Friday, August 10, 2012

Play date ideas

One of the most important socializing activities of my toddler son, are play dates. I look for the opportunities to get together with other kids, as I want Santino to develop social skills and have fun while doing it. We have attended such amazing Goober Gang play dates with the themes like "salad bar", or "pool party" (its from the recent ones that I attended; other play date ideas, although not mentioned here, were also amazing). We also often meet up local non-Goober kids with their moms for the walks and for playing inside. Santino loves his friends, remembers their names, and often talks about them... Well, he doesn't really talk in paragraphs yet, but he likes to mumble jibberish, pretending he is telling a story, popping in there some familiar words, like "fire truck" or names of his friends.

I often find, that without structure or a theme, a playdate can become rather boring; if not for the kids, but for their moms for sure. I noticed, once kids start enjoying an activity and having fun, moms usually get really involved and become very proud and excited, too.

So for the next play date, consider one of these ideas below. And if these ideas give you a push for another idea, that's even better! If some of these activities look kinda messy, or noisy for a big group of kids, consider more intimate play date, with 2 or 3 kids. At 2 or 3 years of age, when kids become more independent  and possessive sometimes, its better for everybody, when the playdate is kept to smaller kids numbers.


One of the awesome ideas I found recently, was to have a muffin tin, filled with various snacks, like cheese cubes and veggie or fruit slices available for the kids to munch on while they play. I find nothing unites them better, then fishing for the fish crackers. 


I noticed, that the best time for the snacks to come out is about 20-30 mins after the start. This is when the first excitement is gone and they are looking for more stuff to do.

I tried the muffin tin today when 2 other kids came visiting Santino. This worked awesome! I put various snacks, like veggies and fruits, as well as fish crackers, and they all munched on their favorite snacks, which, surprise surprise!,  was different for each kid.

As for the activities, the first one I suggest to try, actually concerns snacks. The all-time favorite PIZZA! Well, in this case, is a make-your-own pizza. Provide the kids with the flat bread (in our family we enjoy naan bread for this purpose), sauce, cheese, pieces of veggies, some odd things, like fish crackers or cheerios! Have an adult put the pizzas in the oven and enjoy it together at a table or on a blanket on a grass, picnic style.


You don't have to wait for the play date to enjoy these activities. It's something fun to do at home any time.

1. Making your own music instruments out of card board boxes, rubber bands, tins, and other similar stuff. The point is not to have a real drum or a real guitar, the point is to spend time with the kids making it, then playing it! If hosting a playdate with this idea, have lots of boxes, paper towel insides, rubber bands ready. Maybe spread the word before the playdate, and have visiting moms bring whatever you are missing.

Now, after the instruments are made, kids can go crazy, playing them all! 

Bongos. Source

More music instruments ideas here:

And here:

2. Target shooting!  I found this awesome idea of how to build a flipping target here:

Basically, using old cardboard box, make a shooting target, and then shoot using Nerf guns, or in the toddler case - throw little balls or balloons. Its hard to throw a balloon, but its possible. I found recently, if the balloon is not blown up to its full "potential", it can be thrown and it follows the trajectory. Much safer choice for young kids.

3. Another awesome card box idea. Making frames out of card box:, then filling them up with art. Great idea for the outside art project.

4. Dinosaur digging:

This could also be a great idea for the outside, or, if you are brave enough, or able to cover the floor well, then definitely do this at home. Kids love dinosaurs, love digging, and finding little treasures hidden in the sand, is such a thrill! 

5. One of my favorite games when I was little, was "playing post cards". Me and my friends would take old post cards, cut them up in 4 pieces, mix them up, and try finding matching pieces. A great easy and inexpensive idea for matching activities. If puzzles are too early for your kid, try this idea. You can use any pictures, mount them on a card board for durability, then cut up in squares, or other shapes, and here is your toddler puzzle! If the pictures show something the kids are interested in (like a fire truck in our case... surprise, surprise!), then it sure will be a hit!

6. Hit a balloon with a paddle game! Hang balloon/balloons off the ceiling, give your toddlers paddles, or help them make their own, and let the game begin! If you have several active toddlers having fun hitting the balloons, consider giving them long balloons instead. Just an idea.

Santino loved this idea, but I made a mistake first, and hung the balloon too low. He was able to reach and grab the balloon, so he pulled it down immediately, ripping it off the thread. I moved the balloon a little bit higher, and he had a blast, trying to reach it, knocking it off with the little plastic balls and other balloons. The paddle wasn't a hit with him at this time. I am sure soon he will be more coordinated and will have more interest in holding a paddle.

Here is the source:

7. Bring your walkers/scooters and tricycles, some chalk and have a blast making a road and driving on it. It doesn't need to be as elaborate as driving to a store or a library, but its a chance to use the scooters, so anything else is a cherry on top!

There are so many ideas! Once I saw, what people are inventing on the spot, and how beneficial this is for the kids, I became very excited. I stopped being stressed that I don't know what to do with my son, I stopped thinking I should get him more toys, and I realized, that the best activities are often free or cost something next to nothing.

In order to keep this post not-too-long, I decided not to collect an even number of ideas, like 10 or 15. When we explore more ideas, I will post them too!

Join in!