Art Play Date Ideas for Kids
Creative Family Living Parent Resources

Art Play Date Ideas for Kids

Art for Playdates -- Ideas for Making it Work

I often set up art activities for my kids (this you know, right?) but make a special effort during play dates to have something up my sleeve. I do this, partly just because I’m me and art is foremost in my parenting toolkit, and partly because I think creative activities are especially great for ::

  • Moments of transition
  • For bringing together different personalities, energy levels, and ages
  • Creating a shared purpose
  • For refocusing attention during moments of strife
  • For redirecting and diffusing strong emotions
  • Just for fun!

So (almost) every play date ends up being an art play date at our house.

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I think of the art activities I set up more as invitations to creativity (hey, it’s here if you want it!) than as anything else.

As for the actual set up, I may arrange an art activity or simply a few materials on the kitchen table, in the studio, or just have one “in reserve” on the counter or somewhere quickly accessible but out of the way.

This requires a little bit of planning and prep but not usually much at all (or frankly it wouldn’t happen). When making my to do list for the day, I often jot down an art idea or two that I think would work well for a scheduled playdate (spin art, salty watercolors, playdough with poke-ins, pinecone & pumpkin painting) and then, before or during the playdate itself, I’ll set out the materials.

Art for Playdates

I let the natural flow of the kids’ play and interaction unfold rather than dictating when or if they do the art activity. This usually means theres a good hour or more of play before doing any art.

When they are at a transition point in their play, one or more of the kids may wander over and discover the art activity. Or, if they seem to need direction, I might say, “I have some art materials [or a project] set up at the table if you’re interested.”

Art for Playdates

– Sometimes they’ll see the art activity set up and dive right in.

– Sometimes they’ll see it and kind of ignore it for a while during their play but make their way over when they are ready.

– Sometimes one child comes over first and creates quietly for a while by herself before the others wander over.

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– Sometimes they all descend at once.

– Sometimes they don’t see it at all (if they are playing in a different room or outside, for example) until a natural break in their play or a period of strife, boredom, or transition and then get excited about the art.

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I never push—just set the materials out as an invitation and possibility—but its very rare that they choose not to do the art activity.

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I often have ideas for how I think an art activity will unfold but am ever aware that the kids may take it in a different direction.

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For example, I thought Gigi and Daphne might try their hand at making skeletons with the light-colored masking tape on the black poster board. They traced the stuffed animals and had a great time looking at the bones and other body parts in our body book, but then decided to use the tape as “bandaids for booboos.”

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I especially enjoy seeing how different children use the same art materials and set up and and come up with completely different finished artworks! (Maybe I miss the toddler art group just a bit…).

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How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and what works in your family with play dates.

Art Play Date Ideas


  • Reply
    November 6, 2013 at 11:21 am

    the few times we have offered art activities for playdates, it seems that my children are the only ones that want to sit and focus on the activity at hand. from painting, to glitter to, play doh, even free for all art… and more so we usually avoid art play dates and let the kids just play and explore else where. (and then you have the parents that are more focused on product not process which makes me bite mt lip and cringe)

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    I love your style of inviting and offering, and letting the children take it any direction they’d like, or pass on the art project altogether. The ideas in your pictures are such great inspiration, too! I’m tempted to schedule some play dates now, just to have an excuse to set up some new art activities… I suppose I can do that for just my own children, too, huh? :)Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I too very much enjoy seeing how different kids will take materials and create completely random things with them. Recently we had a play date where they requested some materials and started creating intuitively. It was also interesting to watch them watch one another, get ideas from each other and build on them.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    I love to have something out and available…when I’m organized enough. It’s usually looking through our collage bucket and putting various things out to see where kids go or taping paper to the floor and drawing frames to be filled in (your idea I always go to in a pinch). Plus it helps to have something out if they are having any difficulty playing together. I have to ask where you got the trays? I love them.

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    November 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Yes! You can totally do this with your own kids! No need for a playdate to make it happen! :)
    I do like the different energy and creative inspiration that playdates bring to art activities, though, so would recommend it once in a while!

  • Reply
    Jean Van't Hul
    November 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    That’s too bad, Katie! I guess you can keep the art activities for your own kids…

  • Reply
    November 7, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you for another wonderful post! Liisa, we have trays like that from discount school supply

  • Reply
    susan norborg
    November 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Love your Montessori approach!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2013 at 9:38 am

    Great idea to just set it out and let them choose to participate or not. Where did you get those plastic trays? They look great for corralling supplies and organizing the workspace.

  • Reply
    November 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Love the post! I also loved the use of the plastic trays!

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