big and if he steps on a chilods foot it will hurt, possibly breaking bones because of his weight and size.. don't need that kind of liability going on)



answers from Denver on

This frequently happened to me too. I have an only child, so it was important to find people for her to play with. As she got into elementary school, it was easier to plan things because the kids were older and we got more invitations.
one thing that was helpful for me was to go down to our neighborhood park frequently. There were usually other kids there that would play with my kid and it didn't have to be planned. We frequently saw the same people there and the kids got to know each other. Also check out storytime at your local library. We saw the same people there week after week.
You might also want to try the McDonalds play place.



answers from Miami on

C., it could be that the moms whose kids you invite have very messy houses. They are not willing to invite others over because of that because they don't want the moms to see the mess.

It's just a thought that this might be the problem...



answers from Oklahoma City on

When I think of "play dates" I don't think of kids this old. Kids this age go to friend's houses to hang out and spend time together with just that one friend.

Maybe you should also consider that you should know their friends. Who their parents are. Have been to their homes. Are friends with them. At least this way you can pick up a phone and ask them why they don't invite your children over.

Since they aren't getting invited over to begin with I wonder if they are really as liked as you think. Sometimes they think they're popular but they really aren't. Maybe they don't want to tell you this.

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