Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun Ideas for Play Dates

In amongst all of the unpacking, organising, settling in and finding new therapists/shopping centres/schools (the list goes on!) we haven't had as much time for craft activities as usual around here. To compensate what we have been doing a lot of is play dates! I thought I'd share a few of the activities my girls and their buddies always seem to enjoy when they get together:

An Indoor or Outdoor Picnic Lunch:

It doesn't need to be anything complicated, something as simple as a paper umbrella in a sandwich or some crackers and cheese tucked into a folded paper aeroplane can make lunchtime special. Spread a tablecloth or drop sheet out on the floor or grass and make it as fancy or simple as you like.
Have a tea party using real china, serve food in unusual ways such as in (thoroughly cleaned!) sandpit toys, jars or jelly moulds, use cookie cutters to make shapes from food items or thread everything onto skewers for something a bit different.

Clay Models:

Clay is a great medium for free and unstructured play. Put out containers full of anything you can find that could be used for decorating or pattern making. Not only is it lots of fun and something the visitors can take home, it's also fabulous for fine motor development. Salt dough is a great alternative if you can't find clay.
Things that go well with clay: googly eyes, forks and child safe cutters, play dough equipment and cookie cutters, scrapbooking embellishments, buttons, beads, feathers, natural elements like stones, seeds and nuts, split pins, non inked stamps, glitter and sequins, cord/ribbon/twine.

Jelly Making:

If your play date is a few hours long let the kids help to make some jelly at the start to enjoy for afternoon tea, or make some the night before. Layers of different colours are always fun or maybe try setting them in individual containers like ramekins or clear tumblers.

Mini Gardens:

Use cheap or recycled pots or raid the recycling bag for containers you can reuse to make mini gardens. A few punnets of herbs or easy care flowers like petunias and a small bag of potting mix will keep the kids busy and will be something nice for them to take home too. Make an activity of decorating the pots or plant fast growing seeds (such as cress) instead of seedlings.

Painting With Water:

Easy, cheap and minimal/no clean up required makes this a play date activity we always include. All you need is a bucket or cup for each child, a paintbrush and some water. Let the kids paint concrete, stones, fences. Try experimenting with brushes of different sizes and types or make a giant painting using buckets and brooms if you have a large concrete area to use like a driveway.

Warm Water Play/Washing Up:

Another easy activity which is especially fun for water play on colder days. Fill tubs or buckets with warm soapy water and chuck in some things for the kids to wash and a few cloths. Maybe they could give the outside toys a good clean or wash the low windows on the outside of the house. Add in some rubber gloves, tea towels and small scrubbing brushes for added play value. This activity is also great to do after any kind of messy play or before mealtimes to get hands and faces clean.

Park Hopping:

Do an Internet search of your local area/council site and find some parks nearby. If you have a few you could create 'Park Hop Passports' and use stickers for each one you visit, or you could scavenge for natural items to make murals (leaves, bark, feathers, seeds) or take along sketchbooks and pencils to do nature drawings. Take along some binoculars or magnifying glasses if you have some and see if the kids can spot anything interesting.

Free Play With Cardboard Boxes:

We have a LOT of boxes lying around at the moment after our move, but you can also source them from places like supermarkets, garage sales and big department stores. Tape up a pile of boxes and let the kids loose with pencils, chalk, markers, rope, twine, glue, stickers, scissors - anything they can use to create with. Last week in our backyard we had a cave, a shopping centre, apartment complex, aeroplane and a few cars!

Baking Projects:

Simple baking recipes are a great way to keep the kids entertained and get them to help out with afternoon tea. We usually make our One Bowl Muffin Mix and the kids personalise them by mixing whatever they would like to add into their own bowls. Make it a two step process and enjoy decorating them as well after they have been baked.

Fabric Crayon Pillow Cases:

I bought a pack of fabric crayons a few years ago now and they were such a great purchase, we have used them many times and they are always a hit. A favourite play date activity is personalised pillowcases, I just buy them when they are on sale and put them away but you could also re purpose some from thrift stores or recycle ones you already own. Cloth napkins, tea towels and old t-shirts also work well and if you don't have any fabric crayons then permanent markers can work too.

Chalk and Concrete:

Another activity that is great for creative play and is always a winner. Let the kids draw to their hearts content and if you need to clean up afterwards all you'll need is a hose or bucket.
Use chalk to draw game boards like hopscotch, noughts and crosses or a giant version of snakes and ladders, or create roads and communities for doll and car play.

Painting Portraits:

Painting is always fun, but how about painting self portraits or portraits of each other. Create a 'gallery' on the washing line or clothes airer and see if the kids can pick who painted who.

Setting Up Tents:

Whether they are big full sized tents, small pop up tents, beach sunshades or a broom with a bed sheet thrown over it put them up and let the kids play activities inside them. If you have a few set them up in different areas of the yard or inside the house. Eat lunch in there, read books or play board games - it's all more fun inside a tent!

Riding On Public Transport:

If you have trains, ferries or buses nearby get a return ticket to somewhere close-ish and go exploring. Take snacks or a picnic, the camera, some notebooks to draw what you see or some games to play like Sight Bingo or Spot The Letter. Find some new parks or beaches, or don't even get off - just enjoy the scenery.


  1. I love the tea party idea. The china just makes everything feel special.

    Vicky @

  2. I just found your blog and I loVe it! I'm your new fan ang follower! Marvelous ideas!