When we made a spur-of-the-moment family decision to move to our new home 5 months earlier than anticipated, I knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Packing up and selling one home while simultaneously unpacking and settling into another isn’t for the faint of heart, but when you add a feisty 5-year-old and a new school with new rules and routines into the mix, it can be downright stressful.
I was so out-of-control busy for the first few weeks after we moved that I often felt like I was operating on autopilot, but as I stood in the playground with my daughter and her classmates on the last day of school as we counted down the seconds to summer vacation, my eyes started to burn with tears. After only 6 weeks at her new school, a little boy with crazy curly hair had already claimed my daughter as his new best friend, and before my sweet girl could pull me away from the crowd that day, I found myself exchanging phone numbers and hugs with the other moms with promises for girls’ nights out and play dates lingering in the air as we started gathering backpacks and engaging in excited post-school chatter with our little ones.
It was as though I had finally found my ‘village’, and while I have a tendency to be a bit introverted, I have since embraced the craziness of summer birthday parties and chance meetings at the park, and look forward to all that’s in store for us as we gear up for senior kindergarten in September.
But there is one small problem.
Play dates scare me.
Now, to be fair, I haven’t hosted a lot of play dates in my time as our old home wasn’t exactly conducive to inviting large crowds of people over. We lived in a 1,300-square-foot condo that was perfect for the 3 of us, but adding a couple of high-energy kids and their parents into the mix was a recipe for disaster, so we rarely, if ever, entertained.
And while my daughter would prefer to spend her afternoons and weekends chasing me around the park, I know it’s important for her to spend time with her peers, so when our friends from Nickelodeon asked if they could send us a box of goodies so we could host a Shimmer and Shine play date, I (literally) screamed with joy.
Have you heard of Shimmer and Shine?
It’s a cute animated children’s series that airs on Nickelodeon about twin genies – Shimmer and Shine – who live in Zahramay Falls and grant wishes to their friend Leah. The genies usually mess up the wishes and Leah has to work with them to solve all of the problems they create while simultaneously keeping the genies a secret from her friend and nextdoor neighbor, Zac.
It can get downright silly sometimes!
My daughter was a late adopter of the show (it first started airing last summer), but it’s ALL she talks about these days. I was under strict orders to order Shimmer and Shine labels for summer camp, we’ve watched countless Shimmer and Shine toy unboxing videos on YouTube, my mother is already collecting Shimmer and Shine toys for Christmas, and when we opened our box of treats from Nickelodeon last week, which was filled with some pretty amazing Shimmer and Shine toys that are now available at Target (they also have clothing, DVDs, and more!), my daughter literally started to shake with excitement.
So it’s no surprise that she jumped at the chance to have one of her girlfriends over for a Shimmer and Shine play date, and thanks to all of the goodies Nickelodeon included in our play date package – my favorite being the Shimmer and Shine Printable Coloring Book! – we ended up hosting a pretty amazing little get together.
And since I know there are other moms like me out there who are new to the wonderful world of play dates and need some pointers on how to keep their little ones and their friends entertained without losing their minds, I’ve put together a list of my best tips to host the perfect play date.
1. GET THEM INVOLVED
Not all kids are as receptive to play dates as others. Some are used to socializing outside of school, but others are a bit apprehensive at the idea of leaving the comfort of their own home, especially if their parents won’t be participating in the play date. A great trick that has worked for me in the past is to get the kids as excited as possible. This was pretty easy with our Shimmer and Shine play date as we had an entire afternoon planned around our genie friends from Zahramay Falls, and we shared our plans with my daughter’s friend ahead of time to make sure she was just as excited as we were, but even a simple park play date can seem more exciting when you get the kids involved and plan out some fun activities you know they will enjoy.
I snapped this shot of my daughter playing with her new Shimmer and Shine toys while looking out the window in our living as she waited for her friend to arrive. It was adorable watching her interact with her toys while simultaneously yelling, ‘are they here yet?!’ every time a car drove down our street!
2. ORGANIZE CRAFTS
While getting the kids excited about a play date is a great way to give them something to look forward to, it often results in energy-filled kids who don’t know what to do with themselves when the play date actually starts, which can go downhill very quickly if you aren’t prepared. I always make sure to have a craft setup and ready to go when our guests arrive, and find this makes a great ice breaker, especially if mom and dad aren’t sticking around for the whole play date. Having an activity the children can do with their parents while they familiarize themselves and become comfortable with their surroundings reduces the likelihood of a meltdown and gets them pumped for an afternoon of fun!
