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National Child Safety Expert, Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is one of the country's leading child safety authorities, providing tips and advice to parents on a broad range of issues facing all children - newborns to teens.

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Top Tips for a Safe Playdate
by Alison Rhodes

With my kids off from school this week I feel like an air traffic controller, navigating the massive logistics of multiple playdates for my son and daughter. When it's their best friends it's comfortable - we know their likes, dislikes and attention spans. But what if it's a new friend? How well do you know the other family?

While we teach our kids appropriate playdate etiquette, we also need to be assertive with the other parent in communicating what is and isn't acceptable to you. Whether you're the host or sending your child to another family's home, read on for some tips on how to ensure a safe and successful playdate!

Meet in person. If this is an afterschool playdate and you've never met the parents, drive your child over to the home rather than taking the bus together. Or, if the playdate is at your house, insist on the child being dropped off so you have a chance to meet the mom.

Who's In Charge? Determine who will be present during the playdate - is it the mom, a nanny or an older sibling? How comfortable would you feel having a teenage sibling in charge? Do you feel certain that they are capable of handling an emergency? If the mom is there will she be there the entire time or will a babysitter or someone else be taking over? Make sure you have a cell phone number for both the mom and any other caregiver.

Find out about allergies. Be sure to find out if the child has any allergies so you can plan accordingly. If your child is visiting a friend's home and is younger than 5 years of age, make sure you explain to the parent what foods you consider choking hazards and don't allow.

Get a picture/take a picture. If your child will be visiting a mall, amusement park or some other public venue, provide the mother with a recent photo of your child in case he gets lost. Likewise, if you are taking another child somewhere, ask for a recent photo to keep with you.

Bring the right equipment. If the play date includes bicycles, scooters or some sort of riding toy, bring along your child's helmet which has been fit specifically for him.

Are there dogs in the home? Even the friendliest dog can bite if a child goes near their food or pulls on their tail. Find out if there are pets in the home and where they are kept. Explain your concern and ask if the animal might be kept away during the play date.

Ask if there is a gun in the home. Your child might never have seen or touched a gun but if one is in sight you don't know what he or she might do. If there is a gun at a friend's home you might consider moving the play date to your house.

Bring along the car seat or booster seat. If your child will be traveling in another car during the play date, install his car seat yourself. Over 80% of car seats are installed improperly.

Every parent has different rules and ideas so make sure you clearly communicate your beliefs and help your child have a safe and fun play date.

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