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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Play Dates That Explore Art & Music

By Catherine Pittman

For the rookie mom with preschool-aged or younger kids, play dates are not yet the “drop ‘em off and go” kind, where mama gets a well-deserved break.  At this stage, play dates are the kind where you and your child get together with a small group of other mothers and their kids at or near your own child’s age, to hang out and play. 

Play dates not only help your child’s social skills and circle of friends grow, but is an opportunity to discover and encourage learning using activities that explore the world, while providing adventures to delight the senses. It is time well spent connecting to your child and with other mothers.   When one can combine a play date with creativity that inspires your little ones to express themselves in a fun and exciting way that explores the world of art, then you have a number one hit! 

The world of art encompasses so many wonderful genres… theatre, music, painting, sculpting, dancing and in many different forms that can tickle all of the senses.  Here are three playful play date ideas to help your child explore the world of music and art.

Musical Poster Party
You’ve heard of musical chairs, how about musical drawing?  

This fun activity can be done indoors or outside. As each child arrives, take their picture.   Place a bunch of white or bright colored poster board sheets on the floor or around a table, placing a small picture of each toddler and their name at the top in big letters.  Start the fun with each toddler drawing with crayons or markers on their own sheet while some toe-tapping music is playing. Stop the music, and instruct each toddler to move to another friend’s sheet and color on it. Continue the game long enough for each toddler to draw on every sheet. Once they reach their sheet again, each child will have a poster board picture decorated by each friend to take home and hang in their room. 

To make it more interesting, you can instruct each toddler which color to use at each stop and teach them which side is their right (or left) side. Then at each stop as they rotate around the poster boards, ask them to move to the poster to the right (or left), and to switch to a new color.  This will help them learn their colors and to learn which is their right side and which is their left. 

Little Picasso Play Date
This one creates a mess and is best if held outdoors, but is really fun and children love to express themselves with painting. Be sure to ask mom to dress their child in old clothes that they don’t mind getting paint on for this activity. 

Purchase inexpensive watercolor paints, brushes and paper, and instruct them to make a picture of their favorite thing, such as a toy or pet, or have them draw themselves doing their favorite thing. To provide an even greater sensory activity, try using scratch ‘n’ sniff watercolor paints, and have them draw what it smells like. After each child has finished their picture, have them show their picture to the group and talk about their “favorite thing” that they painted. Then display their works of art on a wall, tree or fence while everyone enjoys a tasty treat. 

You can also use fingers instead of brushes with finger paints, and even make homemade finger paint.  Here’s a simple recipe for finger paint: 1/2 cup of corn starch, 1 quart of boiling water, 1/2 cup of talc, 1/2 cup of soap flakes and dry tempera. Moisten starch with cold water.  Add boiling water and cook, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Remove from heat and continue stirring vigorously.  Add talc and flakes, beating with egg beater. Cool and add the dry tempera for color. 

Toddler Band Jam
If there is one thing every kid enjoys, it is musical sounds and making music.  Research has shown that music helps children learn, socialize and inspire creativity.  So if your play date group has 6 toddlers or preschoolers, here is a great activity to not only make music but having fun making the instruments too, particularly in the summer months when it can be held outdoors.  There are six homemade instruments for this activity that your child can make for their “band to jam:” Tambourine, Rattle, Drum, Kazoo, rubber band instrument and bell stick.  To begin, place the name of each instrument on a piece of paper and have each child draw the name of the instrument they will make.

Once all the instruments are made find some fun kids music from your local library or download an MP3 and make a CD.  Have everyone march or dance while playing their instrument to the music.  Try to get the children to move and play in time with the songs they hear, which will help them learn rhythm and coordination. Turn off the music and have each child perform a solo with their instrument while everyone else listens, then applaud.  If you don’t want to make instruments, visit your local Dollar store and obtain kazoos, harmonicas, and any other musical sound.

Instructions to make instruments: For all instruments, you’ll need markers or crayons, bright colored curling ribbon and stickers to decorate. Tape and staplers are also needed, and for your child’s safety, mom should handle the stapler.
·       Tambourine:  you’ll need 2 colored or white paper plates, dry rice or beans and a stapler for mom to use.  Instruct the child to decorate the outside of two plates using the markers and stickers. One they are done decorating it, place the dry beans or rice inside, and have mom staple the two plates together so the beans or rice do not come out. Be sure to staple some curling ribbon too! 
·       Drum:  One empty oatmeal or coffee can with lid, chunky rhythm sticks (available at school supply houses) or wooden spoons for drum sticks, and butcher or construction paper cut long and wide enough to wrap around the container. Have the child decorate one side of the paper. Once decorated, wrap the paper around the container and tape with more stickers or tape.  Place lid on container. Tie colorful ribbons on sticks or wood spoons.  
·       Rattle:  One small plastic yogurt cup with a lid, dry beans or rice and construction paper cut to fit around the yogurt cup and a circle to fit on top of the lid.  Have the child decorate the construction paper. Place dried beans or rice inside the yogurt cup, put lid on and tie colorful curling ribbon around the cup. Shake to play.
·       Kazoo:  You’ll need a piece of colorful tissue paper and a long comb with a handle.  Have the child decorate the comb’s handle with stickers and markers. Wrap a piece of colorful tissue paper the length of the comb around the comb part. Paper should not be wrapped too many times or it will make the instrument hard to play. A strip long enough to wrap around once or twice is sufficient. Place a single piece of clear tape or sticker along the edge of the open end of the paper to keep it from coming off the comb. Tie colorful curling ribbon streamers to handle of comb.  To play: hold the comb against your lips, then keeping your lips open a little, hum into the comb.  Parents may need to demonstrate this one, but your child will quickly get the hang of it.
·       Rubber band instrument:  You need one kid’s shoe size shoe box (no lid), 3 - 6 long rubber bands and a stapler. Instruct the child to decorate the shoe box with stickers and markers. If the show box has a lot of markings on it, you may want to use butcher paper or construction paper around the sides of the box for ease in decorating. Stretch a rubber band so that it reaches the top of the shoe box to the bottom, like a guitar string, and have mom securely staple the rubber band to each end of the box. Repeat until you have at least 3 or 4 rubber bands. To play: strum/pick the “strings” of the box. 
·       Bell Stick:  Two extra long colored wood craft sticks and jingle bells. Decorate craft stick with markers and stickers. Glue 2 - 3 bells to each side of stick, leaving enough room for the child to grip the bottom of the stick. Tie curling ribbons to handle. Shake to play.

About the Author
Catherine is the owner, songwriter and main vocal artist for Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its brand of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies for newborns and babies, and music for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. Living Green? The Dream Faerie, Sleepy Time Lullabies and Topsy Toddler Time albums are also available for download by the song or album at iTunes under artist Catherine Pittman, or available for download at our website at

Catherine is currently on dialysis due to kidney failure. Would you like to help with transplant costs? Visit: