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40 Fun and Engaging Playdate Ideas for Toddlers and Kids

playdate ideas"
playdate ideas
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The crown jewel of childhood is playtime. Kids can authentically express themselves and those colorful ideas they’re constantly dreaming up through play. Talk to most people, and they’ll fondly remember what they played as a kid. For some, it was imagining worlds with Barbies, My Little Pony, or Power Rangers (any nostalgic ’90s kids out there?). For others, it was having a blast making cookie dough, playing video games, or riding bikes around the neighborhood. Playdates with friends are certainly core to many of those childhood memories.

The benefit of playdates

Indeed, when your child is ready for their first playdate, suddenly a whole new world of possibilities opens up for them—and you. Playdates nurture their social skills, grow their friendships to the next level, and do things that are more fun when there’s someone else to do them with. Meanwhile, you get to potentially bond with another parent, reconnect with your own inner child, or carve out some precious alone time while the kids are off playing.         

The nice part about playdates is that organizing them can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be. Some parents channel a lot of enthusiasm into coming up with the perfect playdate, others keep it easy breezy and set their kids up with some toys or games and let them have at it. And sure, maybe our kids won’t remember all (or most!) of the playdates we arrange for them. However, I do believe that somewhere inside of us, the memories of our enjoyable moments—playdates included—exist. 

From play cafes to themed museums, playdate inspiration is flowing, giving children unique outlets to express their creativity and expand their imagination. Remember, you certainly don’t have to have the most perfectly choreographed playdate for your toddler or kid to feel they’ve had a stellar time. However, if you’re looking for some idea starters or easy ways to make having a playdate with a friend feel a bit more special, we’re here to help. Here are 40 fun and engaging playdate ideas for toddlers and little kids during their next friendly get-together. 

While we’ve categorized them by age group, you know your child’s interests best—feel free to do any of them accordingly. Happy playing!

Playdate ideas for toddlers

Playdates for toddlers are all about helping them imagine new things and engage all their senses. Their curiosity seems truly endless. Whatever you decide to do with them, expect to be refreshed by their readiness to embrace it.

1. Set up a scavenger or treasure hunt

The beauty of this one is that it can be as simple or elaborate as you make it, indoors and/or outdoors. You can opt to hide a bunch of objects that little ones will have to track down, come up with specific sights they have to locate, or some combination of the two. To get them extra amped about doing it, you can share what the grand finale will be if they successfully complete the entire hunt. There are also lovely printables that can get you started as well.  

2. Fingerpaint 

Since toddlers can’t get their hands on enough sensory play, they’ll likely have a ball if you set up a mega fingerpainting session for them. It’s not always the easiest to clean up… but often, the messy factor is precisely what’s positively correlated to a good time. You can get creative with surfaces by trying larger canvases from your local craft store or go eco by using leftover cardboard pieces or old T-shirts

3. Go on a picnic in the park

During warmer weather, it can be so pleasant to pack up some toddler-approved snacks and set up a big picnic blanket at a nearby park. You can bring along some outdoor toys or games, but odds are good the kiddos’ imaginations will make for plenty of outdoor amusement. 

4. Have storytime

Many a toddler cherishes an animating story, so yours might love having a playdate devoted to reading a couple of stories together. They might even be ready to tell you exactly what they want to hear. If not, we also have everything from kids’ books about emotions to fairytale remakes to books about the Earth to STEM learning books and beyond to inspire them.  

5. Go camping in the backyard or inside 

If you’ve got a camping or beach tent on hand, then setting it up in honor of a playdate is instant entertainment. Otherwise, create a makeshift tent using sheets or blankets and whatever furniture will work as supports. Then, you can sing songs, make microwave or toaster oven s’mores, read stories, play games, appreciate nature, or do whatever your toddlers think you do when you camp!

6. Do a car wash

If the weather is nicer, all the suds and splashing of this activity is great for littles who adore water. It also happens to save you from your next car cleaning outing. Since sometimes car wash soaps can be a bit harsh on skin, it might be best to find a gentle option if you can. Otherwise, a super mild and nonabrasive dish soap should be fine.  

