It’s that magic time after school or daycare, but before the evening’s events (dinner, bath, PJs) kick in. Help kiddos decompress from their busy little days with some active pretend play. So pick up a pal and read on: we’ve got some creative ways to keep their imaginations going, all before suppertime.

1. Fortnite? More like build-a-fort night.

The best play dates encourage kids to get creative and let their imaginations shine, and one of our favorite ways to do that is to let them build a fort. If it’s nice out, go for an outdoor fort—but don’t worry if the weather’s not on your side. Indoor forts are just as awesome! Click here for some serious fortspiration.

2. It only takes a minute.

Gather up some household items (think plastic cups, pennies, balloons) and play a few rounds of Minute to Win It. We’ve got enough ideas to keep the kids entertained for hours. Click here to get the scoop.

3. Good clean fun.

 Kids of all ages can get into sensory play, which can include everything from making slime to painting with ice cubes. To explore some of our sensory play favorites, click here.

photo: Jif® Power Ups™

4. Serve a Simple (but powerful) Snack

Keep them going strong with a snack that packs a nutritious punch. We love Jif® Power Ups™ Chewy Granola Bars because they are super-yum and have 5 grams of protein in each bar. Check out Jif® Power Ups™ Creamy Clusters, too, for a super easy on-the-go snack with staying power. 

5. Green thumbs up!

Interested in getting a little mini garden going all their own? This is the perfect excuse to create a dino terrarium, or perhaps a fairy garden is more your style.

6. Make a mini-golf course.

This one can take place rain or shine, so it's perfect for any weather and the creation is part of the fun! Check out how to do it here.

7. Superhero showdown.

Organize a meeting of the superheroes and watch the afternoon fly by. You might be ducking to avoid Batman’s (imaginary) gadgets and Spidey’s web all afternoon, but the non-stop giggle-fest will be worth the effort.

8. Be game.

 A classic board game marathon is a great way to enjoy an afternoon with friends. Pop a little popcorn, set up a cozy spot in the living room, sit back and watch your little gamers have fun the old-school way.

9. The hunt is on. 

Whether kids do it inside or out, a treasure hunt is always a blast. There are a ton of different “hunts” to try, from numbers to nature to toys and more. Check out our favorite hunts by clicking here.

10. Set up a swap.

 One tot's trash is another tot's treasure, right? Have the minis bring a tired toy to swap for something new to them. And if parents want in, they can bring accessories like jewelry, scarves or ties to trade out, too.

photo: Gabby Cullen

11. Have a field day. 

 Invite your budding track and field stars over for an impromptu field day. You can simply race ‘em until they collapse, or set up games and obstacle courses depending on how much time is available. Or just play some old-school yard games. Ready, set, go!

12. If you build it… 

They will come. Set up construction stations for budding builders with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks and more on the family room floor. Then let the cuties construct while parents catch up on the latest neighborhood news.

photo: Gabby Cullen

13. Paint the town.

Transform this mom’s-night-out fave into an at-home activity for petite Picassos. Set up a few finger painting stations (with smocks at the ready) and get the grownups in on the action by offering them small canvases to paint on with acrylics. Plan for a mess and then let it go!

14. Toe-tally perfect.

Gather the littles and get out the polish for a mini-pedi party. Have friends bring their favorite color. You set out tools, lotions and sparkly embellishments. Bling! Parents can paint alongside the kids or play manicurist for the group.

photo: Shelley Massey

15. Full STEAM ahead.

Give their science teacher a run for her money with a fun and simple STEAM-themed afternoon. If you think this is beyond your skill set, think again. There are plenty of experiments that are easy to set up and require little to no supplies. Get inspired by our favorite ideas here.

photo: Melissa Heckscher

16. Get crafty.

Need a reason to finally start in on those adorable kid-friendly crafts filling up your Pinterest board? Make one (or more) the focus of your next play date gathering. Set up materials ahead of time to keep things on track. Then cut the kiddos loose. Handmade holiday gifts? Yes, please! Click here for simple crafts that take five supplies or less.

17. The play’s the thing.

Who needs the bright lights of Broadway when you have a living room or backyard? Set out all the dress-up stuff you've got on hand, suggest a few themes and see what your tiny thespians dream up. Oh the drama!

18. Animal house.

No one parties like toddlers with their stuffies. Transform your living room into an animal sanctuary complete with an animal hospital, dog park and petting station. Then let the tot lot and their furry friends explore the animal kingdom. 

19. Start your engines.

Start stockpiling the boxes that arrive at your doorstep and when you've got enough, invite over your kid's pit crew to make race cars, trains, spaceships and more with their blank cardboard canvases. You supply markers, glue, stickers and doodads, and let the little engineers take care of the rest. Psst! This is a play date activity that guarantees real, uninterrupted adult conversation!

 

— Allison Sutcliffe & Gabby Cullen

featured photo: Tina Floersch via Unsplash

 

19 Epic Play Date Ideas to Try This Afternoon