Your cute and curious toddler is into everything, and each day brings new opportunities to learn, explore, and enjoy the world around them. If you’ve got a budding social butterfly on your hands or just crave the company and distraction of a playdate with another family, the early toddler days are prime time for real fun.

Whereas babies under 12 months can’t get around as swiftly, your 12- to 24-month-old is likely on the move and is more confident about it. They’re learning about textures and colors, taking in the natural world and elements of your home, and truly find joy in simple everyday objects.

If you’re looking for simple and low-cost playdate ideas for toddlers, we’ve got them in spades. Even the toys they usually play with at home will feel more exciting when they experience them with a friend. Especially if you put a little effort into arranging things differently, a whole new world of wonder opens up at a creatively executed toddler playdate. 

Don’t worry! Most of these ideas are not elaborate at all. But to your young toddler, anything on this list could make for the best day ever. Read on for our favorite playdate ideas for under 2’s.

Playdate Ideas for Young Toddlers

Sand Playdate

Two toddlers play in a sandbox during a playdate

Photo: Walmart

It’s messy and you’ve got to keep an eye on them to make sure nothing goes in those little mouths, but old-school sandbox time or breaking out a fresh box of kinetic sand and tools on the kitchen counter will bring endless fun. 

Storytime Playdate

Younger babies sometimes show interest in books and benefit from reading, but this age group is prime for truly falling in love with books. Especially with a friend there to keep them on track for listening, lay out a blanket and read a few books—preferably new ones, or one from each family’s collection—to the toddlers. 

Pick stories with animals, bright colors, and funny stories that make it easy to draw follow-up chit-chat and sound repetition from them. Check out our favorite books for this age group here.

Miniature “Sports” Playdate

Tot-sized sporting equipment is just about as cute as it comes. Set up a little wiffle ball set, a tiny soccer goal, and soft balls, and encourage them through the basic moves for some sweet playtime in the sun.

Hula Hoop Playdate

What’s great about these props is your child doesn’t actually know how to use them for the activity to be fun. Demonstrate twirling them, lay them on the ground as a loose form of hopscotch, and let the toddlers do their own thing with the hoops, too. 

Obstacle Course Playdate

 Toddler obstacle course playdate

Photo: Barking Baby 

Indoors or out, set up a toddler obstacle course to keep them busy and exploring. If you have soft play cubes and shapes inside or a fort-building play couch, that’s the easiest way to get started with this activity on a rainy day.

Keepy-Uppy Playdate

Older kids have a better grasp on this game, so if you have big sibs on the scene they can teach the babies. But even just with the little ones, a blown-up balloon that the toddlers bop, kick, toss, and head-butt to keep off the ground will mean hilarity and entertainment for all – for longer than you expect!

“Cooking Class” Playdate

Lay out some basic ingredients and have the tots help you make their snack. Even something as simple as pre-cut-up fruit that they toss together into a big bowl and drizzle with OJ works. Experienced parents know that anything they help prepare, they’re likelier to eat, making this not only a cool playdate activity, but a shoe-in for healthy snack consumption. Win-win!

Painting Playdate

There are so many possibilities from outdoor mural painting on large rolls of paper to basic finger painting and toddler-safe watercolors. For a bonus, buy frames ahead so the other parent can put their fave in it as a little memento of the play date. This is especially cute if you did handprint painting as part of the activity.  

Tape Car Track Playdate

A car track made from painters tape for a toddler playdate 

Photo: Toys R Us

Toy cars get a boost when you lay out a system of “roads” with masking or painters tape. Do a small test patch first if executing this one inside on hardwoods; it works just as well in the garage or on a flat driveway. Driving their cars on the masking tape roads is excellent for fine motor skill development and hand-eye coordination. 

Sidewalk Chalk Playdate

Playing with chalk outside can be a free-for-all or an adult-led learning game with shapes and pictures. Mix in some water to change the look of their work, and let them get messy. 

Play-Doh Playdate

Your toddler is at a great age to introduce Play-Doh. Set up in an area that’ll be easy for you to wipe down and vacuum up later. Elaborate tools are not at all necessary; simple found objects that can be used to cut, roll out, and make shapes with their dough are perfect.

