(VALUE OF PLAY DATES
1 You do not have to clean the kitchen after lunch :)
2 The kids have fun (and wear themselves out for quiet time/nap time :)
3 Adults get to visit :)
4 Quality time :)
We try to balance the activities so that so that most are free, and some have controlled costs. We try as often as possible to bring our lunches. Once in a while we pick up $5.00 pizzas. (We like "Big Daddy's" on 700 East the best.) Sometimes the food IS the activity. (Arctic Circle play place.) We try to do a variety of things.
How to start (and keep) a play group.
1 Know Your Community.
Several summers ago we visited a different park every week. We kept track of the ones we liked.
Many attractions have a regular "FREE" day. Call and find out if they have one, and when. Then put it on your calender. Also read/listen for GRAND OPENINGS/special promotions... Many years ago K-Mart had a race car event sponsored by an advertiser. The kids got to race a car and be timed. (It was fun :) Soon after we got there, a family from our church came with their children. We laughed together because we often saw each other at free (and fun) local events.)
Some stores have a regular project/craft activity. (Both Lowe's and Home Depot have fun Saturday classes. One day when I took grand kids, I saw the daughter (of above family) with her husbands and kids.
Think about annual passes. We used one of the discount web sights and got a BIG discount for our local aquarium. Now we can go anytime. And do. (Emily takes Logan about once a week to his "Penguin Store".)
2 Pick a Day
We always have play date on Wednesday. Unless the summer movies are on Tuesday. Or we are busy on Wednesday... Have a regular date, so you will stick with it, BUT BE VERY FLEXIBLE, so you will stick with it-and be able to take advantage of the community.
When my children were younger we had "FUN FRIDAY" during the summer. One Friday was free and the next Friday could cost money.
3 Plan Ahead
Know where you are going. Know what you are going to eat for lunch or snacks. This save time and money.
Let the kids know what you are doing (unless it is a surprise) so they can look forward to it. And let them help pick on what you are going to do. Remember to give choices. "Do you want to do this? Or this?" (Too many choices and you could end up with a request to go to DISNEYLAND :)
4 Be Prepared
TAKE WATER. Have a water bottle for each person. (I always take bottles of water even if we are running to the store or post office.) "I'm thirsty" can make an activity a pain, or cost money.)
Always take a camera. You may not want to take pictures. You may not take pictures. But I have found that if I do not have a camera, I want to record something.
Take a stroller if there is even a chance you will want it. It can be hard to carry a sleeping child back to the car. If you don't need the stroller, you can always have it carry the lunches/purses/diaper bag.)
5 Have Fun
Enjoy who you are with. If someone's children are out of line, oh well. Don't let it bother you. Their parent can worry about it.
If the kids have a favourite, it's o.k. to go often. For us, it is the farm.
Invite others to join you sometimes.
Keep track of where you go, or where you want to go. Record the addresses, hours, phone numbers... It makes it easy to return.
This is our latest recipe that I have added to "Our Lunch Time Cook Book". (I am taking pictures of lunches the boys eat. We are putting them in a photo album so they can pick lunches.)
This is an easy make-ahead sandwich that all the kids like. (Mark and Ashley actually pay for these :)
FROZEN PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES
(Which picture do you think I am putting in our cook book? :)
These simple sandwiches are made ahead and frozen in individual zipper sandwich bags.I started by laying out the bread. (This loaf cost $1.00 and made 12 sandwiches.) I counted so I knew how many to lay out. I spread peanut butter on the bread, not going to the edges. (In this picture I used jam, but jelly works better.) Put about 1 1/2 teaspoons jelly in the centre and spread out a bit.
I used a "Pampered Chef" sandwich cutter, but they are sold other places, too. (I bought mine many years ago, but checked the on- line catalogue and they do still sell them. It is called CUT AND SEAL and is $9.50.)
Start by pressing just the circle on the bread. Twist and press until crust is free from sandwich. Then firmly press the spring loaded knob in the centre to seal.
I put them in their own zipper sealed bag and freeze in a single layer. When they are frozen, I put them in a freezer container.
We just pull out what we need for lunch. They defrost quick.
(I am sure I will think of other play date ideas that I will add later.) Share some of your ideas or favourite places to go. Later this week I will post info. on 2 of our favourite local parks.