Roosevelt University's Lynne Firsel offers a short list of unwritten rules for play dates:
• Supervise your own child carefully during play dates. Be there to intervene if there is fighting or biting. "Mom has to say, 'Hands are not for hitting,'" Firsel says.
• Leave pets at home, or at least check with the other parents first.
• Never leave children unattended.
• Make play spaces soft and safe.
• Keep conversation with other parents light and upbeat. "Parents are going to compare, but knowing that," Firsel says, "it's helpful not to do something that will hurt someone's feelings or make them feel that their child is less than average."
• Be sure that there are toys for everyone. If there are four kids, have four balls. Firsel says that the smaller bunch doesn't know how to share. "If you take it away from a child they don't know why you're taking it away."
• If your child gets restless or worse, walk him out of the general space to take a breather. "Take the child away and comfort them," Firsel says, "because he's probably overwhelmed."