Playdates are an important part of childhood development. They give children practice interacting socially, and they provide parents with opportunities to spend quality time with their kids. They also help communities come together as parents build mutual support networks around children of similar ages.
Plus you can make playdates for everyone too, even parents, if you plan out the right type of activities. But knowing just what to do at playdates to make them a good time for everyone can be a bit of a challenge when you’re focused exclusively on the activity.
Anything can eventually be made into a playdate, so what to do at playdates to make them work?
Here’s What to Do At Playdates For a More Enjoyable Experience
If you want to know what to do at playdates, there are really only four factors you can do to make playdates more fun for everyone. First, make sure you have enough toys and activities available so that each child has something to do during the visit. Sticking to this first point makes sure you don’t have inevitable squabbles over the good toys.
Of course, you can’t solve every problem, but more on that later. Second, make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks available. Hangry children are no fun. Third, make sure you have some games planned out so that everyone gets a chance to participate.
Keeping the kiddos happy is first and foremost to a successful playdate. Finally, try to keep the visit short. If you need to leave early, that’s fine. Just make sure you let the other parent know beforehand. It’s always better to leave them wanting more.
You’ll find that playdates are a lot of fun once you prepare for them properly. Here are four ways to make playdates more enjoyable for everyone involved.
In fact, you’ll likely find you’ll know what to do at playdates naturally if you do a little prep work.
First, make sure you actually set up the playdate. I know I’ve been guilty of thinking a playdate with the kid’s friend would be a great idea, but then never remembering to schedule some actual time.
Even if you’re going to meet in a neutral third place like a park you still need to make sure that everyone is onboard with when and where the kids are going to play together. If they’re not together, they’re not going to have a successful playdate.
Second, plan something simple to start.
Keeping playdates simple is especially important with younger kids, or new friends. Kids have short attention spans and tire very easily. Parents tire very easily as well. Thus you’ll make the playdates fun for everyone if you keep everyone entertained. That’s easier to do with a short time. Maybe you’ll only plan to spend an hour at the park instead of the entire day.
Third, be ready with snacks. Even on a short playdate kids tend to get hungry. As mentioned before, hangry kids are no fun. But make sure you have a snack for yourself as well. There are few things as exhausting as making sure that the kiddos are safe at the park. All of that attention takes calories.
Make sure you’ve got something simple like a granola bar for yourself and the kids. If they’re running around a little sugar never hurt in my experience.
Fourth, have at least one activity in your back pocket. A successful playdate is derailed when the kids get bored. If you’ve chosen a neutral third space like the library or the park it’s still possible that the kids will run out of ideas. Make sure you’re ready with a suggestion when they say “we’re bored.”
Maybe you can suggest the swings. Or if you’re at a specific location without a lot to do, an easy game is a good suggestion. Dice games like Yahtzee teach math skills and are small enough to carry anywhere.
What to do at Playdates? Set Ground Rules Upfront
It’s not uncommon for parents to feel anxious before a playdate. You might worry about how your kid will behave, whether he’ll make friends, or whether she’ll be bored.
To help ease those concerns, set ground rules beforehand. Tell your child what you expect him to do during the day (like eat lunch) and what you expect her to do (like clean up). Then, tell your parent peers what you expect them to provide (like snacks), and ask her how you can help as well.
Make sure that all parents agree on the ground rules ahead of time. This agreement is especially important if playing at another’s home.
What may be appropriate for one child may not be appropriate for another. Always defer to the parent who’s home is hosting the date. Also make sure that you’re helping the host make the most of the date. And, it’s not as if parents of the same child always agree on what’s appropriate, let alone playdate parents.
If you guys aren’t on the same page then there’s nothing that’s going to make it a good time.
Set Aside Some Adult Time
Part of the reason to have a playdate is to spread out the stress of parenting. Being alone with a five-year-old day in day out can be taxing, even if your child is a particularly good kiddo.
They say it takes a village and this playdate is your chance to build that community. It’s important to compare notes with other parents. The playdate is a great time to catch up with your peers in the parenting game. If the kids are playing well together this is a great time to talk to your parenting friends.
Just keep an eye out in case you need to intervene to keep the playdate on track. As the kids become more experienced with one another, you can anticipate having less supervision to take care of at any good playdate.
Rules Established. Great. What to do at playdates.
Okay, so you’ve prepared, you’ve scheduled, set some ground rules, and are ready to go. What are some actual ideas for a playdate? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with three basic templates.
The Craft Playdate
If you don’t know what to do at playdates, crafts are a great place to start. They can be intimidating for a new dad, but just get some tools involved.
Crafts are a great activity for a playdate because they involve a lot of focused activity.
So long as you’re keeping the goals short, age appropriate crafts can be lot of fun for everyone involved. Seasonal crafts are a goto in my house. If it’s fall, we’re making art focused on turkeys and pumpkins.
If we’re in the spring, it’s all about outdoor crafts. Leaf art and rock painting are the name of the game here. No matter what craft you choose, just make sure it’s done by the end of the playdate. No one likes going home empty handed without their masterpiece.
Want to get really sneaky on what to do at playdates? Trick the older ones into making baby food for the younger ones while the adults watch the game.
What to Do at Playdates: Play Some Games
Everybody loves games. Heck, there are entire industries devoted to not only the playing of games, but watching other people play games (watch Minecraft Youtube!).
A game is a great activity for a playdate because it offers structured play, and can even include parents if they’re interested. With video games being so popular with young folks today a great idea for a playdate is some hands on time with an old school board game.
Many are even cooperative so there won’t be hurt feelings at the end of the day. Even if you choose to play a more competitive game, this can be a great way to establish how to be a good team player.
Avoid Monopoly and Risk as those games can end entire families.
Going Out on Playdates
Okay, sometimes you just don’t want other folks up in your space.
Or, maybe you’ve spent the entirety of the COVID lockdown at home and just want to get out of the house. Taking the party elsewhere can really open up the possibilities to create fun memories with our friends. As mentioned above a local park is always a great idea since there are built in activities.
For those with more money to spend a bespoke activity can be fun. Kids thrive when they’re presented with things out of the ordinary. Maybe ice skating is something new, or a trip to the batting cages. A bucket of balls at the driving range rarely misses (unless you try and count where the kids hit the balls).
Sometimes even a trip to a museum can create the perfect playdate. Just the change of scenery is the key here. Take the kids out of their comfortable elements and let them explore something new.
Final Thoughts on What to Do at Playdates
Even though a playdate can be stressful, it doesn’t need to be. They’re supposed to be fun.
As parents we worry that our children aren’t having the best time at all times. We shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves though. Even a failed playdate is still playing.
That’s always a win in my book. But if you keep these tips in mind you should be able to make playdates fun for everyone. That’s the key. Just have fun!
Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to and that’s alright. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. You can always play another game, rent another movie, or get a new activity.