Quick! I need your ideas for free (or cheap) play dates!

My poor baby is so lonely at school and I can't do anything to fix it. Now that my 5-year old daughter, Willow, is in kindergarten, when I drop her off for school breakfast, she gets very sad because she is not surrounded by any of her friends. My heart breaks the second I turn to leave. I drive to work with tears in my eyes thinking about how small and lonely she is at school.

Usually, Willow has no problems making friends. She has been walking up to complete kids and strangers saying "Hiyeee!" since she was old enough to speak. But kindergarten has turned my usually precocious child into a complete wallflower!

I've tried a couple of desperate ideas so that she won't be sitting alone, moping in the cafeteria. Every morning when I leave, I make Willow sit her tray next to any random little girl who is also sitting by herself. I usually ask the child if she would like to make a new friend named Willow. When the girl nods, I say, "All right, Willow, you've got a new friend! Byeeee!" and then I run out the door before she has a chance to cry for me to come back.

I even asked a table of little self-assured ponytail-clad girls what they did to make new friends when they were in kindergarten, and they gave me (and Willow) the best advice ever: Just walk up to someone and say, "Hi, will you be my friend?"

They make it sound so easy and so doable. It's just that simple, folks! (Now, if only it were that easy to get a boyfriend! Hayyyyy!)

To help soothe my baby's broken heart, I arranged an after-school play date. A couple of weeks ago, we had a bike-riding play date with one of her old BFFs from preschool, Kira. Yesterday, we had a play date with another bestie, Makenna. Makenna's mom, Michelle, suggested that we meet up at Randall Park and let our girls feed the ducks. It was a free activity and it was a close-by location for both of us moms. What a great idea!

What other free (or super-cheap) play date ideas can you suggest for young kids? I have a feeling I'm going to be planning A LOT of these for Willow in the next few weeks to come!