Play dates are sometimes a great way to break up the week, and other times they are the entire key to your weekday sanity. My daughter adores playing with her friends (even if she mostly ignores them while they are there and chats nonstop about them later). I get some adult time to catch up with girlfriends and share parenting advice back and forth.
During the summertime, we trade in many of our more structured activities for impromptu play dates. Since we have several small groups of friends, this can mean a lot of hanging out. One of my favorite play date tips for young children is to offer a theme. My reasoning for adding a theme is threefold: A theme offers an expectation for the other moms, it gives the kids a specific activity to look forward to, and it saves some toys for other days which is always a plus when you host a lot of play dates.
To get you started, I’d like to offer some theme suggestions. I think these themes can easily be adjusted to the age of the children participating, but I am gearing the list mainly towards toddlers and preschoolers. I’d suggest spending less than an hour preparing for any of these play dates because if you spend longer, you will not want to host very often! My rule of thumb is that a play date should last about two hours so that none of the participants have time to get tired, hungry or cranky.
This theme is always a hit for a hot summer day. Take out your water table, baby pool, buckets of water, and sprinkler. A few cups for pouring and floating toys or ducks, and you are all set!
Have each child bring 2-3 balls from home. Set out a basketball hoop, dollar store laundry baskets with balls in them, and different buckets where they can throw the balls. It sounds simple, but kids love it.
Have everyone wear old clothing. Set up easels or just tarps on the ground, paint, brushes, chalk and paper. Let the kids each create a few beautiful canvases to take home.
Teddy Bear Picnic
Each mom brings some simple picnic food, like sliced vegetables, little sandwiches and lemonade. Each child brings their teddy bear. Everyone can sit on a blanket and enjoy a picnic.
Rock Band Play Date
Everyone brings two instruments from home. At least one instrument should be homemade (think a pot and a spoon, or a guitar made from rubber band strings). The kids can take turns trying all of the instruments and making some interesting songs.
This is a good one for kids that are a little older and can follow a set pattern. Set up a course that includes tunnels, things to jump over, balls to throw, hula hoops to go through and lots of running in between. The other moms will thank you for wearing the kids out.
Set up a kid’s tent or a bunch of blankets on chairs and have a camping party. Tell stories in the tent, and make s’mores too.
Fill up a baby pool with bubble bath, get an inexpensive bubble machine, and give each kid a bubble wand—hours of fun! You can find many of these items at the dollar store.
On a rainy date, take your play date inside. Have each child wear Frozen clothing. Prepare a Frozen-theme craft and snack (a quick look on Pinterest and you’ll be full of ideas), then play the movie. Have some coloring sheets and crayons available for kids who like to color during movies.
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