Toddler Play Date Ideas: All About Imagination is part of a campaign for Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Playskool. I received product samples to facilitate my party and review, and a promotional item to thank me for participating.
Toddler Play Date Ideas: All About Imagination
Let’s talk about play dates for a minute. W loves them. I mean absolutely loves them! At least once a week he tells me he is having a play date soon and lists off who will be invited. As a mom, they really kind of terrify me. It’s really kind of silly because I love watching W play with his friends and I don’t even mind cleaning the house (even though it just gets all cluttered again as soon as they come in the door). It’s the planning I feel like I need to do.
Yes, I feel like when I host a play date I need to do planning as elaborate as a birthday party. It’s silly really and perhaps I’m the only one with this issue.
But I don’t think so!
Recently we had the opportunity to host a play date featuring Let’s Imagine Elmo. Elmo is pretty popular in our house so I was excited to host the play date. Until I got down to planning it. I started hunting down ideas to host a huge Elmo party. No, really I did. There were cupcake ideas and decoration ideas. Luckily, as I was studying our Let’s Imagine Elmo and stressing out, I realized that that a toddler play date didn’t have to be an elaborate affair.
I’ve watched W play enough lately to know that the fun is all in the imagination. He loves to mix and match his toys these days and create stories of the adventures they are going on. He’s reached the age where he is creating his own games and wanting everyone to join him.
So the key was imagination.
I took it back to basics and realized that a play date didn’t need all of the details of a birthday party. All we needed were some friends and some snacks. Seriously, that is how simple I’ve learned a play date can be. It can be that stress free if you’re willing to follow the lead of the kids with just a little guidance.
So here are my toddler play date ideas to make it fun for everyone including you, the host!
- Tidy up the house. Not because your guests will care all that much, especially if they are 4 and under! Do it because it will make you feel more prepared. I’m not talking about a deep cleaning either. Just pick up the toys and wipe down the tables.
- Invite some friends. Send out some texts or make an invite on social media and invite a few friends. You don’t need formal invites or anything too serious.
- Get some snacks. With kids I’ve learned that this is one of the most important things to do. No, I didn’t need Elmo cupcakes or fancy themed drinks. I just needed some crackers, cookies, and juice. Actually, W broke out the popsicles we had so no one even ate the cookies. Well, I did… later on.
- Put out a few toys. Set out a few toys that might catch their attention. This is where Let’s Imagine Elmo came in handy for us. He sure was a hit.
- Be flexible. When W decided he wanted to show his friends his bedroom (that I had not cleaned up), I took a deep breath and rolled with it. None of the other parents commented on his unmade bed or the stack of clothes that needed to be put in the dresser. Instead they all told me how much they loved the transportation theme his room has! So just be flexible because it’s not as stressful as you think!
These seem like simple tips but I really had to make myself follow them.
As W explored Let’s Imagine Elmo, I saw him go through a range of emotions. He loved wearing a crown that matched and telling me a story of how he was a prince and Elmo was a prince too. And they were both brave young heroes. Then we got to experience the fact that he didn’t want to be “a boat sailor guy” before he decided that being a cowboy was “awesome” and started calling his new toy “Sheriff Elmo.” And eventually he did give in and decide he wanted to see what Elmo had to say about being a sailor.
If I hadn’t gone with the flow and let him explore on his own, I wouldn’t have gotten those little gems. I may have missed out on his willingness to tell me what he imagined himself being when he grew up.
I really thought he would choose one of the three hats that Let’s Imagine Elmo comes with but I was wrong. His mind was hard at work and he knew exactly what he wanted to be… a basketball player! Of course, then he wanted to know why Elmo didn’t come with a basketball. You just have to love those little minds!
Let’s Imagine Elmo was a great help while I cleaned up the house a bit and got out the snacks. And as soon as his friends arrived, W was ready to show off his new Elmo!
If I had planned a bunch of activities for the kids, there might have been crying and resistance but instead I let them all guide the get together. They played inside for a while and then wanted to go outside. So outside we went! And their imaginations kept them entertained for at least an hour! There were games of pirates and cowboys all inspired by Let’s Imagine Elmo. It was so fun to watch!
So I learned a lesson from Playskool’s Let’s Imagine Elmo. When they’re young, just let them be little. Let their imagination and creativity fly. And let them do it together! Put away your stress and host more play dates! Make those memories!
Now don’t get me wrong, the kids loved taking home some of Playskool’s newest toys! And you can learn more about Let’s Imagine Elmo on the Playskool website. And in the end, taking it easy and not letting myself stress over the play date turned it into an amazing afternoon of fun, imagination, and friends!