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Big Kid Playdates — Bonding with Your College Student

Sydnei Kaplan

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Seems like our college kids just returned to campus, yet spring break isn’t that far off. If you’re like me, you're already looking for ways to reconnect and make the most of your time together next time you see them.

Fun time together was so easy when they were little! Remember playdates? At first these consisted of having a little one and his or her parent over to your house, or you and your child went to their house. The parents enjoyed some grown-up time over coffee and a little relaxation while the children played.

As the kids got older, playdates evolved. Sometimes my son or daughter would bring a friend or two home with them after school. Other times, they'd go to a friend’s house. Eventually there were sleepovers with pizza and movies, and I’d revel in making pancakes or waffles from scratch the next morning.

What do playdates have to do with creating memorable fun with our college students? When they’re home on breaks, their time is precious. Between seeing their friends, catching up on sleep and keeping up with homework, it can be challenging to enjoy quality time together.

So make a date to “play.” “Play” can be any number of activities that leave you both with smiles on your faces and in your hearts. Here are some of my favorites!

Have a PJ Day!

We used to have lots of these when my children were little but — trust me — they are just as much fun with big kids. We plan a few things to do — make homemade waffles or eggs or avocado toast for breakfast, catch up on episodes of a favorite show, my daughter and I do mani-pedis, make a coffee run (always more fun in pajamas!), bake cookies, even help clean out and organize their rooms.

And just relax and talk — enjoying being together with no stress.


Our whole family likes working out, and when we’re on vacation we will sometimes make it a family activity. When the kids are home on breaks, this is a fantastic way to spend time together and stay fit!

My daughter and I have it down to a science. We warm up on the treadmill, work with free weights or machines to get a full-body workout and then relax in the therapy pool and hot tub. If the gym isn’t your thing, try taking a yoga class or going for a long walk. There are so many ways to get some exercise together and the energy and mood boost will last all day long.

Combo Outings

These times together are a special kind of awesome! Every now and then, I have the pleasure of going out with my daughter and a friend of hers, plus the friend’s mom (who is usually a friend of mine). With one Mom-Daughter combo, we have a tradition of having a pajama breakfast at both of our houses, switching off each time. These are cozy, yummy and filled with laughs and great conversation.

Sometimes I get to feel like a teen/college kid myself and join my daughter and a friend for coffee or a meal. And of course, I treat!

I’ve had a couple of Mom-Son outings with my son and a friend + Mom, but more often it seems more natural to enjoy my son with a few of his friends, like hosting them for a pizza/video game/movie night or making them homemade chicken wings.

It really doesn’t matter what we do — it’s being together with them and their friends that is a real treat!

Target Adventures

Yes, this is a thing! You don’t even have to need anything in particular to enjoy these little trips. In fact, they are more entertaining if you don’t take a shopping list and go simply for the fun of it.

My daughter and I enjoy Target adventures quite often. We usually venture out later in the evening, sometimes in PJs (do you detect a theme?), often jamming in the car to one of her Spotify playlists. (Given that she was a competitive cheerleader for six years, we tend to favor cheer music.)

Once there, we wander the aisles, looking at and commenting on whatever catches our eyes. If Target isn’t your place, you can make an adventure out of almost any window shopping/aisle roaming destination: an art gallery, an old-fashioned general store, a pet store — and of course some people are lucky enough to live near an IKEA.

See a Play

As in a Broadway-like show. In all honesty, I haven’t seen a professional show with my kids, unless you count high school or local theater productions, which are actually close to professional level in our town. Given that my son was active on the tech side of high school theater, he has a deep appreciation of plays and all that goes into creating them. We often discuss the tech aspects (lighting, set, sound) as well as the acting and storyline of various shows that either of us sees.

I know that getting dressed up and going into the city to see a national production would be something that he and I — and my daughter and I — would absolutely love. I’m betting that you and your big kids would find an excursion like this to be a cherished memory in the making.

Who says playdates are just for little kids?

The big kid variety are equally as fun (maybe more so!) and are just the thing for reconnecting — and carving out some precious time — with our college kids when they’re home for spring (or any other) break.

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Sydnei Kaplan left a marketing career when her first child was born and never looked back. She and her husband are now parents to two "college and beyond” aged children. Currently Sydnei works part-time in a preschool and rediscovered her passion for writing through her blog, Mom in the Moment. Sydnei is honored to contribute to several other sites, including Her View From Home, Love What Matters, and Grown and Flown. You can find her first children’s book, The Heaven Phone, on Amazon. Find her on Facebook and Instagram, too.
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