We hosted a group playdate today (eight children). It's a free play session, but I like to have a few "Invitations to Play" in the words of The Imagination Tree, as well as a craft to give the kids a change of pace.
Now I'm the kind of person that looks at a blank piece of paper and freezes up - because the possibilities are endless and I don't know where to start/stop. So I need a focal point, and I often look to a children's book for this. This time it was In My Backyard, by Margriet Ruurs. The book describes the different creatures you may find in your own backyard. And the illustrations are amazing paper sculptures by Ron Broda. Amazing.
At the start of our playdate our friends were invited to play in the backyard, where we have a swingset/monkey bars, trampoline, and roofed patio with chairs and tables. Legos were left on the large picnic table, a container of Mega Bloks were on the patio next to the table, and various figurines were in another container (Dora, Cinderella, ninja, and mayor of Little People, to name a few). It was a hot and windy day so I wasn't sure how long our friends would want to build in our backyard, but this activity went on for 90 minutes.
Which was great timing to then have our snack. Inspired by the cover of In My Backyard, I went with a bird theme. Using what is basically a Rice Krispies treat recipe, I made birds nests from pretzels, using blue M&Ms for the eggs.
Yes, the most common recipe for birds nests includes Chinese noodles, but the store that I was shopping at is in the middle of rearranging several aisles, and the Chinese noodles were nowhere to be found. And Chinese noodles might be too exotic for my girls, anyway. Pretzels are tried and true. Even if the birds nests look more like campfires.
After snack I set up the craft: decorating birdhouses. I bought these for $0.79-$1.00 each. But my girls have decorated birdhouses before and really enjoyed it, so I thought it was worth it to spend a little. We used permanent markers and stickers to decorate. Note the dollar store tablecloth - very important.
Suggestion: If you have an assortment of birdhouses, use the "draw a number out of a hat" method to decide the order in which the children pick their birdhouse. It worked great! What was even better is when big sister decided to change her pick because she knew little brother wanted her style of birdhouse, and they were all gone at that point. Heartwarming.
The children spent almost an hour decorating their birdhouses. Then off to more playing in the backyard.
A sampling of the finished birdhouses: