21 Fun Playdate Ideas for Babies Under 1 Year
The days at home with Baby are equal parts beautiful and long. It can feel isolating at times when you have nothing on the agenda, especially if this is your first baby or the only little one at home. Play groups and music classes are fun but can get pricey, and sometimes getting out the door on a strict schedule is tough with a baby in tow.
If you and your baby are in a slump and it’s time to mix things up, consider a playdate! Getting together with another parent and their little one can be beneficial for both of you. You’ll get some needed adult conversation, and the babies have much to gain from interacting. “Playing” with other babies boosts your little guy or gal’s interaction skills, from smile mirroring to trying out things they see in each other (clapping, laughs). Each other’s babbles lay the groundwork for communication and passing a toy back and forth between them enforces sharing early.
There are so many other wonderful benefits of play-dating with other parents and babies, but planning activities can be tough with preverbal and non-walking kiddos. If you’re stumped on just what to do at a baby meet-up, here are some of our favorite playdate activities for babies under 12 months. (New to playdates? Start here!)
Playdate Ideas for Babies
Mess-Free Finger-Painting Baby Playdate
Photo: Happy Toddler Play Time
This activity has so many benefits rolled into one! It’s a sensory experience, it will keep them occupied for a long stretch of time, and as the title implies, there’s no mess involved! Lay a piece of paper underneath the paint in the bags to create lasting art you can put into their baby books…or skip that and just throw the whole thing away when finished. (Psst! Check out more ways to perserve your child’s artwork!)
Bubble Time Baby Playdate
The wonder of bubbles will be there to thrill and delight your baby throughout the little (and bigger) years; right now, these floating iridescent spheres are nothing short of miraculous. Put on some cheerful music and blow bubbles for the babies, watching them light up from within.
Book Baby Playdate
Stack up piles of books and let the babies paw through them together or side-by-side. When their interest in self-discovery wanes, pick a few to read aloud to them while the other parent listens in or acts out the story, charades-style.
Ballpit Playdate Activity
Today’s miniature ball pits are just about as cool as it gets. Set one up and watch your little ones giggle as they sift their way through and mouth the balls. For more fun, you can “hide” soft toys throughout and let the babies discover them as they play. They’ll be so proud of themselves!
Sensory Fort Playdate Activity
Photo: Messy Little Monster
Your baby’s play tent can be turned into a little wonderland of joy and learning with silks, plushies, blocks, and more. This is very easy to set up, and at clean-up time, just toss it all in bins or baskets by like and kind. The babies will love it!
Put on a little puppet show with full or finger puppets to entertain the babies and get their little minds engaged.
Ramp Rolling Playdate Activity
This playdate activity is simple and yet will earn you Super Hostess status. Set out board books open-faced with pillows below them and perch balls, play cars, and toy trains on the flat top of the book. The babies will manipulate the toys and watch them roll down the ramp created by the other side of the book. This activity is great for fine motor skill development, hand-eye coordination, and eye tracking.
Photo: The Imagination Tree
Use bins or baskets to create little collections of found objects the babies can look and feel their way through. Check out our pieces on Montessori treasure boxes and sensory activities for more ideas in setting these up for your babies.
Simple Ball Playdate
Have a ball… or several! Large, lightweight bouncy balls you can help the babies roll over are a playdate staple. Also have on hand a variety of smaller balls they can roll, chew, or pass from hand to hand. Get down on their level and demonstrate passing it back and forth to a friend; whenever they get that skill down today or at a future playdate, everyone will cheer.
Crawling Obstacle Course
Soft play at its finest: No fancy equipment needed. Transform the living or playroom into an obstacle course of couch cushions, balls for grabbing, and other items that entice the babies to crawl around and learn as they go.
Balloon Kicking Playdate Activity
Photo: Laughing Kids Learn
This is an easy solo playdate activity to put together for your baby on a rainy day, but with a friend over it’s even cuter to watch and more exciting for them. The how-to is linked with the photo credit.
Set Out Silks
Waldorf-style toys allow babies to be creative with their movement and expression, making playthings out of simple shapes and textures. We love colorful silks that add something special to reading, music, and play time with little ones.
Cute Photo Shoot
Did the playdate even happen if the parents didn’t snap some pics? Set up the babies together for a little photo shoot and if they’re tolerant, you can add a theme or wardrobe change to make these unfolding memories even sweeter.
Baby Dance Party
Throw on some good tunes and bust a move because there’s nothing like the instant serotonin boost of a pick-up dance party, especially one that involves squealing, giggling babies.
Ice Playdate Activity
Photo: Plain Vanilla Mom
Make like Elsa and ice out the play space. Ice cubes should be large enough for babies to hold them comfortably without a choking risk, and parents must watch closely to be safe. But with the right steps taken, this is a perfect hot-weather playdate idea for babies.
Mini Splash Pad
Speaking of hot days, cool off the old-fashioned way with a hose and soft spot to sit. Create a little “splash pad” in the yard or on the porch with a kiddie pool or blow-up fountain and add bath toys to keep them entertained until they prune up.
Montessori philosophy enthusiasts insist on the importance of mirrors; babies gain so much from tracking their own facial features, expressions, and body movements in a mirror even from the newborn days. When a buddy joins in, it’s more beneficial and entertaining for everyone!
Edible Paint Playdate
Try this delish recipe for paint they can eat from Hands On As We Grow and prepare yourself for a good-time mess. Edible paint is an entertaining sensory experience for babies and a great way to pass some time. The best part is you won’t feel guilty trashing their “work” when finished!
Letter Grab Playdate Activity
Photo: Happy Toddler Playtime
It doesn’t get any simpler than a refrigerator and a set of letter magnets. This early learning game lets you call out colors, shapes, and letter / number names as the babies play with them. Don’t expect them to remember which is which; you’re sewing early seeds for learning and recognition here while enforcing sharing and working on their fine motor skills.
Bath Party Playdate
Scrub-a-Dub! Let your playdate do double duty as not only fun socializing time for the parents and babies but a chance to knock something off your to-do list for the day. Especially if you got dirty playing outside or using the edible paint mentioned above– or it’s an after-work playdate and bedtime is coming– put them in bathing suits for modesty if you please, and give them a bubble bath together. Boom—you just gained back 30 minutes of your nighttime routine.
Coffee & Cuddles
Let’s face it: Setting up activities for the babies at a playdate is fun and rewarding, but sometimes you just need a break. Do not feel guilty if your next playdate is all about coffee talk for the tired parents while your little ones snuggle in your laps. Babies are learning all the time; stash a few new teething toys or board books in your diaper bag and the playdate will be just as successful for them as if you had done any of the more involved ideas on our list.
More Ways to Entertain a Baby:
- Best Toys for 3-Month-Olds
- Best Toys for 6-Month-Olds
- Best Books for 6- to 12-Month-Olds
- How to Make Bathtime More Fun
- Activities for Babies 0 to 6 Months
- Activities for Babies 6 to 12 Months
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.