Playdates are your child鈥檚 first foray into the great wide world of friendships. All of a sudden, your newly social preschooler is all about Annie from daycare and Andy from the playground. Now they are asking to have friends come over, stay, and play. But you鈥檙e at a loss when it comes to playdate planning, since you had spent the last few decades planning non-kid-friendly Champagne brunches and late-night bar hops. Don鈥檛 stress. We鈥檝e got the lowdown on the best playdates for your littles.

1. Playdough Playdate: You鈥檝e seen just how very Pinteresting the 鈥slime craze鈥 is, but you鈥檙e not exactly in the know when it comes down to science-ing up a batch of the sticky stuff. If you鈥檙e not 100 percent about slime-making, playdough is a much easier (and less potentially hazardous) option. There are two schools of thought here: 1. Go online and make one of the zillion dough recipes, or 2. Buy the ready-made version. Either way, give the kiddos the mashable, malleable, mushy dough, a few tools (popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, and rollers), and let them go to town.

2. Super Science: No, your preschooler isn鈥檛 ready for quantum physics 鈥 but they鈥檒l have a majorly fun time mixing baking soda and vinegar together to watch the erupting fizz, guessing how long it will take ice cubes to melt, or looking at items from around the house under a magnifying glass. Get ready for an exploration adventure, add in some pretend play with lab coats and kid-sized goggles, and help your child and their friend make their own discoveries.

3. Pollock Painting: If everyone (including your child鈥檚 friend鈥檚 parents) is okay with making a mess, then now鈥檚 your chance to be the coolest mom ever. Cover everything in the basement, playroom, or kitchen with painter鈥檚 tarps or plastic sheeting. Mamas who are lucky enough to live somewhere warm can take the artsy adventure outdoors. Fill up spray bottles with a powdered washable tempera-water mix, throw down a white sheet, and let those pint-sized Pollocks go to town. Provide a few brushes and a palette of paints, just in case someone doesn鈥檛 want to get messy.

4. Foodie Fun: The playdate snack is a must-try for any preschool social engagement. Instead of carving 10 or 15 minutes out for yogurt and an apple, turn the entire playdate into fun with food. Bake cookies from scratch, letting the kids measure and mix the dry ingredients, or try something more creative. Set up a 鈥渕ake a food face鈥 buffet, giving the kids pita bread or toast cut into circle-shapes (use a cookie cutter) to decorate with peanut butter, raisin eyes, a carrot nose, or any other food find that mimics a facial feature.

5. Cardboard Creation Station: You probably have a stack of old boxes in the garage, so *now* is the time to use them. Invite your preschooler鈥檚 BFFs over for an all-out decorating fest. Give the kids the boxes, markers, paper, tape, paint, brushes, and any other art material that you have on hand. They can craft cars, build boats, or design dollhouses that come straight from their imaginations. Oh, and then the kids can play with their cardboard creations.

6. Awesome Olympics: When the weather isn鈥檛 cooperating because it鈥檚 cold, snowy, rainy, or just blah outside, that鈥檚 okay. Turn your playroom into an obstacle course, create a ski course with plastic cones and your child鈥檚 imagination, or have a pretend play swimming race (the kids pretend that they鈥檙e swimming, using arm motions while running or crawling). Make medals out of kitchen foil and hand them out at an awards ceremony at the end of the day.

7. Book Buddies: Get literary and start a buddy book club for your child and their friends. Yes, really! Although preschoolers can鈥檛 read on their own, you can sit down with the kids, read a story, and discuss it. Ask the kids questions about the story, the characters, and the setting. Afterwards, try an accompanying activity that extends the theme. Make book-based art, turn the story into a dramatic play that everyone acts out, or make a snack that ties into what you just read.

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