Bouncing Babies Playdate

Roll out a small indoor trampoline or crank up the joy with a visit to an indoor jump park. Bouncing is fantastic for their gross motor skills and will tire them out beautifully before nap time!

Dress-Up Playdate 

This is such a sweet age for playing dress-up and trying out all different types of accessories. Get those cameras ready, because this is one toddler playdate activity you’ll want lots of pics of.

Petting Zoo Playdate

Touching and feeding animals is an amazing experience for your eager-to-learn little ones. A visit to the local farm or petting zoo is a great way to spend your next playdate outdoors. 

Playground Playdate

Keep it simple and hit up the swings and slide! Try a new playground if you frequent the same ones often, and stick to a park that has a toddler-specific play area to keep your stress at a minimum and let them enjoy a bit of autonomy during play time.

Crafty Playdate

A craft setup for a toddler playdate

Photo: My Bored Toddler

Simple painting, gluing, and paper folding crafts are such a creative and enjoyable activity for a toddler playdate. Plan something seasonal to start a little tradition of themed playdates. 

Swimming Playdate

In warmer weather, set out the kiddie pool or take them to the nearest real pool to cool off and splash around. In winter months, your tots will enjoy a dip just as much. Check out open swim times at your local YMCA / JCC, fitness centers, or even hotels.

Easy Hike or Walk Playdate

Take a short and meandering hike with your tykes, pointing out flowers, mushrooms, and creatures as you go. If having them walk on their own is out of the question, try babywearing or look for a stroller-friendly trail. Spending time outside in nature is good for them—and for you!

Park Picnic Playdate

A toddler picnic playdate 

Photo: Lovevery

Even run-of-the-mill lunch foods will be much more enjoyable when they’ve been packed up in a basket and are set up to eat in the sunshine. Pick a place with a large open field to allow kiddos to run around and play together. Bring a few dolls and plastic plates so your toddlers can “feed” their babies, too. 

Pancakes & PJs Playdate

Sometimes, we’re up so early with little ones, and by afternoon / post-nap time, it’s just Meltdown City. If your tykes do best in the morning, plan a roll-out-of-bed playdate where everyone stays in their pajamas and you eat pancakes (or any breakfast foods) together as the highlight of the playdate.  

“Car Wash” Playdate

This is one of those parenting loopholes that, once discovered, becomes an absolute favorite pastime. Set out some buckets of soapy water and big sponges that are easy for your toddlers to handle and have them scrub down their outdoor push-cars and other toys. Rinse everything off with a hose and voila: They had fun, and you saved yourself a chore this week.

Shadow Puppet Playdate

A nice way to wind kids down before naptime is to turn off the lights and do shadow puppets for them, with one parent holding a flashlight and the other making animal shapes with their hands. See if you can ask them what sound the animals make once they figure out what each one is.

Oobleck Playdate

A toddler plays with slime during a playdate 

Photo: Busy Toddler

It’s like slime’s less annoying younger cousin! We love oobleck because it’s simple to make and way easier to clean up than its competitors. Just mix 1.5-2 parts cornstarch to one part water (plus a couple drops of food coloring which is optional!) in a bowl until you reach that gooey, non-sticky texture that provides them a wonderful sensory experience and limitless fun. 

Gardening Playdate

Do little planters with seed packets for them to take home or head over to a local community garden and ask after what types of tasks you can pitch in together with the babes. They’re never too young for an introduction to gardening—check out our guide on gardening with kids here for more ideas.

Fort Building and a Movie Playdate

Rainy weather is no reason to cancel a playdate. In fact, indoor fun is the perfect way to spend a day with friends. Build a fort of couch cushions, chairs, and blankets, make some yummy snacks, and put on a short, animated movie for a cozy playdate they won’t soon forget. 

More Ways to Entertain Toddlers:

About Jenny Studenroth Gerson

Jenny Studenroth Gerson is an Atlanta-based lifestyle journalist and novelist (Let Me Let You Go, 2020). Her work can be seen in publications including HuffPost, Cosmo, and WSJ, among many others. Jenny has researched thousands of baby names, combed through hundreds of nursery designs, and curated dozens of baby shower guides, making her absolutely the mom—and writer—you want to talk to when planning for Baby. When not meeting deadlines, she is chasing toddlers or chugging coffee—or both! Find her on Instagram @ourlifeinrosegold for mom hacks and more.

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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.