Three tips for hosting a play date

8 Jun 2022, 3 p.m.

child runs towards camera smiling while friends and family hold up a multicoloured parachute

As big advocates of the power of play, we've put together three tips for hosting a play date this summer.

Children have a fundamental right to play (it says so in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).

As our Power of Play report says: playing – among other things – allows children to “express themselves in their own ways, to explore the world around them with creativity and a sense of fun, and to pursue what they would like to do in the moment, for their own reasons”.

So, we know play is an important part of childhood. But how do we all feel about hosting play dates for the kids in our lives?

Panic about what to do on the day? Confusion around play date etiquette?

If you’re nodding your head, rest assured: you’re not the only one. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Play dates can be great fun and (almost) stress free.

From keeping things simple to getting the other parents involved, here are three tips for playing host this summer.

Tip 1) Don't overthink your play date

If you're unable (or don’t want) to dedicate loads of time to organising games and activities for your play date, that’s ok.

Children know how to play – they do it all the time. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be the perfect entertainer.

The key is to have some simple but fun activities and games in your back pocket ahead of the day.

From stickers to stuck in the mud, you can find our list of activities and ideas for your play date in our GOSH Charity play date toolkit. (But more on that later.)

One unique idea is to take the kids on a journey through time: ask all the adults to talk through some of the games they used to play when they were younger. (Hopscotch, anyone?)

Don’t forget to see if your little one wants to get involved in the planning and hosting, too. It can be a great way to prepare them for what’s in store ahead of the day. It’s also a great way to keep them busy in the weeks and days leading up to it.

Tip 2) Get the grown-ups involved

We know how important play is for children. But play dates can also be a fantastic opportunity for the grown-ups to catch up and socialise.

You might all end up rolling up your sleeves to help make slime … or perhaps decide to sit back and enjoy a coffee while watching the kids have fun. Either way, make sure to send an invite to the adults, too.

You could also ask each family to bring a few simple snacks with them on the day, to take the pressure off playing host.

Tip 3) Weather forecast looking good? Host your play date outside

three children sit on blanket outside chatting and smiling

Want to avoid having people over? No problem. Lock up the house and head for the great outdoors.

For those wanting to keep their play date small, you could opt for simply meeting another family (or two) in the park or get settled in the garden.

For those planning to spread the word about their play date, you might start thinking more about a big summer picnic. Or have one grown-up fire up the barbeque and make an afternoon of it.

Another option is to reach out to your child’s school or nursey, to see if they can host.

Wherever you choose to host, just remember to give your play date a start and end time – so everyone knows what to expect.

And remember to send your invites out early! Little ones' diaries fill up very quickly. Make sure you tell people about your play date in plenty of time.

GOSH Charity Play Date – play time that changes lives

Did you know: play has long been an essential part of care at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Back in 1854, hospital Founder Dr Charles West wrote about the importance of keeping children occupied and amused. During the mid-twentieth century, dedicated playrooms started popping up across the hospital. Then, in 1974, the GOSH Play department was established.

Today, GOSH Charity funds a team of 48 play workers and play specialists who help over 500 children and families each day.

The GOSH Play team provides a vital part of children and young people’s care at GOSH – helping them to make sense of their treatment and recovery through toys, activity and play.

The team helps patients at GOSH feel in control, calm and informed about what’s happening during their treatment and recovery. And, most importantly, play allows children to be children during what can be a difficult and worrying time.

This July, we’re asking families across the nation to host a GOSH Charity Play Date to help fund this incredible team.

It could make for a great school charity fundraising idea, or the perfect summer holiday event.

Head to our Play Date website now to learn more about:

  • How to sign up
  • Our top fundraising ideas
  • How to get hold of our free Play Date pack to prepare you for the day (stickers included!).

Just remember: Play Dates come in all shapes and sizes. Every amount raised, no matter how big or small, makes a big difference to GOSH.

Eleanor’s GOSH Charity Play Date

Eleanor sat on swing outside smiling. Quote from mum reading:  "She remembers and treasures everything she's ever made with the Play team.”

Seven-year-old Eleanor receives treatment at GOSH for a rare condition called hyperinsulinism. Her pancreas produces too much insulin which, in turn, causes the level of sugar in her blood to drop. Without treatment, hyperinsulinism can have serious side effects.

GOSH's Play team has been a huge part of Eleanor's hospital journey so far. From organising fun activities to helping manage invasive treatment, they've been there every step of the way.

Mum, Rebecca, says: "She barely remembers the injections, needles and scans (from her visits to GOSH). She remembers and treasures everything she's ever made with the Play team.”

This July, Eleanor and Rebecca will be hosting a Play Date for GOSH Charity! Follow in their footsteps and sign up today.