A Messy Play Date {& Some Messy Play Date Tips}

Today was the highly anticipated day of our {backyard} messy play date…finally!  Gracen and I got everything ready yesterday afternoon and had it all sitting by the backyard to make our early start time a little easier this morning.  During our prep, Grae was so excited she could barely contain herself.  She gathered sensory bin items and assembled them like it was her job and this morning she was up bright and early eager for her friends to arrive.  

When we do these sorts of play dates, I try to have a variety of different kinds of open-ended activities spread out throughout the backyard.  This means that there is something for everyone and not all of the kids are always crowded in the same area like little sardines.  Today’s sensory activities included our bird bin, an ocean bin filled with water beads, a construction bin filled with pea gravel, a cloud dough bin filled with different moulds and scoops, a gardening station directly in our garden {as we didn’t plant this year due to our upcoming move}, and a sparkly slime tray.  For kiddos looking for a bit more action, we had our inexpensive and easy backyard balance beam, a sandbox filled with dinosaur bones and shovels for digging, a pool filled with cups, scoops, and nets {because it was too cool to actually swim}, and bubble chasing courtesy of a couple of bubble machines.  For our little art lovers, we had out a big moon painting station and a bucket of sidewalk chalk with some water for dipping, and for those looking for a little bit of downtime, we had our 5 minute teepee with some puzzles inside, a beading station, and a tunnel hideout. 

Sounds fun, right?  Strangely enough, after all of the build-up, Miss G was quite clingy and whiny throughout.  I think it was a combination of feeling slightly smothered by a very affectionate friend and just being a little overwhelmed.  Though I think she still had fun, I was a little surprised that it didn’t go over a bit better than it did…  But what can you do?  I’m pretty sure the other kids enjoyed themselves, and after a lot of messy play, we all sat down to a laid-back picnic lunch of sandwiches, fruits and veggies, nuts, crackers, cookie dough boys, and homemade iced tea and lemonade.  After saying goodbye to our friends {and passing out play dough and play putty favours – all Miss G’s idea}, we found ourselves in a backyard that looked like a tornado had run through it…  A true sign of messy play date success, I’d say!

Here are some photos from our morning…

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After hosting a couple of these play dates, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…

1. Include activities of varying messiness. Not all kiddos love getting filthy.

2. Spread play stations out as much as possible.  Not only does it allow the munchkins lots of space to play and explore, but it also helps keep the play materials separate (though we did end up with slime, sand, and cloud dough in our pool this time around!)

3. Expect your play materials to get trashed.  While water beads, slime, and doughs may last several months when enjoyed by just your child(ren), many children may be experiencing these play materials for the first time.  Water beads will be smushed, dirt will be added to the slime, and buckets of water will be dumped into cloud dough, so be prepared to throw everything out and start fresh.

4.  Slime and concrete don’t mix.  Being used to my very careful, rule-bound little lady, I thought nothing of putting a big tray of slime out on a table on our concrete pad.  Needless to say, by the end of the play date, it was everywhere and Brad and I spent a couple of hours picking, peeling, spraying, scrubbing, and sweeping it all up – pretty rockin’ Friday night, no? All in the name of fun! ☺

5. Include a hand washing station.  Kids are going to want to wash their hands between activities and having a spot to do it outside not only makes it easier for them, but it also minimizes traffic in and out of the house.  We use a drink dispenser filled with warm water with a basin below and some soap and a hand towel nearby and not only does it get the job done, but it’s also a lot of fun.


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2 thoughts on “A Messy Play Date {& Some Messy Play Date Tips}

  1. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear the slime + concrete was such a pain to clean up. Good to know. I admit I maybe hid the slime when we got home… after the slime in the hair incident!

  2. Thank you! I’ve really been looking forward to this post! I think this might make a fun birthday party for my soon-to-be two year old. And we’ll have lots of fun trying out all the activities beforehand!

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