Israel Playdate Etiquette

Let’s talk playdate etiquette.

  • I was taught never to invite myself to someone’s house, but in Israel it’s okay for a kid to call and ask if she can come over.
  • Playdates never start before 4 PM and usually later, even though school is usually over at 1 PM.
  • Bamba or some other snack food is always served.
  • Playdates often last till 6:30 PM, 7 or even later, in which case the guests are invited for dinner. In Israel, lunch is the main meal and dinner is bread, an omelet, chumus and salad.

A reader sent me a playdate question, but I have not experienced this. I usually need to ask how the kids played. I am turning the question over to you:

Parents have often told me after my children played at their house that my children were a pleasure to have over.  I always took their comments at face value (especially since they said this at a later date, not necessarily right after the playdate), and was pleased to think that my children were nice and well mannered.

Recently it occurred to me to wonder if this is standard for parents to say to other parents, and that maybe I am expected to say this too.  I do tell parents when their children are extra polite and pleasant, but too often that is not the case.   I am polite to the children and the parents but I don’t generally tell them how wonderful the kids are, unless I honestly felt they were. My question is, am I expected to tell parents what a pleasure their children were when they play here?  What have other parents experienced?

Comments are still coming in on What Defines Israeli Parenting.


  1. I remember once when my oldest was little, I went to pick her up from her playdate and got a blow-by-blow account of her not so perfect behavior. It wasn’t anything major, the kids were bickering. Now here little friend had been over at my house many times as well and the same behaviors had occurred–both children argued, but nothing I thought twice about, I thought it was normal 5-year-old behavior. It never occurred to me to report it to the mother. I just said everything went great, the kids were great. I didn’t say anything to the mother who had given me this report (a friend of mine, as our daughters were, and still are), but it did bother me.

    The only time I ever told a mother that something was less than perfect was when a little girl said a pretty terrible thing to my babysitter.

    I think all normal playdates where your child was entertained for a few hours by and with a peer should be called “wonderful”, unless there is really something important to report. Otherwise it’s just nitpicking.

  2. Agree with Baila, although I just tend to be low key about the praise- just “Everything went great”, that type of thing. Although i’ve had pple tell me what a pleasure my kids are, and I tend to believe it, because they are low maintenance, non demanding, etc. I’ve had kids over who spend the entire time demanding things from me: more food, different toys, or just generally talking A LOT to me. I don’t mind hearing a bit about gan, etc, but the play date is there to play with my daughter, not me.

    I’ve gotten may calls from mothers of friends of my older daughter, letting me know she REALLY wants to go to their house to play. I’m a bit embarrassed, but they seem to be fine with it, and I always try to invite over to us first.

    If i feel at all close to the mother, I try to get an honest report.

    How about the other part of the etiquette: Whether it’s also a date for the moms or not. I find some moms expect you to stay and have coffee or play in the park (if you’re at all friendly, from shul or the neighborhood) and other mothers expect you to zoom out the door. I’ve always found that interesting.

  3. Another interesting thing – with the younger set – say up to age 5, at least for girls, if your kids stay late enough, you sometimes get them back bathed and in the other kid’s pajamas… my mother says this NEVER happened when she was raising kids in the US, but it’s not unusual here.

  4. What Abbi said :).

    I’m constantly telling my kids that at the very least the first invitation we initiate should be to our own house and they just don’t see why that matters. I do try and stick to that though, it just feels like better manners to me.

    Most moms will say a playdate went “fine” or “good” no matter what, but I do suspect that those of us raising anglo kids tend to hear more about what a pleasure they were to have over. I suspect it’s because their anglo parents still insist on their showing more respect and better manners to all adults than many Israeli children do these days. I’ve even had some parents tell me that they want my child to come over often so that he can set a good example for their own! (A bit strange, but I’ll just view it as a compliment.)

    The is it a mommy playdate too often really throws me – it’s invariably when I’m in the biggest hurry that the other mom insists that I stay, and the mom I’d like to get to know better who doesn’t. In any case it’s moot by the time gets to second or third grade since at that point you’re often not even bringing them over yourself.

  5. I’ve sometimes had compliments about my kids from Israeli mothers, but don’t feel obliged to reciprocate unless I’m really struck by something their children said or did. My youngest, now 12 1/2, has been with the same classmates since kindergarten. Over the years I’ve grown fond of several of them, and don’t mind saying so to their mothers.

    One mother asked that my daughter wear longer sleeves when she visits their house – that didn’t bother either of us. It’s only respectful to comply. Her daughter was just her over last night, a sweet girl; I’m glad I was relaxed about the dress code in her home.

  6. All 4 of your etiquette points shocked me when my kids first started the whole playdate thing. Now, I’m so used to it that I don’t even think it’s rude when little Yoav calls asking if he can come over and then stays for dinner.

    And I always tell the mom that their kid was fine- usually they are, I haven’t had too many problems in that area. But usually the moms don’t even ask. 🙂

  7. I’m reading this and laughing about the post regarding rudeness. Especially RR’s comment.

    Some sort of snack was always made available when we kids, but my mother would have plotzed of shock, horror and embarrassment if we had ever ASKED for something first. And, she was always the type to tell the other parent what a pleasure her child was. But, I don’t think she ever found it rude of other parents to not do that.

    From what I know of Israelis, I suspect that most people won’t get uptight if you don’t enthuse about how wonderful their kid was to have around (for different reasons than my mother ) as long as you don’t imply that he’s not welcome to come back.

    By the way, I wonder if what the parents were saying is really “it was a pleasure, come again” in the general sense rather than “your children are so wonderful that it was a pleasure to have THEM especially.”


    “thank you so much for having me” “It was a pleasure”


    “Your child is incredible to have over, she’s SUCH a pleasure.”

    Do the two exchanges even translate similarly in colloquial Hebrew?

  8. I wouldn’t say anything negative to a parent about the child, but I wouldn’t make a point of saying s/he was a pleasure if I didn’t find the child so just out of politeness. Just for politeness, I would respond that they were fine if asked.

  9. Interesting question and discussion. I sometimes make a comment about whether the kids had fun rather than about their behaviour. So I might say “They had a great time. They played outside for a bit and then came in and played a board game”.

  10. I laughed when our neighbor said my kids could stay for baths and dinner. I didn’t realize it was so common to stay over for dinner. When my daughter came down to our apartment one Friday night to tell me her friend invited her to stay for dinner I told her it as time to come home. Then I had to explain to my crying 4.5 year old that being invited for dinner is sometimes a polite way of saying, “We’re eating dinner now maybe it’s time for you to go home.” I guess Isrealis would just say its time to go home.


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