I was concerned that Miss 21 months would lack social interaction with her peers being far away from her same-age cousins (who live in Singapore) and staying home with me (I'm doing the homeschool route till I feel Miss 21 months is eager for social play).
At this age I know children can't do cooperative play yet, but I thought it was still important to let Miss 21 months get used to playing in presence of other children (parallel play) and be comfortable in a group setting.
Therefore, I made it a point to organise play dates weekly and bring Miss 21 months to playgrounds and stay-home mom connects where she gets to meet other children.
For play dates held at my place, I wanted them to be more engaging and stimulating than the usual gathering and gab. Apart from setting up a conducive environment for play (read about my Montessori approach to setting up the play area in small spaces), I also tried conducting a couple of activities with the little attendees to make the play dates fun and enriching.
Some of the activities captured the littles' attention adequately to allow the mamas some breather and good conversations. These are the tested and proven activity ideas which work well for play dates. Young children (babies, toddlers and even preschoolers) love them!
15 Engaging Play Date Ideas for Babies & Toddlers At Home!
1) Creative Balloon Play
Blow up a pack of ordinary latex balloons and let the children play with them in a myriad of ways. Better yet, challenge them to come up with new ideas!
Seek inspiration here.
2) Monster Feeding
Do a little storytelling with monster storybooks (I used the Buckley Big and Simon Big books from Dollar Tree) and let the children bring the monsters to life with their markers and crayons on paper plates.
Next, fuel the children's imaginations with a pretend feeding session! Monsters have insatiable appetites so encourage your little ones to go overboard with the feeding!
3) Car Playtown
For little ones who are car fanatics, fix up a simple car playtown using painter's tape and cardboard boxes. I promise you, THEY WHEEL LOVE IT (pun intended ;p).
Seek more inspiration here.
4) Pom Pom Ball Sensory Play
Have you got pom pom balls in your stash of craft supplies? Pom pom balls are perfect for fine motor activities like scooping, object transfer and filling as well as imaginative play (kids can "make" ice cream and lots of pretend food from them).
Also great for color sorting and number counting! Details here.
5) Cardboard Box Tunnel
Children love any sort of obstacle course. Build a simple tunnel using cardboard boxes and let free play happen!
6) Exploring Treasure Baskets
For curious little hands and minds, give them a handful of treasure baskets to rummage through and explore safely!
This way you can save your drawers and cupboards from unwelcome invasion ;P
More about treasure baskets and heuristic play here.
7) Cardboard Paper Roll Ball Run
Some painter's tape and bathroom paper rolls in exchange for an afternoon of fun. SO WORTH IT.
Older children could challenge one another to complete the ball runs in the shortest time possible!
8) Magnetic Fishing Game
Fishing isn't just for adults! Young children can try their hand at it too.
Sea animal toys, a straw, some string and a magnet can totally transform into an afternoon of fishing fun for young children.
9) Scoop, Transfer & Sort Station
Don't know how to do with expired pasta? Here's an idea.
Same goes for beans, grains and any food items. Children will love exploring the interesting textures with their senses in a sensory bin station.
A fall-themed sensory bin example here.
10) Pancake Decoration
Hosting children over tea-time? This activity is perfect for little budding artists and children will most definitely savor their own art pieces.
A winter-themed pancake decoration activity here.
11) Cookie Making
This cookie recipe takes just 2 ingredients and the cookie dough is taste-safe (doesn't contain raw eggs or white flour which can bring on salmonella risk).
12) Pizza Making
No culinary experience is required! Pizza making is a good way to engage children in dough play (great for fine motor practice) and learning about the different food toppings that go on top.
13) Noodle Making
Noodle making requires very simple kitchen pantry ingredients so this is one last-min activity you can pull out!
While the noodle-making process can be really messy (think kids lasso-ing one another with the noodles), this activity fosters cultural appreciation and helps children understand how food is made before appearing on the table.
14) Jelly Fruit Bowl Sensory Play
A big jelly fruit bowl for little ones to share and explore together.
Just be on standby to break up fights (especially if you make the jelly too yummy!)
15) Dinosaur Fossil Dough Play
Dinosaurs are perennial favorites among children. There's something about these otherworldly creatures that children are in awe of.
If your child belongs to this camp, a dinosaur fossil dough play activity is right up her alley!
For everyday toddler play ideas and inspiration, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram) or A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.