Cara is a mother of two young children and has taught second through fifth grade.
Potlucks Are a Great Way to Save Money
A potluck is a gathering of a group of people to which each member or family brings a dish to share with others. Now, when most people think of potlucks, they think of either a couples' gathering for an evening away from the kids or of a social event for an organization such as a church.
However, in this tough economy, parents are looking for ways to save money on food and find cheap and fun things for their kids to do. So why not have a potluck for kids? Try hosting a potluck lunch or dinner with a playgroup, and extend this playdate to an organized group in which the members alternate hosting a themed potluck. While the children play with each other, you can socialize with other parents, share good food, and better yet, save money on both food and entertainment!
How to Plan a Playdate Potluck
As the initiator of this recurring event, you should be the first host; this way, you can show the others in your group how it can be done.
1. Make a guest list.
Count the number of children that each family has. Also, keep in mind how much space you have in your home. Do not invite more people than will comfortably fit.
2. Think of a theme.
Anyone can open their door to friends and ask them to bring a dish to share. But why not make it more interesting by adding a theme? It will make the party more exciting and will ensure that the same dishes aren't repeated each time.
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 let guests decide what to bring, or do you prefer to have your friends choose a dish from a list?
4. Decide on activities for the kids.
This is where a children's potluck differs a bit from a grown-up potluck. Think about an age-appropriate activity or two that the children will enjoy. These can be very simple and low-cost, and they should fit into the theme of the potluck.
Fun and Cheap Theme and Menu Ideas
Once you've made your guest list, trying to come up with a theme can be difficult. To get you started, here are is an idea:
1. Go international.
Pick a country or region of the world and do a bit of research. Find out what kind of food is served in this area, what activities and games are special to the region, and what its landscape is like.
Decorate a ceramic vase or plant a tomato plant
Meat pies and hummus with pita bread
Design a "rug" with a geometric pattern
Crepes (with either sweet or savory fillings)
Paint a picture
Chicken fried rice
2. Pick a character.
You could host a potluck that is focused on a familiar Disney movie, a beloved character from Sesame Street, or any other well-known, kid-friendly TV star.
3. Celebrate different holidays.
Consider focusing your playdate around different holidays. This is really easy to do and would be a great place to begin. Birthday parties are also great opportunities to host a potluck.
The Possibilities Are Endless
No matter what theme you choose, potluck playdates are an event that everyone can look forward to—we're all looking to save a few extra dollars these days! These playdates are a great opportunity to have a fun time with friends and share some delicious food. You might even learn something new!
Compete in races
Spiders and Bugs
Ants on a log or caterpillar hot dogs
Organize a bug hunt or build ant farms
Play different sports
One-eyed sandwiches (sandwiches with a green olive on top) or scurvy-fighting salad
Plan a treasure hunt
Tiny sandwiches and chocolate-covered strawberries
Make tiaras or wands
How to Plan a Mexican-Inspired Potluck
If you need help getting an idea of what to plan for, here is one theme's menu and craft explained from start to finish. First stop, Mexico!
Eat delicious tacos and more!
You could provide the ingredients for the tacos and have each guest bring one of the other suggested dishes, or you could ask each guest to bring something to add to the taco ingredient list and have a simple meal of tacos with fixings. Here are some suggestions, but you can add or omit any ingredient to your liking. This event is all about you and your kids!
For tacos, you'll need:
- Ground meat (beef, turkey, etc.)
- Sour cream
- Taco shells
Other foods you can serve are:
- Tortilla chips
- Mexican rice
- Refried beans
Make music with maracas!
Making DIY maracas is a fun craft for the kids that will give them a chance to express themselves both artistically and musically!
Materials for DIY Maracas
- Mini aluminum pie tins
- Dried rice or beans
- Birthday streamers, for decoration
- Large craft sticks
- A stapler
- Markers, crayons, paint, or other decorating supplies
- 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.
- Place the second tin on top and staple the edges together three-quarters of the way around.
- Slip one inch of the craft stick into the remaining opening and staple it shut.
- Repeat these steps to create a second maraca, if desired.
- Decorate with markers, crayons, paint, or whatever you choose. Once everyone has finished, turn on some Mariachi music and dance to the beat with your maracas!
cardelean (author) from Michigan on September 06, 2011:
Yes MsDora happy kids=happy parents don't they! Thanks so much for your comment.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 06, 2011:
My goodness! What a fun, brilliant idea to make happy kids--and parents. Thanks.
cardelean (author) from Michigan on September 06, 2011:
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 from USA on September 06, 2011:
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!)
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on September 06, 2011:
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 (author) from Michigan on June 12, 2011:
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.
Sharilee Swaity from Canada on June 11, 2011:
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 (author) from Michigan on May 27, 2011:
Thanks UC, glad you liked it.
RTalloni, it is great fun for everyone, you should try it! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
RTalloni on May 27, 2011:
Kiddie potluck--what a great idea! You make me want to plan a series of play dates for younger friends. Voted up and useful.
Umbrella Company on May 19, 2011:
Great explanation this idea thanks
cardelean (author) from Michigan on May 06, 2011:
Thanks, I'm glad you liked. It was a fun one to do!
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on May 05, 2011:
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 (author) from Michigan on May 05, 2011:
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!
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2011:
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.