playdates for children

For kids around the age of eight to twelve years old, play dates are very important and beneficial. A play date affords opportunities for interaction between playmates which helps children to develop crucial skills.

This interaction represents a vital social experience for your child’s growth. Moreover, socialization offers various opportunities for children which consist of sharing, creative play and plenty of fun.

A play date is an arranged time for youngsters to gather or get together for play and other various fun activities. Play dates are becoming more common due to the busy routine of working parents.

The goal of play dates is to provide children with enough time for interaction in a less-formal environment. Play dates are less-structured compared to planned kids’ activities and many parents see these dates as an opportunity for their youngsters to build friendships within smaller groups.

Benefits of Play Dates for Older Kids

Play dates have many benefits for children that will stick with them for the rest of their lives – let’s take a closer look.

Sparks Creativity and Imagination

When children come together to play, new ideas are exchanged and different ways of playing are introduced.

Parents should allow their children to take part in creative play -or free play- alone and with their peers. It would be advisable not to overwhelm the child with too many organized activities.

Improves Social Skills

When kids play and work together, they gradually enhance their social skills. Playing and positive interaction is essential for a child’s social development.

These create a positive impact on their character as the youngsters grow older. Children may not be perfect learners but young people are usually enthusiastic when it comes to building social skills.

So, parents must be role models such as teaching gracious manners and politeness during these play dates.

Increases Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

Play dates build up the self-confidence and self-esteem of children. Confident youngsters feel accepted and don’t hesitate to take on new challenges.

They feel proud of their capabilities and are more likely to perform better both at school and at home.

Emotional Benefits

Having a friend to confide in and vent to can make a world of difference in your kids’ emotional well-being.

Play dates can teach the children to be comfortable in sharing emotions. He or she establishes a deeper rapport with their play date pals.

Ultimately, they become more aware of the importance of emotional connection.

Improves Physical Health

A play date typically encourages more physical exercise due to running around, jumping, and playing that calls for a lot of energy.

Play results in healthy bodies and sufficient rest for children. It bolsters physical health as well as reduces the danger of becoming obese.

Improves Attention Span

Play dates can improve the attention span of toddlers and older children. The normal attention span is between three and five minutes for each year of the child’s age.

So, an eight-year-old has an average 30 minute attention span while 12-year old kids have 60 minutes. With better concentration, children are more likely to excel in their schoolwork.

Creates Long-Lasting Friendships

A play date is an effective way of creating long-lasting relationships.

When kids indulge in informal and leisure activities, they get to know their buddies well and eventually develop close friendships that can last through adulthood.

Fun Play Date Ideas for Kids 8-12 Years Old

Here are some ideas for fun play dates for kids ages 8 to 12 years old.

Backyard/Indoor Camping

kids backyard camping

Camping out with a friend is not only a ton of fun, but it’s also a great way for your child to get a sense of independence and adventure (kids around this age need that).

Camping out in your own backyard or even indoors is not only safer but less of a hassle. They can have all the fun and thrill of camping out while still within reach of you, the adult, and convenient amenities such as a toilet and a refrigerator stocked with food.

It can also be a great way to introduce your child to the “great outdoors” and camping in general. It’s a new and exciting experience for them and an excellent way to build comradery with their friend(s).


baby finger painting

If you’ve got an imaginative and creative child, you can cultivate their creative spirit with fun ideas using inexpensive supplies.

Then, you’re giving the kid the right tools needed to set off imagination and innovative play. Actually, resourceful parents can find many simple ideas in making crafts with step-by-step instructions that children can easily learn.

You need not spend a fortune because the majority of materials you may already have at home, and the others are usually very inexpensive.

Here are some great craft ideas worth checking out (tab opens in new window).


Dress-up play is a great way for kids to practice and further enhance their ingenuity. Wearing costumes is not the only thing involved during “role play”, but kids can also copy the mannerisms of the characters they portray.

Children can even come up with their own mannerisms and ideas, communicate using their language skills and live out various emotions.

This way, youngsters think outside of the box and become more imaginative and creative.

For more information on the benefits of role play, check out my article titled, “Role Play for Kids – Developmental Benefits and Ideas

Build an Indoor Fort

Your kids can build an indoor fort right in the comfort of your home. A blanket fort is a great way for children to connect and put their ingenuity to work.

It is even more enjoyable if they’re with friends for an overnight fort-camping experience. Find the best spot where the kids will feel comfy while playing and rolling around.

Let them get creative and be ready with the pillows, snacks and of course plenty of sheets and blankets. Here’s a video for inspiration.

Board Games

Board games have come a long way since we were kids. Playing board games can keep the youngsters occupied in a positive way while also providing many benefits.

Board games stimulate the minds of kids and help them develop social and problem-solving skills.

There are so many great board games on the market today, check out these on Amazon that are appropriate for this age range.

Balloon Animals

Balloons are inexpensive and provide hours of fun. Kids will surely take pleasure in learning the process of balloon twisting. This activity will spark creativity and imagination.

The first balloon animal they can learn to make is a simple dog or monkey. Here’s a fun, step-by-step video that will help get them started.