For our Shimmer and Shine play date, I laid out colored pencils, markers, and our Shimmer and Shine coloring books (download a printable version HERE), which offered a way for the girls to get into the theme of the afternoon. Each page had an activity for them to do – ‘Draw and color a picture of the adorable pet that you would want to have in Zahramay Falls!’, ‘Leah wants to make a wish for something to make the party even more fun! What should she wish for? Draw it here!’, etc. – and offered them a way to work both as a team and independently as they got into the Shimmer and Shine spirit! I loved watching their imaginations in action as they told their own personal stories about the things they would wish for. As it turns out, my daughter is hoping to get a dog named Leonard she can one day take to Zahramay Falls, and her friend thought our party would have been more fun if we had gone to look for MORE Shimmer and Shine toys at Target. How cute is that?
3. PLAY GAMES
Games are a great way to keep kids entertained during a play date. I try to organize something simple they can enjoy while simultaneously chatting with each other, and tend to avoid games that are overly competitive so as to avoid hurt feelings as you never know who is and isn’t a sore loser!
Admittedly, I was at a loss when trying to come up with a good Shimmer and Shine game for our play date, but as my daughter was flipping through her new book, The Sweetest Cupcake, she noticed it came with Shimmer and Shine cards, so we decided to setup a game of memory, which was a REAL hit!
(Especially since the girls beat me!!!)
4. LET THEM BE CREATIVE
While I’m a fan of routines and organized fun when I have little kids to entertain, it’s important to allow them time to play and enjoy each other’s company without interference. So once the crafts and games had gotten old, I got out our new Shimmer and Shine toys (compliments of Nickelodeon, of course!).
The girls had a blast playing with the Shimmer, Shine, Tala, and Nahal action figures. They brushed the genies’ hair, acted out their favorite scenes from the show, and even made up their own stories as they played together. The sound of their little voices was like music to my ears while I enjoyed a cup of coffee and got lost in my Pinterest feed for 20 minutes. HA!
I then got out the Shimmer and Shine Wish and Spin dolls, which provided ENDLESS entertainment.
5. HAVE LOTS OF SNACKS!
My daughter insisted there would be NO TIME for snacks during our play date, and while she begrudgingly obliged when I dragged her to the grocery store before her friend arrived so we could stock up on some of her favorite snacks, she was the first one to tell me she was STARVING mid-play date.
Make sure to ask about food allergies before your guests arrive, and have both a healthy and fun option for the kids to enjoy. I like getting stuff to make fruit kebobs as I find it’s a great way to keep the kids engaged while eating something that’s not loaded with sugar, but I almost always allow them to indulge in a treat afterwards.
6. GET OUTSIDE!
Once the activities and toys have been exhausted and the kids have been fed, I always try to find an outdoor activity they can enjoy together which they run off some steam. Fortunately for us, we live within walking distance to a great park with a spectacular splash pad, but the girls were more interested in taking their Shimmer and Shine toys down the slides together, which suited me just fine!
7. ALLOW FOR QUIET TIME
After so much excitement and activity, I find it’s important to organize some quiet activities for the kids to enjoy while the play date winds down. Sometimes I’ll organize another craft or throw the TV on, but I wanted to do something extra special for our Shimmer and Shine play date.
So I built a fort.
We recently purchased a gorgeous new dining table, but the chairs haven’t been delivered yet (gah!), and after throwing a bunch of pillows underneath the table and draping a few sheets on top, I had created the perfect spot for the girls to watch a Shimmer and Shine DVD and read books together while noshing on popcorn.
8. START PLANNING FOR THE NEXT PLAYDATE
When my university BFF and her daughter came for a visit a few weeks ago, my daughter burst into gut-wrenching tears when it came time for them to go home. She had been so excited for the visit that the idea of it being over completely devastated her, and nothing I said or did made her feel better.
So when we threw our Shimmer and Shine play date, I decided to try something different. Rather than focusing on the fact that it was over, I got out a pen and paper about 20 minutes before it was time for my daughter’s friend to go home and asked them to help me brainstorm ideas for our next play date. We discussed different crafts and activities we could do together, came up with some good menu options, and with the help with the other girl’s mom, we decided on a date for the girls to look forward to.
There were still a few tears as we said our goodbyes, but the promise of doing it all again soon made it seem less overwhelming and sad.
Remember: hosting a play date can feel overwhelming, especially when you have lots of little kids under the age of 6 running around your home, but with a little planning and preparation, you can keep tantrums and meltdowns to a minimum and just have fun!
Oh! And before I forget…
If you visit Target.com and enter code SHIMMER between now and September 10, 2016, you can save 10% on all Shimmer & Shine Fisher Price toys!
This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.
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