I’ve attended hundreds of playdates over the past few years as a stay-at-home-mom and hosted my fair share of them at our house. One thing I’ve learned is that a playdate with a theme is always more popular than one without. Whereas a “come hang out” playdate might get 3 or 4 Yes RSVPs from the moms in my SAHM group, a themed playdate will have 8 Yes RSVPs plus 2 more moms on the waiting list!
I have a theory about this. When everyone sees a playdate with a fun theme and there is an RSVP limit (which I always set when it’s an in-home playdate), they RSVP Yes so they don’t miss out on the fun. So, needless to say, I’m always trying to think of cool playdate ideas for toddlers and preschoolers.
10 Playdate Themes for 1, 2, 3, and 4-year-olds
Here are 10 playdate themes that have proven to be really popular for me and some moms I know:
1) Bubbles & Sprinklers– When it’s hot outside and the kids want to play outdoors, nothing beats a water park! We make our own in the driveway or back yard using sprinklers and a baby/kid-sized pool. I also bring out the bubble machine. All the moms sit in camping chairs (when we’re not chasing down roaming kids) to watch, chat, and take pictures.
2) Holiday Potluck Brunch – Probably one of my favorites because it involves food I didn’t have to make myself! I always provide beverages and one dessert item (like coffee, juice, and scones with whipped cream) and ask the other moms to bring one item each. I do one of these several times a year, usually for Easter, Christmas, or the Fourth of July.
3) Ride-On Toy Playdate – We already have so many ride-on toys in our driveway and garage, it looks like a Little Tikes graveyard, so I just invite everyone to bring their kids’ favorite ride-on toy or use one of ours for an afternoon of riding around the driveway or cul-de-sac.
4) Kickball & Jump Rope Playdate – For this, we go to a local park with a large open grassy area. Each child brings one ball to play with, and we make sure to have a jump rope on hand for the kids to use in their own way. None of the kids can actually jump rope, but it’s interesting to see how they use one!
5) Easter Egg Hunt – I’ve seen this done two ways – hunting for eggs filled with stickers instead of candy or hunting for eggs filled with food that the kids then eat as a snack. The easiest way to host this is to ask each mom to bring 10 or 12 filled eggs per child, then have one or two moms place the around the yard before letting the kids loose. For the 1-year-olds, you don’t even have to hide them at all – just lay them on the ground in plain sight!
6) Superhero Showdown – I’ve seen many variations on this theme, but the main point is that every kid gets to dress up as their favorite superhero. Funny part is, all the girls want to wear their princess dresses! That counts, right? LOL Here’s a really cute variation on the superhero theme (originally found on Pinterest). My oldest (a very girly girl) didn’t know what a superhero was, so we got creative and went as Flower Girl! Her power comes from throwing flowers at the bad guys to make them happy.
7) Plant Pals Playdate – Plastic cups, potting soil, grass seeds, stickers, and markers are all you need to start cute grass heads that will grow very quickly in a sunlit window.
8 ) Valentine’s Day Craft – All the craft stores, Target, Walmart, etc sell cute craft kits that always come with like 20 kids worth of supplies. Just get a fun craft kit like this and invite some friends over! Would work for any holiday or occasion.
9) Movie + Related Craft – I recently attended a playdate that was based around The Polar Express Movie. The kids watched the movie and then got to work on some related coloring pages. It wasn’t anything elaborate, just a movie the mom already had plus one coloring book and a box of crayons to share, but it was a big hit.
10) Homemade Playdough Making – What kid can’t go through tubs and tubs of Play Doh? The real stuff can get expensive and the generic kind dries out way too fast, so I prefer to make my own. The batch I made about 4 months ago has been used many times and is still going strong! I used this recipe from Pinterest. I didn’t have any baby food containers, so I bought some mini round plastic Glad food storage containers. This recipe makes so much there will be plenty for each kid to take home at least a couple of containers. Just scale the recipe up for more kids or make several colors like we did. Instead of every mom bringing her own containers, just get each mom to pitch in a couple dollars to cover the cost.
Are Themed Playdates Really Necessary? What About the Cost?
As you can probably guess, the kids sometimes don’t even care about the playdate’s theme. They usually just want to see one another and scope out the hosting kid’s toys. :) But moms really dig the themes, and I like hosting playdates this way when I can because it virtually guarantees a larger turnout.
As you can see from the list above, themed playdates can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like. Many of the best ones don’t cost the host much at all. And if it saves you from making a trip to Target to waste time (come on, you know you do it, too!) or hitting up Chick-Fil-A, then even a playdate that costs you money is usually your cheaper option.
Do you have any fun playdate ideas to share? I’d love to hear them! I’m always looking for more variety.