It’s that magic time after school or daycare, but before the evening’s events (dinner, bath, PJs) kick in. He 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.

photo: Marcy Leigh via flickr 

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Count Down to Funphoto: Melissa & Doug

5. 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.

6. 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.

obstaclecourse#3_indoorfun_littlegym_dallasmomsblogphoto: Gabby Cullen

7. Have a field day. The Olympics just ended, but we’re betting your mini-athletes are still competing any chance they get. Invite those 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. Ready, set, go!

8. 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.

getcrafty_gabbycullen_afternoons_redtricyclephoto: Gabby Cullen

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

10. 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.

Exploding Lunch Bagphoto: Shelley Massey

11. 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.

12. 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.

theplayisthething_danzen_afternoons_redtricyclephoto: Dan Zen via flickr

13. 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!

14. 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. 

cardboardbox_jonathandorsett_afternoonfun_redtricyclephoto: Jonathan Dorsett via flickr

15. 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, interrupted adult conversation!

16. Playdate and a Picnic. There’s something about dining al fresco. Prep a few easy snacks, throw down a blanket, add friends and you’ve got yourself an impromptu picnic!

Do you have a favorite playdate plan to add to this list? Share it in a comment below.  


— Allison Sutcliffe & Gabby Cullen

featured photo: Tina Floersch via Unsplash


play date ideas