Now that the seasons have changed, kids have something new to look forward to: a fall play date! Though the days are shorter and you’ll need to plan around the weather for outdoor activities, there are still plenty of ways to entertain small groups of children together in a way that maximizes the fun without sacrificing their health and safety. 

Note: Children who are immunocompromised or have a chronic medical condition should consider avoiding playdates, as well as public places such as playgrounds — as they may be at higher risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. Visit CDC.gov for the latest information about COVID-19.

1. Send an invitation

Connect with your child’s friends’ parent(s) to formalize the occasion. Send an Evite invitation like this and, when considering who to share it with, keep in mind you may want to limit the number of guests to three-to-five. This all depends on your comfort level, the age of the kids, etc. Also, keep it short and sweet: limit the play date to 2-3 hours max. (Coordinate drop-offs and pickups outside to promote physical distancing.)

Check out more invitations from our Kids’ Corner invitation gallery.

2. Do the prep work 

Call or text the parent(s) of your child’s friend ahead of time to get an understanding of anything you should know before hosting their child, including food allergies/aversions, if they want you to ensure their child wears a mask throughout the duration of the play date, what type of media (movies/TV) is acceptable/allowed in their home, whether there are any toys off limits, and any other pressing items you should be aware of. You can also use this as an opportunity to invite the parent(s) for a cup of coffee — or a glass of wine! — while the kids play.

3. Consider the number of activities 

Toddlers’ attention spans generally last no longer than 15-20 minutes, so have at least a couple of activities prepared for an hour-long play date. Older kids will stay focused as long as the activity is engaging, but be sure to have at least one back-up in case Plan A doesn’t fly. For any age group, you can alternate free-play with structured activities.

4. Plan the activities 

Depending on your child’s age and interests, there are limitless activities to engage them in for a play date. However… sometimes it is best to go with the flow if they’d rather do something else! For the planners, some ideas to consider are:

  • Make and/or decorate cookies 
  • Decorate pumpkins 
  • Create mini cornucopias for the kids’ Thanksgiving tables (recommended for older children) 
  • Teach the kids to make easy candy turkeys out of peanut butter cups and candy corn 
  • Read books together

Weather permitting, you may also want to plan some outdoor activities for the littles ones! Kids typically love to be outside, and studies show that the more time kids spend outside, the happier they’ll be. For more structured outdoor activities, a few ideas include:

  • Take them on a nature walk and collect beautiful fall leaves, with the goal to make pressed leaf plates.
  • Driveway toy car racing: If you don’t want to go too far from home, grab some chalk and toy cars and encourage the kids to race each other. Make start and finish lines as well as the lane markers, and let the races begin.
  • Physically distanced obstacle course: Get creative with items you have in the house by setting up an obstacle course in your background; for example, encourage them to run while balancing a bean bag on their head, jump into and out of a hula hoop a few times, and crawl under chairs.
  • Divide the kids up into small groups with a responsible adult chaperone and conduct a neighborhood scavenger hunt; the first team to finish gets the first choice of the hot chocolate!
  • With snow falling across much of the nation, do you want to build a snowman? Of course you do! Organize kids into small groups and set them loose in this time-honored activity

5. Have healthy snacks and drinks prepared 

Once you confirm that your child’s friend(s) doesn’t have any food allergies, have some simple, healthy snacks on hand — check out our list of the top 10 healthy kid’s party snacks. Snacks like graham crackers and granola bars are good choices as well as fruit like apple slices, tangerines, and bananas. For health and safety’s safe, consider giving each child their own small plate. 

With these simple tips, your child and his/her friends will most certainly have a positive play date experience — and hopefully you’ll be able to unwind, too. Have fun! 

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