7. Visit a play cafe or indoor playground

Does anybody else remember the days of McDonald’s play places? Though they’ve mostly vanished, the brilliant concept has not. Many cities and towns have created dedicated spaces for kids to play while adults can take a breather nearby. Just search for “play cafe” or “indoor playground” in your area and see if something fits the bill. 

playdate ideas with toddlers
Source: Canva

8. Do some gardening

There is an abundance of gardening activities for toddlers to get their little hands invested in the magic of Mother Earth. Planting new seeds, pulling weeds, investigating what’s already growing, and watering plants are all fulfilling ways to explore gardening outdoors. If you’re limited to indoor gardening, you can still plant seeds in small cups or eggshell cartons, grow seedlings in damp paper towels, create terrariums, or make plant/floral arrangements.  

9. Build forts

You can’t go wrong with this classic toddler activity. All you probably have to do is say, “Let’s build a fort!” and they’ll be off to the races. That being said, you can always get cardboard boxes, pillows, cushions, blankets, sheets, string lights, and anything else with fort potential ready for the building extravaganza. If anything, toddlers will thank you for having snacks and an activity for them to do in their fort once it’s built.  

10. Play with a water table or other outdoor water activities

Toddlers usually light up when they get to play with a water table or other water-based hands-on activity. There’s no shortage of entertaining outdoor water tables and toys to present them with. Sprinklers and splash pads can do the job, too. If the weather isn’t ideal for outdoor water play, you can try setting up a water table on a big tarp inside to mitigate any splashes. 

11. Play dress up

The sky’s the limit when you give toddlers the space to pretend play to their heart’s content. Old Halloween costumes, thrift store finds, less used clothing or accessories you or your partner have on hand, or festive items you can find for a low cost at Target, Walmart, Five Below, etc. 

12. Have a dance party

YouTube and Spotify are brimming with playlists specifically geared toward little ones, making it easy to get groovy together for a dance party. They’ll be able to put their boundless energy to good use while getting in some solid exercise time. You can also build your own playlist for your toddler’s next dance party once you see which songs really get them excited.   

13. Create a toy heaven

Chances are you have some of the best toys for kids right at home—and your child’s playdate partner will be thrilled to explore new toys. Now, sometimes an overload of toys at once can be overwhelming and your little one might have a hard time sharing some of their favorites. If that’s the case, check in with them ahead of time to see what they want to play with their friend—and model taking turns if it becomes an issue at the playdate.

14. Host a tea party

A timeless playdate idea, tea parties are a cute opportunity for littles to dress up in some fancy clothes and bond together. Weather permitting, you can make it a garden tea party, otherwise, you can set up a special space to host it inside. You can sweeten a colorful fruit tea, serve them their favorite juice, or offer a little menu where they can place their “tea” orders.  

15. Go to a children’s museum

Since these museums are especially customized for children, there are attention-grabbing exhibits and interactive activities for children of all ages. With playspaces, sensory experiences, entertaining shows, and new knowledge to impress kids, heading to one will not only enrich their minds but their sense of fun.

playdate ideas
Source: Canva

Playdate ideas for little and big kids

The nice thing about playdates for little and big kids is you can be somewhat more hands-off if you’d like (or because they’d like). There are a lot of outings and attractions that can appeal to their big energy, adventurous spirits, and impressive creativity.       

16. Visit a science museum

Show kids that a science museum is anything but reserved for an educational field trip. When they have the chance to visit one out of school hours with their friends, it’s a whole different excursion. They can call the shots of what exhibits they want to check out, making it more organic and down-to-earth. Most science museums tailor the bulk of their exhibits to be kid-friendly, so they’ll be able to easily find ones up their alley. 

17. Paint ceramics

For the artistic kids, head to a paint-your-own pottery or ceramics studio that offers pre-made pieces kids can glaze. Typically, there is an assortment of appealing options for them to choose from, like animals, dishware, characters, flowers, cars, sports or music objects, and more. If you don’t have a studio nearby, you can always take kids to a local craft store to pick out their own ceramic kits for painting at home.       

