Being a stay-at-home mom to three children under the age of five, I really count on afternoon naps to catch up around the house or to get a little “me” time. I have come to depend on their playdates to run out their energy so that I can get good solid naps from all of my kids. Not only are playdates helpful to me but are also great way for toddlers to learn how to form their first friendships. This is important as it allows them to practice their sharing skills and most importantly how to cooperate with others. When quarrels appear, which they always do, this gives them the opportunity to teach your children how to compromise and how to make fair decisions.
Hosting a playdate can be intimidating, especially if you never planned one before. I remember the very first playdate that I planned. My biggest worry was that the kids would be bored. I have come to experience that the best type of playdate is a themed playdate. Otherwise, children get so excited about playing with their friends they end up running around with no way to channel their energy. Giving them an activity gives them something to focus on and makes for a much memorable playdate.
The following are some creative ideas that will make your playdate much more memorable:
1. Cardboard Box City
Kids have a universal love for cardboard boxes. There is so many activities you can do with them and if you child has a good imagination they can spend hours entertaining themselves with just a simple cardboard box. For this playdate, I gathered and saved large boxes (the best ones are the ones that held fridges, stoves or dishwashers). I cut a few “windows” and “doors” out of them then placed them around the backyard. I made sure to let other moms know ahead of time that their children should wear clothing they are not worried about getting dirty. I set up paint stations around the yard and children had a marvelous time painting the boxes (or their “homes”) while running in and out of them. This kept them occupied for hours.
2. Toddler Olympics
This playdate is suited best for children who are very active. We set up a few events around the basement and each child had a card where they would get a sticker after every event they finished. Events included jumping on the small trampoline, running through the tunnel and sliding down the slide. When all events were completed, each child was awarded with a gold medal. We also had fun art craft events like painting the Olympic rings.
3. Gingerbread Party Playdate
Planning a playdate around the holidays? Want something with a holiday theme? A gingerbread party playdate is so much fun!. Each child is given premade gingerbread dough that they could press into a gingerbread man mold or roll out to cut from cooking cutters. When their cookies are backing, children can be occupied with a great Christmas story read to them or Christmas movie to watch. When the cookies are all baked and cooled off, the kids will enjoy decorating their gingerbread man cookie and taking the extra home to eat later.
4. Grocery Store Playdate
This takes a bit of time to set up but it is a playdate that all children enjoy. Every child loves to pretend they are a little adult and pretending to go grocery shopping is one of their favorite adult activities they love to mimic. Children take turns playing cashier while the others load up their cart or bags with goodies.
5. Superhero Playdate
This will appeal to the child who never wants to take off their superhero costume. Every year I visit Halloween stores after season to purchase clearance costumes to add to my costume collection. I have gathered many superhero costumes over the last couple years but all you really need is a bunch of capes and masks. Kids love to dress up and run around pretending they are going to save the day. Some activities you can include are superhero training such as walking over a balance bean (walking over lava) and a silly string obstacle course (vaporizing enemies).
6. Epic Messy Playdate
This isn’t as scary as it sounds. As a mom, I am always aware when planning playdates how long it will take me to clean up afterwards. We all know toddlers love to make messes and it usually only takes two seconds to do so. This playdate is best to do outside for obvious reasons. Set up a kiddie pool and plastic tub stations around the yard. They can be filled with shaving cream, slime and Jell-O. Kids will have a ball squishing and playing with all these fun textures. To get those kids cleaned up after all that fun, set up a sprinkler station. Kids will love running through it to wash off all that mess. They may run through the wash to get clean just to get messy again!
7. Garden Playdate
This playdate is a great way to ring in spring. You can usually find flower pots for less than a dollar and children will have fun to decorate them with paint. While the paint is drying, kids can enjoy snacks such as sandwiches cut out in flower cookie cutters. After the pots are dry, each child will learn how to plant a flower. Melissa & Doug have great spring gardening toys.
8. Pirates & Princess
This playdate can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. Some will enjoy decorating their eye-patch while others will have fun decorating their crown. You can plan fun activities such as walking the plank (walking across a board) or kiss the frog bean toss.
9. Sidewalk Paint Party
Children will enjoy coming together to create a large art masterpiece on your driveway. Kids are delighted in the large space they have to paint on. Sidewalk paint is easy to make. All you need is 2 tablespoons of corn starch, 4 tablespoons of water and 6-8 drops of food coloring. You can mix these in a muffin tray which children can use as their paint pallet. Give them each a few paint brushes and sponges and they are ready to go! After they are done, all you need is rain or a wash down with a hose to clean it right up.
10. Doctor Theme Playdate
This is a fun playdate idea. Every child brings a special stuffed animal or doll to be their “patient.” Set up little stations around the room for them to check and cure their patients. All you need is cotton swabs, band aids, Popsicle sticks and gauze. Kids will get a kick out of bandaging up their patient’s boo-boos. For party favors you can send each child home with a small first aid kit.
11. Tea Party Playdate
There is nothing sweeter than an old fashioned tea party. Girls will enjoy putting on their favorite dresses and learning the art of entertaining while practicing their manners. Cute little cookies, flower shaped sandwiches and Kool-Aid are the best items to serve. To put a little crafty twist to this playdate, each child can paint their own tea cup and saucer that they can take home with them.
12. Car Wash
On a beautiful warm summer day, this is a great playdate idea. Lay out a few buckets of soapy water and a few buckets of clean water with sponges and towels. Kids can bring their favorite toy car or truck to wash. Kids will have fun for hours scrubbing their toys. You will be amazed at how long this will keep them occupied. Set up a small kiddie pool of dirt so that the children can get their toys dirty so they can wash them all over again!
13. Pizza Playdate
Kids will enjoy being chef for the day by making their very own pizza. Before each kid arrives, make sure everything is laid out such as the cheese, toppings and dough. After each child is done making their pizza, pop them in the oven and while they are waiting kids can run outside for a bit. After they run some energy out and have built up their appetite they will be excited to try their very own delicious pizza that they made.
14. Book Club
You can theme any playdate around a book. This is such a fun playdate and will appeal to any mom who likes a bit of a crafty challenge and kids who love to read. Make sure it is a book that all children have read and are familiar with. One of my favorites to use for these types of playdates is Dr. Seuss.
15. Cookie Decorating
I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love cookies! My kids love this and enjoy eating the actual decorations before it ever gets on the cookie. Sugar cookies work best for decorating. Set up a table that has different color frosting choices as well as cookie embellishments such as sprinkles and little candies such as m&ms to decorate. Each child receives 8- 10 cookies to decorate and a small box for them to take them home in. It gets a bit messy and sticky, but it is so much fun!