17 Fun Playdate Games and Activities for Kids

Planning a playdate? Check out these low-cost games and activities inspired by creative parents. They'll keep kids entertained for hours!

girls drawing with chalk
Photo: Priscilla Gragg

For kids, nothing beats the joy of playdates. But parents might struggle to brainstorm cool ways to keep little ones entertained. To help inspire you, we rounded up creative ideas from real parents, including backyard activities, playground games, edible crafts, and more. The best part: None of these ideas cost much or require a lot of wrangling!

Make the Outdoors Their Playroom

Draw a raceway

Wild turns, pit stops, stop signs: Chalk them all on the driveway, then bust out ride-on toys for the kids to drive around.

Ages 3 to 10 —Justin Cahill, a physical education teacher in Atlanta

"Cook" up nature

Bring bowls, cups, and forks outside to serve grass spaghetti, mud pies, and leaf salads.

Ages 2 to 8 —Alison Schumpp, a former preschool teacher who posts ideas on Instagram @TheChildhoodGlen

Be bug scientists

Shovels, magnifying glasses, and a keen eye are all kids need to search for worms and insects. Don't forget to dig, look under stones, and closely examine tree trunks.

Ages 5+ —Megan Calnan, a mom of seven in Albany, New York

Play noodle hockey

Let the kids loose with pool noodles and a ball and encourage them to hit the ball into a net or a tipped-over laundry basket.

Ages 4+ —Cahill

Invite the Whole Carpool

Consider a toy potluck

Ask each child to bring an activity they're into, like magnetic tiles, a bin of Star Wars figurines, or a craft. They'll love sharing their favorites and trying out the different options.

All ages —Schumpp

Set up your own art museum

Tape a big piece of butcher paper to the wall, a table, or the floor, then draw circles and squares of different sizes to look like frames. Hand out crayons or markers and let the kids transform the shapes into different scenes.

All ages —Schumpp

Play charades

This game is a classic for whole lotta reasons: It's interactive, it involves everyone—there's even physical comedy! Have kids write simple prompts on note cards (swimming, dog, airplane), then take turns acting out the words.

Ages 6+ —Shanicia Boswell, founder of Black Moms Blog and author of Oh Sis, You're Pregnant!

Perk Up the Park

Pack toy vehicles

The kids will get a kick out of racing cars and trucks off the playground equipment and building roads in the dirt or sand.

Ages 3 to 8 —Parents advisor Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Growing Friendships

Rig a simple pulley

Bring a rope and tie one end to the handle of a bucket. Loop the other end over a low branch, then let the kids pull things up and down. This simple machine totally fascinates kids, and it's a super STEM learning tool too.

Ages 4+ —Jackie Currie, a home day-care provider who shares ideas at HappyHooligans.ca

Switch up hide-and-seek

Take turns stashing a doll, an action figure, or a rock in the park, then call a search party. Kids can give clues and tell friends they're getting warmer or colder.

Ages 2+Melissa Laracuenta-Hernandez, Psy.D., a psychologist in White Plains, New York

boy with curly hair and a backpack
Priscilla Gragg

Go Big on Creativity

Build an epic blanket fort

Let them raid the linen closet for blankets and sheets, then work together to construct an indoor hideaway. Binder clips and bungee cords aren't required but can help stabilize their igloo, cave, or palace.

All ages —Jamie Gremillion, a mom of three in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Put on a performance

Ask for a show, and get ready for a kid tour de force. Whether it's a dance recital, a puppet skit, or a magic act, the planning and practicing will keep your child and their friend engaged. (If you notice one calling all the shots, ask them to take turns being director.)

Ages 6+ —Becca Kucera, a mom of two in Charlotte, North Carolina

Turn squiggles into art

Have each child draw a simple, curvy one-line design on paper. Then suggest they trade and design a picture out of the other's squiggle. Will it become a snake, a spaceship, or a fantastical garden?

Ages 5+ —Jennifer Tammy, founder of Sugar Spice and Glitter.

Craft a mandala

Send the kids outside to collect an assortment of items, including leaves, flowers, and stones. Give them each a round piece of cardboard, and have them start from the center, gluing objects in a repeating circular design.

Ages 6+Yanique Chambers, a licensed clinical social worker in Albany, New York

Activities You Can Eat

Whip up Caprese skewers

These are fun and easy for kids to assemble—plus, everything tastes better on a stick.

  1. In a bowl, mix 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. honey, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
  2. Whisk in 2 Tbs. olive oil until fully blended.
  3. Thread cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and mini mozzarella balls onto skewers in an alternating pattern.
  4. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the skewers before eating.

Make your own ice cream

This recipe is so simple and fun; have your kids give it a whirl:

  1. In a quart-size zip-top plastic bag, combine ½ cup whole milk, ½ cup heavy cream, 2 Tbs. sugar, and ½ tsp. vanilla extract (for vanilla ice cream) or 1 Tbs. cocoa powder (for chocolate ice cream).
  2. Push out excess air and seal.
  3. Combine 3 cups ice and 1/3 cup kosher salt in a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag.
  4. Place the small bag inside the bigger bag, then place both bags in another gallon-size zip-top bag to prevent leaking.
  5. Shake the bag vigorously until the mix has turned to ice cream (about 7 to 10 minutes).
  6. Eat it right out of the bag with spoons, or scoop it into bowls and serve with toppings.

Try animal toasts

  1. Spread cream cheese on a slice of toasted bread or a rice cake.
  2. Use fresh or dried fruit, cereal, pretzels, or chocolate to create eyes, ears, and noses.
  3. Slice apples, carrots, or bananas into half-moons or triangles to create ears, mouths, and wings.
  4. Cut dried coconut flakes into thin strips with scissors to use as whiskers.

Before any cooking project, call the friend's parent to make sure food allergies aren't a concern.

Source: Jill Santopietro, founder of the Children's Food Lab in Brooklyn, New York, offers hands-on cooking classes.

Playdate Tips and Tricks

Before you schedule something on the calendar, read these playdate pointers from Dr. Laracuenta-Hernandez.

Start in a neutral place

If you don't know the child's family, you may want to meet at a park, activity center, or another location outside your home. You and the other parent can get to know each other while the kids play.

Know when the other parent should stay or go

For kids under age 4, it's usually best to invite the parent to stick around. For older kids, if you're comfortable, you can offer the parent the option to drop them off for a set amount of time.

Don't forget manners

It's great if you can prep your child beforehand to say "Thank you for coming" at the end of the playdate. But if they're shy, don't stress too much. Just make sure you share your own appreciation, along with a few specifics about what the kids did and how much fun they had together.

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