Building Open-Ended Playdates

Building a Successful, Open-Ended Playdate – Activity Ideas for Non-Electronic Fun

If you’re like most parents, you’ve set limits on electronics – be it TV, tablet, or phone – during your child’s solo play time. But what about during playdates? That time when kids are supposed to engage and entertain each other, learning social skills like compromise, turn-taking, sharing, and hosting, using their imaginations, getting creative, and having face-to-face, real-time fun?

If you’re looking for a way to stop screen time from seeping into your playdates, look no further than construction play! Kids love to build things and construction play is the perfect way to develop those social skills, build vocabulary, and practice key math, science, and engineering principles, too! From forts to foods, we’ve found five, fun, building-based activities to keep MineCraft and Mario at bay.

Fun in a Fort!

Who doesn’t love to build a fort? Provide chairs, pillows, couch cushions, sheets, and blankets (chip clips work great to hold them in place) and watch as your bitty builders construct a palace, pirate ship, or hidden hollow. Once construction is complete, kids can create artwork for the fort walls, put on shadow puppets with a flashlight, or just play inside. Try building a fort with Brackitz - How big or tall can you get it?!

Bricks & Blocks

Open-ended toys like traditional blocks, bricks, and planks are a great way to engage multiple children, either working side by side or collaborating on a larger structure. Challenge the kiddos to use small-scale bricks to recreate your town – assign each child a building they know, like the library, grocery store, (or, let’s face it, Starbucks) – or supply bigger-scale building toys like brackitz and watch in awe as kids create larger-than-life structures - together.

Stack a Snack

Kids getting crabby? Snack time can serve as a reset, so call them into the kitchen for some fuel – and some fun! Stack sliced carrot, celery, and pretzel sticks like Lincoln Logs to build houses and buildings. Provide mini-marshmallows and toothpicks for abstract molecular creations. Sort slippery cucumber and banana slices into a tower. Kids won’t believe you’re actually encouraging them to play with their food!

Totally Tubular Arts & Crafts

Save those cardboard paper towel and toilet paper tubes – they’re perfect props for a building playdate! Paint and decorate the tubes with glitter and stickers. Little kids can slip them into each other to create a tower, rocket ship, or totem pole; older kids can transform tubes into a marble maze – cut some in half, leave some whole, fit them together and let the marbles fly!

Get Outside and Play

Natural objects make great building supplies. Send the kids out back in search of rocks, sticks, and pine cones and see what they can build! Lean and balance sticks to create a teepee, stack to form a structure, strap them together to make a raft. Defy gravity by building an arched rock bridge, surrounded by fresh air and sunshine.

From cardboard boxes to wooden planks, sticks and stones to fruits and veggies, we’re surrounded by building supplies and construction play is a wonderful, open-ended, imagination-building, hands-on way to engage multiple children WITHOUT plugging in. Give it a go at your next playdate – the kids will have so much fun piling, stacking, designing, and building that they won’t even miss that screen time.

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