What you should (and shouldn’t) bring to a playdate

You’ve finally arranged a playgroup with friends and neighbors, you have gone through the process of encouraging your toddler’s best behavior, and then you have subsequently scheduled that highly-anticipated playdate – now it’s time to figure out what items you’ll need. Whether you’re headed to a playground or the pool, we’ve got a list of essential stuff you won’t want to leave behind.

Two little girls playing at a playground

What you should bring

When it comes to the must-haves, here are a couple of items you’ll definitely need, regardless of what’s in store.

Water bottles

Staying hydrated is crucial, and you should always opt to bring your own water. While some places might already have access to water — like restaurants or parks — it’s never a bad idea to bring your own. Park water fountains, for instance, can have plenty of bacteria, and they’re not always cold on those scorching summer days.

Not to mention, some toddlers might only drink flavored water, which is even less accessible in public places. Even if you think there will be water at the playdate, you should still err on the side of caution. Bonus points if you keep the water bottles in a cooler or with an ice pack.

Containers or baggies for snacks

If you’re going to someone else’s house for the playdate, the parents will probably provide snacks, but there’s no guarantee your toddler will like them. Rather than letting your kid go hungry or scavenging for something they’ll eat, just bring your own snacks instead.

You don’t need to pack a ton of snacks, especially if the playdate is only a couple of hours, but one or two containers of their go-to snack can come in handy.

Favorite toys

When your toddler goes to meet friends, they’ll probably want to play with everyone else’s toys — but they may want to share some of their own, too. Just in case, pack a few of your little one’s favorite toys.

In an outdoor setting, be cautious of tiny toys that might get lost or left behind. Instead, opt for larger toys your toddler won’t be able to bury in the sandpit. And, before you leave, don’t forget to double-check that you’ve got them all. In large groups, it’s easy for your toys to get mixed in with someone else’s or to bring home more than you brought.


Many parents keep Band-Aids or bandages on hand, but if you’re at the park or playground, it’s easy to forget about this first-aid tool. A scraped knee won’t require stitches, but if you leave the wound uncovered, you run the risk of slowing the healing process (or getting an infection).

Stick a few extra Band-Aids in your bag before you leave, and then clean the wound once you’re home. Even if your toddler doesn’t end up needing a bandage, someone else’s child might.

What you shouldn’t bring

You’ll want to keep the items above close by, but you can cross these off your list.

Entire meals

A couple of snacks that conveniently fit inside your bag are fine, but there’s no need to bring an entire meal for your child. Since most playdates only last around one or two hours anyway, it’s unlikely that they’ll fall during mealtime — and your toddler probably won’t want to eat if everyone else is playing.

The other reason to avoid tons of food is that other kids may ask for some, and if you don’t have enough for everyone, it can get awkward.


If you’re headed to the park anyway, it might seem like a great idea to bring the family dog along, but you might want to think twice. If you haven’t cleared it with other parents, they may feel uncomfortable, especially with larger animals. Bringing animals around small children is always risky — even the friendliest dogs or cats can have unpredictable reactions.

Not to mention, you could run into a pet allergy. If someone’s child is severely allergic to your dog, your pet’s presence could ruin the entire playdate. On that note, if the playdate’s happening at your house and you’ve got pets, don’t forget to ask if the other kids have any allergies.

Too many electronics

Many kids use iPads and tablets regularly, but there’s usually no reason to bring your kid’s technology on a playdate. If everyone’s outside, you run the risk of your child dropping the tablet or severely damaging it.

Even if the playdate is happening indoors, too much technology can be distracting. Your toddler might decide they’re more interested in watching YouTube than hanging out with potential friends. Save the electronics for your home, and remind your kids that playdates are for making friends.

Two toddlers playing together at home

Learning playdate etiquette isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a first-time parent or arranging the date with someone new. If you already know which items you’ll want to keep close at hand (and which ones you should keep at home), you’ll be one step closer to a stress-free, relaxing day.

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