Many readers have been inquiring about details regarding our messy play dates. I have been receiving such questions as how are they organized? Does everyone put the play space together? How do you manage the cost, and how do you keep coming up with new ideas? While I have been trying to answer and respond to the questions as they come, I though it would be helpful to write a post explaining the ins and outs of our play dates, as well as a few tips for organizing these types of play dates.
Group PLAY Parties for Kids
How did these play dates come to be?
Basically, I love the messy stuff SO MUCH I pitched the idea to have sensory based play dates to my play group. Everyone really liked the idea. We already had a space in our home which would make for a perfect messy play space, at least during the cooler months. We had previously been using our unfinished basement for storage, but all it took was a little rearranging to have an empty room, and in turn, an empty canvas for all the messy fun! In the warmer months we will move these PLAY parties outside so anyone who has an outdoor space could create similar parties.
How are they organized?
When first planning how the play dates would be organized, my initial thought was to have each mom create a sensory bin and bring them to the play date. However, as the idea evolved, I realized it would be better to have larger play stations set up and already in place as the mama's arrived.. It would be very chaotic if I was trying to get the room ready for play as mama's were arriving. Since I LOVE coming up with messy play ideas and creating fun play times, I definitely did not mind solely taking on that responsibility. In fact, I have had so much fun creating these play times!
How do you manage cost and expense?
As far as cost is concerned, each mama pitches in to cover the supplies and lunch. We are able to keep the contribution to roughly $10 a mama which everyone finds to be well worth it! $10 is surely a good price for an outing with your toddler, especially one including lunch!
How to manage the cost of supplies and set up the play space
Kiddie pools allow for a large play space. Children are able to get into the materials and fully experience them. Besides that, they are very inexpensive. The smaller kiddie pools are $5. This one was $10. Since we have been in our colder months where we live, I just borrowed a couple pools from moms in the play group to use in addition to my own. However, it is very inexpensive to buy a few of them, and once you make the initial investment, you are set!
The Dollar Tree
I am truly amazed by The Dollar Tree! You can find so many wonderful things there. The majority of the materials I use for the messy play dates comes from here.
Buy in Bulk
Things are always cheaper in bulk. I got this deer corn for $8.00 at Walmart. It was a 40 pound bag! Buy as much as you can in bulk, and not just the sensory materials either. I also buy things like paint and art and craft supplies in bulk. We save lots of money in the long run!
Have a Designated Clean Up Station
As messy as these play dates are, often times all the little ones need is a warm soapy bucket to clean up. Other times they do need a bath or a run through the sprinkler, but the clean up station still helps get the clean up started, keeping the messy fun in the designated messy play area.
Re-purpose materials and give old toys new life
Once you get a foundation of base materials, the play dates become a lot more manageable financially. The first one we had was a bit costly to be honest, even with all the moms pitching in. However, it was an investment, and now I have a solid base of materials to reuse on new sensory station ideas. I also peruse my home and gather toys to use when I can. Not only is this frugal, but it gives old toys that may have lost their appeal new life.
How do you continually come up with new ideas?
Let your children be your guide
My girls are my biggest source of inspiration. I follow their lead with a lot of these play ideas. Rosie delighted in digging for bugs so I made a digging for bugs sensory station for our last group sensory play date. Rosie loved exploring with the blacklight so much, I was inspired to dedicate a messy play date to it entirely. Just watching Rosie and Jewel play often leads me to fun ideas!
Focus on a Theme
Having a theme really helps these play times come together. The seasons are a great focus. So are surrounding holidays or even a more narrowed theme like gardening. There are so many sensory play set ups you could create from just about any theme! Having one definitely helps the play date come together.
If there was ever a place to find inspiration, Pinterest would be it! One of my favorite spots on Pinterest to find inspiration is The P.L.A.Y. Group Pinterest board. The PLAY Group is a collaboration of kid bloggers who have come together to provide the ultimate resource for fun and educational activities for kids. You can also check out all of my other boards. With over 5,000 pins among them , you are sure to find some fun ideas and inspirations!
Do you think your play group would enjoy a messy play date? Don't hesitate to go for it! They really are so fun to plan, and with everyone pitching in, cost no more than any other fun outing.
If you host one, I would love for you to share it with me! I welcome the sharing of fun and messy playtimes to my Facebook wall anytime! I just love seeing what fun you are having with your little ones!
The Messy Play Parties we have had:
Sensory PLAY Party
Black Light PLAY Party
More Group Sensory PLAY
Mud PLAY Party for Kids