Playdates Dutch style 

School pick-up is always a bit nerve-wracking. There’s the general “will I get there in time worries, but also (in the Netherlands at least) there’s the “how many children will be coming home with me” uncertainty. As here organizing to play with another child in the class is down to the children, with adult agreement – hopefully!

The best scenario is they come out the door holding someone’s hand, and assuming both parents are happy about it, you ask them to decide whose house they want to go to. And then you check you have the necessary addresses, phone numbers and agree a collection time with the other parent.

The worst scenario is when they come out of school wanting to play with someone, agree with you that they can, but then can’t find anyone. As everyone else has either gone home, is doing something else, or has already agreed to play with someone else. Cue breaking down in tears in the playground; sometimes to such an extent that the teacher comes to see what’s wrong.

Overall, it works well and as long as everyone is relaxed about it, it’s great. It’s good for the children to get some responsibility for what they do. Though sometimes they can be too eager to play with each other – I have nearly brought a child home with us who was scheduled to go to an after-school care. Since he started school rocket boy has had playdates with about half of his class; mainly with the girls. And there’s a couple where it’s been requested but for various reasons we haven’t yet managed to arrange it. So it is a nice way for them to get to know all the other children in their class. 

It does add a bit of mystery to the whole pick-up after school. Will I be bringing home 1, 2 or 3 children? Once starry girl starts school too I might have 4! Or 0! Fortunately we live close enough to the school that if there’s too many for my bike then we can all walk home easily.


  1. The life of kids just seems to get more complicated no matter where you live, as your post illustrates so well. When I was a kid, adults were entirely free from arranging the social lives of the young. Children just came home from school, changed their clothes, got on their bicycles and rode off to join the other kids at a playground or park. I never heard the word playdate until I had my own kids. I realize that much of the change has to do with most women working outside the home, but I feel almost privileged that my childhood was less complicated and more independent.

    • Playdate is definitely a modern word and not one I heard as a child either. I can’t really remember what I used to do at 5, or how involved my parents were in it!

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