With a daughter in pre-K, I now find myself scheduling playdates more than ever before. But playdate ideas that please both kids and grownups can be hard to come by. So to help other parents like me, I've put together a short list of go-to venues for playdates that are fun for kids but also won't stress out or bore the adults. And I even included some ideas for what to do if you decide to stay in the comfortable confines of home.
Best for: young kids with excess energy and parents who've hung out before
When parents know each other well, an indoor playground can be the perfect playdate. Kids burn off steam, while parents connect over a cup of coffee. Keep in mind that they have many iterations, and some are geared toward specific age groups. One indoor playground might be dominated by enormous bounce houses, while another might be designed as a mini town, encouraging pretend play.
Best for: kids who like quieter activities and parents who hate forced small talk
Both kids and parents might be entertained at a children's show. Local theaters often stage kid-friendly productions, and some local watering holes open their doors on a Sunday to host children's musical acts. Great for when you don't know the other parents well—when you go out for a frozen yogurt treat afterwards, you'll have something to talk about.
Best for: creative kids and parents who feel less awkward when they have a project to work on
Because creating art is stimulating for all ages, spending time in an art studio is one of the best playdate ideas for both kids and parents. Many sip and paint or ceramics studios also have kid-and-grownup afternoons, where they can pair up or each paint their own piece. Afterwards, visit a bakery to choose cupcakes with colors that match your creations.
Best for: kids with good attention spans and parents who've seen each other in yoga pants before
A good idea for when everyone needs some physical activity, parent-tot yoga workshops teach body awareness as well as balance and flexibility. Inquire at your local yoga studio to find out if they host such events. A post-class smoothie can be a guilt-free treat for everyone.
Best for: kids who like to get messy and parents who don't want to clean up that mess
Kid-friendly cooking classes eschew sharp knives and complex food in favor of hands-on fun and kid-approved eats. To avoid any meltdowns, make sure the class coincides with their regularly scheduled lunchtime or dinnertime. And if dessert isn't included, stop by a cupcake shop on the way home.
Best for: kids who are a bit fearless and parents who are comfortable not holding onto the boards the whole time
Public-skate sessions are a great way to teach kids the basics of ice skating, a fitness activity that promotes focus and perseverance (because they will fall. A lot). The best part? If you don't love the other parents, no one will find it odd if you quickly skate away from them. Don't forget the cup of hot chocolate—ice rinks are freezing, even in the middle of summer.
Best for: anyone who doesn't mind having a little extra afternoon cleanup
While unstructured fun is good for both kids and grownups, having planned playdate activities helps to calm things down when little ones start to get wild. It's also great to plan something parents and kids can do together:
Make something: use fabric paints to decorate tote bags or pillowcases, paint small canvases, or craft collages
Play adult- and kid-friendly games: think interactive games that go light on competition, such as Uno, Apples to Apples, and Jenga
Instead of making pizzas, gather some tortillas, cheese, and other ingredients. Adults can make their own wraps, while kids can craft quesadillas—a quesadilla maker makes this fun and easy. Ingredient ideas include cold cuts, shredded chicken, roasted veggies, and melty cheeses.