18. Go bowling

Not necessarily your everyday sport, bowling can get kids engaged in playing something that’s relatively novel. From a kid’s point of view, throwing balls and knocking down pins is a pretty big perk. Bowling alleys are often full of good cheer, making this an energizing and uplifting playdate all around.  

19. Play sports

For the kiddos who will be totally happy playing their favorite sport(s) with their friends, this playdate is a no-brainer. It’s super active, lets them discharge any built-up energy, and maintains a momentum that mitigates any “what now?” lulls. If playing outside isn’t an option, hopefully, there’s a nearby rec center with some open-play sports possibilities.   

20. Visit an amusement or water park

Sure, an amusement park or water park is more of an investment, but it will rank high on the fun factor, especially for older kids. If you’re aiming for thrills and tons of stimulation, heading for some epic rides or water slides will be just the ticket.    

21. Go on a hike or bike ride

Get into the great outdoors by setting foot on a doable hiking trail or wheeling around on pedestrian-friendly paths/roads in your area. With lots of fresh air and sights to see, kids will have a revitalizing time being trailblazers as hikers or bikers. 

22. Play with Legos or other building blocks

Kids who can hold their attention on building projects will be psyched for a new Lego challenge. Set them up with a big bin of Lego blocks and task them with creating something ultra cool that nobody’s ever seen before, or find a Lego set that’s well-suited to their age. If it’s a longer playdate, you can pair it with a screening of The Lego Movie, too.  

23. Host a lemonade stand

Give kids an opportunity to practice their entrepreneurial skills by planning, preparing, and hosting their own lemonade stand (or other snacks/beverages of choice). They can make inviting signs, come up with the best recipes, and decide what location will bring the most sales traffic. Alternatively, I’ve also seen stands where kids give out what they’ve made for free to brighten somebody’s day. If you’d like them to focus less on the money aspect, this can be a nice way to frame it.       

24. Do a yoga session

Show your kids the power of zen by leading them in a series of yoga poses and stretching exercises. Put on some yoga music to really set the scene. Yoga for kids YouTube videos or yoga activity cards can be helpful guides as well. Once they get the hang of it, they can take turns being the lead yogi for the group. 

25. Volunteer somewhere

Get involved in a kid-friendly volunteer activity for the day and channel the power of acts of kindness. From animal shelters to park cleanups, there are a variety of ways they can feel what it’s like to make a difference and give back.     

playdate ideas
Source: RDNE Stock project | Pexels

26. Visit a trampoline park or climbing gym

Lots of places have indoor recreational venues specifically devoted to trampoline jumping or rock climbing. If you’ve got kids who like a good adrenaline rush, checking out one of these activities will definitely charge them up. Just remember most venues require a signed waiver from parents or caregivers to participate.

27. Film a movie or collection of short videos

Here’s the chance to become overnight celebrities. Introduce the playdate’s group of kiddos to show business by encouraging them to create their very own movie. You can suggest they include scripts, costumes, and props, and assign specific roles (director, camera person, costume designer, etc.) so they take it more seriously. If they’re more into the entertainment they see on social media, then they can create a set of videos for their own channel instead. For safety and privacy, you don’t have to make the movie/channel public, of course, but perhaps it can be shared with family and friends.        

28. Play laser tag

Bring the force to your kids’ playdate with a couple of rounds of laser tag. If you grew up in the ’90s, you might not be a stranger to this black light-playing extravaganza. Laser tag was popular for birthday parties or just a night out with friends. While it’s not quite the rage it was then, you can still find places that offer it. Playing at home is also an option—there are even laser tag sets you can buy online.  

29. Head to an arcade

Another source of ’90s kid joy? Going to an arcade to play games, joke with friends, win tokens, and select the best prizes. If you have an arcade in your area, you can count on your kids being happily occupied while you can (hopefully) catch some R&R time.   

