Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our First Messy Playdate

For quite some time, I've been trying to orchestrate a playdate with Eamon's peers.  There's about ten little boys his age in the area, and several little girls as well.  Though we'd had some success getting together at the park and for storytime, I really wanted to set up something truly spectacular.  As Eamon gets older, I see more and more benefits of spending time with his peer group - not only is it fun for him, it's fun for me!

About a month ago, I saw a blog about a messy playdate.  The idea immediately clicked with me, and I put out some feelers on Facebook to see who would interested - imagine my surprise when a dozen families jumped at the thought!  After doing some research about how to host a messy playdate (I found this blog particularly helpful), I started to formulate ideas.  Another blog recommended coming up with a theme first, so I decided on transportation, since Eamon (and his friends) are completely obsessed with cars, buses, trucks, tractors, and dozers.  I thought about sensory materials I've been wanting to experiment with, and the ideas started flowing.  I figured with about a dozen children, I would need six stations, and I decided on: A pool with boats, painting with wheels, a snow plow with shaving cream "snow," a bin of dirt & beans with tractors, a mud pit with some dozers, and a bin of dry, colored pasta with dump trucks.
Dried, colored pasta - Eamon loved helping to make it!

The pool with water beads & boats
(before it became a swamp)
Dirt, colored beans, and some tractors














I asked each family to contribute $10 and a snack.  That contribution really helped defray the costs of materials, and although I certainly didn't pocket any cash, I didn't break the bank with this venture, and now I have a lot of materials we can reuse in future playdates.

The weather was perfectly bright and breezy, not too hot or too chilly.  I set up our stations in the grass near the driveway, popped up a canopy and tables for the snacks, and whipped up some tea, lemonade, and water.  I set up two clean up stations, one near the playing, and one near the door to get to the bathroom.

This shows how we were laid out -
lots of room to run, but still close enough to interact
(Photo courtesy of Mandy Jones)
Once the kids starting arriving, it was clear what a great idea this was.  I didn't really lay down any ground rules, because I wanted it to be a thoroughly "yes" environment.  There wasn't a single argument among the children, who ranged in age from five months to five years.  I loved just sitting back and watching them play, and seeing the creative ways they entertained themselves.  It was also really interesting to see the different personalities - some children (mine included) were covered in mess from tip of toe to top of head, while others played very neatly.  I'm so thankful so many families got to come and enjoy, and helped out so much by providing snacks and contributing financially.  I'm already planning our next messy playdate!!
All the kids playing

I don't think this guy left the paint table at all!
The tractor bin
(Photo courtesy of Andrea Conner)

The pool is starting to get swampy...

Jada & Eamon enjoy the shaving cream pit
This guy was the cleanest one after two hours!
(Photo courtesy of Andrea Conner)

Jada wasn't sure what to think of all the tactile experience!
This is called mixed media - fingerpaint and shaving cream!
(Photo courtesy of Jessica Mostyn)

Eamon spent at least 20 minutes bathing in shaving cream.

Scoop and dump, scoop and dump

Jada chilling in some noodles
(Photo courtesy of Pam Hylton)
This is one of my favorite photos of the day - so much joy in messy!
(Photo courtesy of Jessica Mostyn)