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Kids' Playdate Menus: Make it a Potluck!

Updated on March 2, 2012

Why Potlucks?

When most people think of potlucks, they think of either couples gathering for an evening away from the kids or an organization such as a church for a social event. In any case, it is a gathering of a group of people for a shared purpose at which each member or family brings a dish to share with the others.

In this tough economy, parents are looking for ways to save money on food and also to find cheap and fun things for their kids to do.  So why not combine them.  Potlucks do not have to be limited to grown ups. Why not have a potluck lunch or dinner with a play group? Many parents get children together to play. Why not extend this play date to an organized group in which the members alternate hosting a potluck for the kids with a theme? This would both allow parents to socialize with other parents, children to interact with each other, share good food, and best of all save money on both food and entertainment!

Eating is always fun with friends!


Planning a Potluck Playdate

Planning a potluck play date can be done in several easy steps.  As the initiator, you can be the first host and show the others in your group how it can be done.

  1. First make a list of guests.  Be sure to consider the number of children that each family has and count each child unless otherwise specified.  Also keep in mind the amount of space that your home holds.  Do not invite more people than will comfortably fit.
  2. Think of a theme.  Anyone can open their door or home to some friends and ask them to bring a dish to share.  But why not make it more interesting for everyone by adding a theme?  It would ensure that dishes are not repeated each time that the group gathers and it adds a little excitement to the gathering.
  3. Plan the menu.  When planning the menu keep the theme in mind.  You will also need to make some decisions.  Do you want to share the theme and let guests decide what to bring or do you prefer to create a list of dishes and have your friends choose one that works best for them?  **It is very important that you ask if there are any allergies and share that information with everyone.  No one wants to be the cause of a trip to the hospital!
  4. Decide on the kid activities.  This is where a play date potluck differs a bit from a grown up's potluck.  Think about an activity or two that the children will enjoy and is age  appropriate.  These can be very simple and low cost that fits into the theme of the gathering.

Potluck Theme Ideas

So you've made your list and now you are thinking, how am I going to come up with a theme for my guests? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Travel Around the World.

Pick a country or region of the world and do a bit of research. Find out about what kind of food is served in this area, what is special to the region in terms of an activity, and what the area looks like. Here are some examples of potluck play dates from around the world.

Worldly Potluck Playdate Ideas

Main Dish  
decorate a ceramic vase and plant a tomato plant 
Middle East 
meat pies and hummous with pita 
create a geometric desinged "rug" 
crepes (filled with either sweet or savory fillings)
kid friendly sushi
fried rice with pieces of chicken 
make kites 
This is just a list to get you started. You can create as many ideas as your imagination will allow.

Mexican Potluck Playdate

If you need a specific idea from start to finish to get you started, here is a plan from the food to the fun. First stop, Mexico.


For your meal, use the check list below to help guide your menu. You could have each guest bring one of the suggested dishes and you as the host provide the ingredients for the make your own tacos, or you could have each guest bring something to add to the taco list and simply leave the meal to the tacos and fixings.


For the activities you can make maracas. Just take two mini aluminum pie tins and fill one with a handful of dried rice or beans. Cut pieces of streamers and glue them to the rim of the tin. Then place the second tin on top of the first and staple the two together three quarters of the way around. Then slip one inch of the craft stick in the remaining opening and staple shut. Repeat if you are making a set of two maracas and then decorate both with markers, crayons, paint, or anything else that you choose. When everyone is finished, turn on some Mexican Mariachi music and dance to the beat with your maracas.

Mexican Potluck Playdate Checklist

Taco Fixings
Craft Materials Needed
Make your own tacos 
ground meat (beef, turkey, etc.)
small pie tins
taco shells
dried rice or beans
refried beans 
large craft sticks
Mexican rice
tortilla chips
birthday streamers
sour cream/guacamole
You can add or delete any ingredient or idea for your craft. Personalize your event, it's all about you and your kids!
Games are a great way to entertain.
Games are a great way to entertain.

2. Well Known Characters

If you would like to think about planning a potluck play date that connects kids to a familiar character, you could host a potluck that is focused on a familiar Disney movie or character, a beloved friend from Sesame Street, or any other well known kid friendly tv star.

3. Random But Fun Ideas

You could create a potluck play date centered around holidays. This is a really easy one to do and would be a great place to begin. If that is not something that excites you why not think about one of these.

General List of Ideas

International Foods 
Spiders and Bugs 
Ants on a log, caterpillar hot dogs 
bug hunt, make ant farms 
All American Fare 
Variety of Sports 
one-eyed sandwiches (sandwiches with a green olive on top), scurvy fighting salad
go on a treasure hunt
tiny sandwiches, chocolate covered strawberries
Make tiarras or wands

When you are planning your potluck, think about birthday themes. This is a great place to expand your list of ideas. Turn that birthday party idea into a group social event and decide what activities or crafts to do and the food that will be served. Potluck playdates will be one event that everyone will look forward to. Everyone is looking to save a few extra dollars these days, no matter how much money you make. Potluck play dates are a great opportunity for an inexpensive time out with friends and to share some delicious food. You might even learn something new!


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    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Yes MsDora happy kids=happy parents don't they! Thanks so much for your comment.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 6 years ago from The Caribbean

      My goodness! What a fun, brilliant idea to make happy kids--and parents. Thanks.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      I appreciate you passing this along HBN. I like to be creative when it comes to entertaining my kids! It keeps everyone interested in the event! Thanks for your comments.

      Thank you Stephanie. Remembering allergies is always very important. There are so many nowadays that it is hard to keep up! You can always create one of these events next summer with your grandkids! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 6 years ago from USA

      You are so creative! These ideas are wonderful for young parents or grandparents with young grandchildren. I would have loved to do one of your theme pot lucks for a birthday party or summer gathering with my grandkids! I'm so glad you included a reminder about allergies as I know several children with severe allergies to peanuts. It's something we should always be aware of when entertaining children. Voted up, useful and interesting (as always!)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Wonderful, creative ideas with just enough details to fire up one's imagination. Will pass this on to my friends who have young grandchildren!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks PrairiePrincess, I'm glad that you can pass it along to someone who might find it useful. I hope your sister can use some of the ideas. I appreciate taking your time to read and comment.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      This is a very creative idea! I will pass it on to my sister, who has two young girls, and always has kids at her house, anyway! I loved how you incorporated the tables within your hub, and how you gave a lot of examples to give people ideas. I can see that you write, as you teach, incorporating many elements to make it a more full learning experience. What a well-done hub!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks UC, glad you liked it.

      RTalloni, it is great fun for everyone, you should try it! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Kiddie potluck--what a great idea! You make me want to plan a series of play dates for younger friends. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image

      Umbrella Company 6 years ago

      Great explanation this idea thanks

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks, I'm glad you liked. It was a fun one to do!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! This is a knock it out of the ball park hub! Great ideas and organization. Love the table format and cute photos as well. Voted up and useful/awesome.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Susan. It's really an easy thing to do and everyone loves to socialize, it's just a little more structured with themes and activities. Thanks for the comment!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent idea and great hub too!

      I used to go to what we called a Parent's club. It was held in the basement of a church. We would take our children there once a week and they had all kinds of toys and activities for the children to play with. It was fun because the kids all met new kids to play with and the us moms got to interact as well. We would only have coffee and bring in some kind of a dessert or cookies and juice for the children.