30. Have a spa day

Set up a round of pampering appointments, such as homemade face masks, manicures, pedicures, hair conditioning, etc. for a rejuvenating spa day. Since kids are wearing makeup and being exposed to impossible beauty standards at earlier and earlier ages, you can choose to celebrate whatever spa treatments make the most age-appropriate sense to you. 

31. Go roller or ice skating 

Heading to the rink is a perfect active playdate for little ones of all levels. They’ll be able to learn as they go—just make sure they’re outfitted with any necessary safety gear. The experience is sure to spark a lot of laughs and memorable moments.  

32. Attend a local sporting event or concert 

If there’s a sports team or music artist your child and their friends are obsessed with, this playdate will definitely be a winner. To get extra stoked beforehand, help them make signs or matching T-shirts for the event. You could also expose them to something/someone new. Perhaps it will inspire a new passion! 

Playdate ideas for any age

These playdates are particularly easy to adapt across a broad range of ages. Whether you’re hoping for something more active, imaginative, or thoughtful, there’s a little something to cover many children’s interests.    

33. Visit the zoo or aquarium

Children of all ages can appreciate seeing exotic animals or aquatic life right before their very eyes. A trip to the zoo or aquarium is usually a safe bet for impressing kids with that genuine wow factor. It’s also convenient that both places tend to offer special shows catered to kids. That way, they have a variety to their visit besides just walking around. 

34. Head to the pool 

For a water-inspired adventure, splash around at your neighborhood outdoor pool or head to a nearby rec center’s indoor pool. Bring some floats, noodles, or beach balls to add to the fun. For safety, be sure you know each child’s swimming ability and be sure to keep watch at all times. If you’re going with toddlers, the kiddie area with the splash pad is perfect for them and (usually) easier to keep them corralled.    

35. Go see a movie

For kids who are used to watching movies at home, heading to the theater can be a special treat. Set them up with some popcorn and candy (or some toddler snacks), and boom, you’re good to go!

36. Bake and/or decorate desserts

It won’t take toddlers or kids much convincing to partake in a playdate that appeals to their sweet tooth. Baking also happens to be a useful way to teach them about proportions and measurements. You can see if there’s anything particular they’re in the mood to bake or decide in advance. If you’re not feeling up to managing the baking part with kids around, they’ll still enjoy decorating pre-baked brownies, cupcakes, cookies, etc. A whole table full of frostings, candy, and other sugary toppings to have their way with—what’s not to love? 

37. Create arts and crafts 

Kids who are drawn to art and making new things aren’t going to say no to trying a new project. Tie-dying, jewelry-making, painting, creating collages, sculpting with clay or Play-Doh, weaving, soap or candle making, and decorating clothing or dècor are some of the many directions they can go. We’ve created lists of ideas for just about every season and occasion. Fall, winter, spring, and summer arts and crafts, fashion projects, eco-friendly art and nature projects, DIY affirmation card decks, toilet paper roll crafts… you name it! 

38. Host a pizza party

Grab an already-made pizza crust or two, some sauce, and a mix of toppings. Then lay out a MYOP creation station where the kids can build pizzas together. If they can’t agree on toppings, you can portion off the crust individually and bake their pizza/slices separately. Pair the culinary festivities with some games for kids and/or an animated movie, and the party’s on!

39. Do science experiments

Have kids conduct some rocket science in their own at-home “laboratory.” A quick online search will turn up experiments designed with kids in mind. For example, with toddlers, you can make homemade bubbles, hatch frozen dinosaur eggs, create sensory bins, or play with DIY foam. Meanwhile, for little and big kids, they can erupt volcanoes, grow crystals, power light bulbs with fruit, or create candy chemistry.

40. Have a game day

Round up a collection of toddlers’ or kids’ preferred games and get everyone ready for some friendly competition and prizes. If it’s a group of kids who are more into video games, you can deck out their video game play area with drinks and snacks. Basically, if you’re up to it, add touches here and there so that the playdate feels like more than just another everyday gaming session.

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