I get asked about toddler art play group a lot and thought it was high time I let you in on all or at least some of the messy details so maybe you can start one in your neck of the woods. Play group is awesome! It’s a great way to give kids a messy, sensory, artful experience, build community, make friends, and have a generally terrific time on any given morning. Plus, I have some arty secrets to handle the mess. Keep reading.
I started hosting play groups over 2 years ago when my girls were little little. I was semi obsessed with sensory art activities and wanted to share those experiences with my friends and their kids. I invited some friends over one Saturday morning to test out the waters and we had a blast. We played with rainbow spaghetti for the first one and did a lot of water play. I remember it being like a billion degrees. The second play group we made a whole box tower city that was so cool. After that, the word was out. One friend told another friend, and that friend told another friend and Meri Cherry Art Play Groups were born.
It did take a little shot of courage to get that first playgroup going, even with my friends which came in the form of one of my favorite parenting art books. Have you read Jean Van’t Hul’s The Artful Parent? It’s amazing. It’s simple, beautiful, easy to understand and totally 100% inspiring. I read chapter 13. Art for Play Dates, Parties and Groups, and was like WHAT? I can totally do that. Jean breaks down how you can run play group at your home and even charge for it and make a great side income for you and your family. Check it out.
I was pretty much hooked from the first play group. Seeing all the smiles and the awe of the parents who had never done anything like this before with their kids was pretty awesome. I think we all want to give our children rich art experiences that feel worthwhile, but in truth, we all don’t want the mess. I get that. So since a mess is something I am quite comfortable with, we all gather at my house and it’s great!
My amazing husband built us this fantastic art playhouse in our backyard so that’s been a great part of our play group experience. I usually set up a few sensory stations throughout our backyard for the first half of play group. We’ve explored everything from rainbow sensory bags, to sensory boxes, to a play ice cream bar. Oh, and of course lots and lots of rainbow spaghetti.
I try to introduce the kids, ages 1 to 3 years, to as many art materials and experiences that work for their age group. There is a lot of spraying, painting, pouring, spritzing, and moving things around. Lots and lots of exploring with the senses.
We see a lot of smiles like the one below. I mean seriously? How happy is this little one?
I ‘ve met so many moms that have not only become friends, but also have jumped right in and helped prepare different activities and experiences.
The kids come back session after session and it’s so much fun to see how they grow and become more confident with the materials.
A big part of play group is breaking for snack about half way through. I find that with this age group, the Southern California heat and the time we meet, a small, healthy snack is the perfect way to take a little break and switch over to a final activity, like a slimy dinosaur tar pit or a toddler disco party.
Before snack we fill a big bucket with water and all the kids can come around and wash their hands. For art play group even the soap has to be awesome and fun. We love Kandoo Hand Soap. It comes out in this great foamy purple and the kids love it. They get all clean and think we’re just doing another fun art activity. It’s great and smells really good too. (we also use the Kandoo detangler by the way for my very curly girl and it works like a charm!)
So, if after all this you want to get some friends together and give play group a shot, here are some tips.
Toddler Play Group Tips 101
1. Keep it small at first. Give yourself time to get into a groove.
2. Keep things open ended and exploratory. Stations of sensory bins, water play and basic art activities like yogurt painting (safe for little mouths) watercolors, and spin art are all great for this age group.
3. Keep it to an hour or so. In my experience kids this age tend to start melting down for anything that goes on too long. It’s great to keep it to an hour. Kids are happy and ready to play!
4. Be safe. Keep small objects out of reach and baby proof your area.
5. An outside confined space is ideal.
I hope I’ve given you enough play group info to get you started. Please leave any more questions in the comments below. I’m happy to answer them. Thanks for reading along everyone. Happy play groups! xo Meri
*This post is a part of the Mom to Mom Advice Campaign with KSW Media. Thanks Kandoo for sponsoring today’s talk about Playgroup 101. All content and opinions as always, are my own. If you’d like to try these products, you can download coupons here.
Your playgroups are so.much.fun! Thanks for this!
Thank YOU! I love having you guys!!!
Hi Meri, is there any room in your classes? My daughter is 2 tomorrow and this is what I’m looking for. We’re avail tues or wed. Please let me know. Tnx!
Thanks Lisa! I’ll email you.
Hi, thanks for the great ideas and book recommendation. Because of it I decided to purchase the book and start a play group of my own too. Will let you know how everything goes.
AMAZING FANTASTIC!!! So excited for you. Let me know how it goes!
Hi, Meri! I know this is an old post, but just wanted to say thanks for sharing so many amazing ideas for all ages- I’m launching playgroups and classes here in OK this month and these tips put me a little more at ease. Can’t wait to play!
Terrific! So glad to hear it. All the best. You got this!