The possibilities are endless!

Fun in the Kitchen

kids in the kitchen

Cooking can be exciting for children and is a great way for them to put their creativity to work. It helps to develop a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Making a pizza from scratch or a tasty dessert is not only fun and engaging but also teaches kids the “value” of a home-cooked meal as they’ll experience all of the hard work that goes into it.

Set-up a Sports Game

Outdoor and indoor sports can be a fun, healthy way for kids to interact. Sports increase balance and coordination, stamina and strength, and helps to develop self-confidence. Playing sports also reduces stress, and teaches them the moral value of sportsmanship.

Two to four kids can play basketball, soccer, badminton, football, or even hacky sack- the possibilities are endless.

Encourage your child to indulge in physical activities and get around 60 minutes of exercise daily- It’ll pay off in the long run.

Film a Movie

Filming YouTube movies or short films can be a unique and cool way to spend the day.

Children can pick up many important skills like paying attention to details, basics of lighting and the many other technical aspects of filming.

It’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing and the skills they learn will benefit them well into adulthood.

Here’s a cool video on how to make stop-motion video animation (which is a lot of fun!) for inspiration.

Ninja Course

Kids today love to play on a ninja course. Your own backyard or basement is where they can navigate these obstacle courses over and over again while coming up with new and creative ways to “beat” the course and improve their times.

You really don’t need much to get started, and the really cool thing is you can always improve and add more to your course over time. Here’s a great “starter” set to get you going.

Video Games

Video games can be a fun and exciting way for children to exercise and hone many important skills while also improving their problem-solving abilities.

Video games improve hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, reading skills, and feed their imagination and creativity. Video games can be a great “fall back” play date activity for this age range.

If all else fails, you can always rely on video games to keep them entertained.


Painting can provide many hours of entertainment for kids and is a great outlet for their creativity. It won’t be hard to find a painting project that your child and their friend(s) will want to experiment with.

Not only a solo activity, but painting is also fun in groups.

Watercolors, acrylic paints, and chalk pastels are affordable and easy to get started with.

Your child can explore different styles, colors, and media using their vivid imagination. Who knows, this may be the first step for your kid to become another Vincent van Gogh or Leonardo da Vinci?

Many adults today wish that their parents would have introduced art to them at an earlier age. Here’s a great starter set to get them going.

Nerf/Laser Tag

Nerf or Laser Tag is a safe and exciting activity children can play that will provide hours of fun- as well as give them a great workout both physically and mentally.

Usually best played outdoors or in a laser tag facility as the kids will need lots of room. Nerf tag or laser tag is something the kids can do in your own yard. It’s exciting, thrilling, and helps to improve their coordination and motor skills.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started for laser tag.

Make Tie-Dye

Tie-dye is a fun, engaging, and creative hobby for kids and adults alike.

You can use new or old clothes as well as experiment with shoes, curtains and even socks. Get crafty and have fun!

Here’s a great step-by-step guide to get you started (tab opens in new window).

Fun Science Experiments

Science can be especially intriguing for kids. Working on science experiments is a great way to not only provide cool and unique entertainment, but it’s also an excellent learning opportunity.

Some of the more popular experiments are the DIY lava lamps, frozen slime recipes, and making edible chocolate play dough.

Here’s a link where you can get the step-by-step instructions for making a cool lava lamp (tab opens in new window).

Or for something a bit more educational and scientific here’s an awesome kit to get them started.

Play Darts

Playing darts can turn out to be a worthwhile, fun and engaging activity for kids (and adults). Most dartboards today can be used both indoors and outdoors and are “kid-friendly” and safe.

Kid-friendly darts are made out of plastic, Velcro, and they even have magnetic darts sets available.

It’s a fun activity that will entertain for hours. This is a great play date idea for this age range. Here’s a durable board with plastic-tipped darts to get you started.

Put on a Play (Drama)

Acting out a play or drama can be a wonderful way for kids to express themselves and get creative all while having lots of fun. This can help determine who among the young ones are budding actors or actresses.

It is also a fine way of developing cooperation, increasing focus, and exploring creativity.

How do you go about it? Certainly, you’ll need a good drama script. Here’s a really neat website I found that provides free, printable scripts for kids’ plays (tab opens in new window).

Props will come in handy and although they don’t really need props, it can be a fun and creative way to make the play more realistic. If you choose to use props, you can use items found around your house such as tables, chairs, and curtains.

Costumes also make the scenes more realistic and again, you can use what’s in your home already or take a trip to a second-hand store for some affordable and unique “costumes” and props.

Final Thoughts and Considerations

There are a thousand and one play date ideas to choose from and sometimes kids need structured play. They benefit greatly from it.

Sometimes being in new social situations can make them feel uncomfortable, but often it’s good for them to step out of their comfort zone. It’ll pay off in the long run.

I hope this article has inspired you in some way. Remember to stay safe and have fun!


Over 14 years in special education with a BA in psychology. I work daily with children of all kinds, with a special focus on childhood development and play using music and play equipment among other tools.

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