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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Awesome Summer Play Dates for Young Children

I am very blessed to have such wonderful friends and family so close to me.  At the beginning of this year, I decided to try putting together a playgroup of friends and family members who could meet once a week or so and form a kind of support network.

It's been awesome.  The Facebook group that we have includes a whole bunch of people now!  Sometimes we have big groups and sometimes just a few people come, but we always have a great time.  We meet at people's houses or at public places.  Indoors and outdoors.  It's a great thing to look forward to every week, and it's low pressure, so if you can't make it, no big deal.  If you can, great!

I thought I'd share some of the fun things we've done recently, in case someone wanted to do some of them for their playgroup.

Splash Pad

Splash pads are a relatively new phenomenon, and I so wish they had thought of these back when I was a kid.  Basically, you get to play in fountains and have water dumped on your head.  It's all the fun of water without all the drowning and horrible sanitation issues we try not to think about in a public pool.

Ours also has a section for younger kids that doesn't dump water on their heads.  This is perfect for Cricket and her friends, who are just getting used to being splashed and investigating water.  Downside: ours won't let you bring any toys.  They even made us put away the little plastic cup she was using to catch water with, for some reason.  Upside: plenty of picnic areas for lunches and hanging out, plus it's right next to a park.


Swimming pools are a staple of summertime entertainment.  Our group is fortunate because we have several families who have their own pool or a neighborhood pool that we can visit.

It's great fun, especially in the Alabama heat, and the kids love it.

Berry Picking

We have done berry picking twice with our group.  At the beginning of the summer, we went strawberry picking.

It was really fun, the plants were low to the ground so they were accessible for the kids, and of course, everyone loved getting a bucket of berries!

In the middle of the summer, we went blueberry picking.

It was ok, but honestly, not as much fun this time around.  It was really hot by then and the bushes were much higher, so the kids had a hard time reaching them.  I'm still glad we went, but I would go first thing in the morning next time.

Pictured: An Unhappy Cricket
Backyard Fun

One of my favorite play dates was just having people over to the house.  We filled up the baby pool with water and balls.

We filled up another pool with cooked spaghetti, and of course, we had the water table and the swing.

We had a blast!  We didn't have a huge turn out because several families were out of town, but that just means we get to do it again soon!  The great thing about backyard playdates is that you can always go inside when you get tired or hot.

Art Museum

The Art Museum downtown has a great children's area.  It's big, it's air conditioned, and it's free, making it a great place to visit on super hot days (or rainy ones).  There were lots of things for the kids to do, from light tables to mask decoration to sensory displays.

They also had great books, puzzles, blocks, and computer games, including some games where you create a picture and then email it to yourself so you have a copy.  Here's one from Cricket and one of her friends:

Pretty cool, huh?

Children's Museum

We are so lucky to have such a great children's museum in our city.  It has a huge area just for kids 5 and under, where they can play in tunnels, use toys and books geared for their age, and even enjoy a huge water table!

They also have a big sea life exhibit, which the kiddos loved.

This one is a little pricier, but we used Groupons and there are coupons, memberships, and discounts floating around, too.


I think our group has canvased every park in a 25 mile radius.  Some are better than others, because of shade and fencing, but it's always fun to bring a picnic lunch and let the kids play.  Even the little ones love the swing.

Parks are usually a good middle point for people who live farther apart, and of course, they're free.

Library Activities

Just about every library has something going on for kids.  It's kind of their thing.  We have two or three libraries near us, and they all did great summer programs.

They did story times, crafts, puppet shows, jugglers, magic shows, reptile shows, and tons of other stuff.

It was geared for all different ages, so some of it we enjoyed more than others, but still, it was all free and it's in the air conditioning, which is all I need to hear on a 95 degree day!

Kids' Summer Movies

We actually didn't do this one, but it was always a back-up plan.  I haven't started letting Cricket watch television and movies yet, but once I do, the summer movies at the theater are gonna be a hit!  Most theaters have a program during the summer where they will show a recent kids' movie during the day for like, a dollar or two, sometimes even with a snack!  It's fun, easy, and cheap.  I like it.

Of course, we've done in-home playdates too, which are fun and very easy.  The kids love playing with toys that are new to them, and the little ones like Cricket are usually fascinated by watching the older ones.  Those are some of my favorite times, because we moms have a chance to actually talk, and let's be honest, that's really what these playgroups are all about, right?