Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Valentine's Day Play Date

Valentine's Day comes at the perfect time of year. The excitement of the holidays are long over, News Year's resolutions are fading fast (well if you are like me!), and spring weather still seems so far away. If you have young children and live somewhere with cold winters you probably experience some cabin fever too. So what better time to host a Valentine's Day Play Date?!

I called this get together a play date because I wanted to keep it simple. I invited a few other moms and their kids over around lunch time. You might as well call this event a party because I had food, decorations, an activity, and favors to take home.

At the time, we were fortunate to live in a small neighborhood where there were five other families that all had children the same age as ours! The kids all loved to play together and the moms and dads loved to get together as well. This was the perfect guest list for our Valentine's Day Play Date.

I went to our local Dollar Tree to pick up a couple things and ended up walking out with a party's worth of supplies. A Happy Valentine's Day banner, heart shaped foil balloons for each party guest, heart shaped garland, sparkly cupcake toppers, wooden picture frames for the project I planned, glitter pens and stickers to decorate them, large red paper hearts, and construction paper to make the props for our homemade photo booth. I love Dollar Tree for kids' party supplies!!

Party time!

As our guests walked in the door they were greeted with a trail of red paper hearts that made a path to the party area. I simply taped them to the wood floor with scotch tape. The kids had fun jumping from heart to heart.

This is one of my guys following the hearts the night before the party.

For the activity, I came up with the idea of having the kids decorate a picture frame, get their picture taken in my "homemade photo booth," then use my Kodak printing dock to print out the pictures right there so they could each take home a handmade picture frame with a cute picture of themselves to give to their dads for Valentines Day.

These wooden picture frames from Dollar Tree were exactly what I had hoped to find!

The kids worked so hard decorating their picture frames

After the kids were done decorating it was time for lunch. That gave the picture frames time to dry.

The kids' menu consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (I knew our guests didn't have any peanut allergies but it's always a good idea to check if you are planning on using anything with peanuts). I had planned to use a heart shaped cookie cutter for the sandwiches but ran short on time since I didn't want them sitting around while we decorated the frames. Next time I would just make them ahead of time since I really don't think it would make that much of a difference if they were covered in plastic wrap. The kids' plates also had cut up strawberries and a little cup of ranch dressing with celery and carrots sticks. We got the kids settled with their lunch before the adults ate. When the kids were done they played and we actually got a few minutes to catch up.

For the moms I made a chicken salad with red onion, crumbled blue cheese, pears, and caramelized walnuts with sour cream muffins on the side. The muffins were a hit and many asked for the recipe so I will also share it here. This recipe is from Don't Panic-Dinners in the Freezer written by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell & Bonnie Garcia. I love this cook book because it contains great tasting recipes that give instructions on doubling and tripling the recipe as well as freezing instructions.

Sour Cream Muffin Recipe
Makes 24-30 regular sized muffins:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 t. vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients and sift. Set aside. In mixing bowl, using medium speed, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. To the creamed mixture, add eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined. Blend in sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing only until combined. (Don't over mix).

Spoon muffin batter into muffin tins lined with paper cup liners. Fill 1/2-2/3 full. 

Bake approximately 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. To keep muffins moist, test with toothpick to see if they are done. Do not over bake.

After the kids played, it was picture time! I wish I would have taken pictures of this but I was too busy running the "photo booth." I just used a wall in the kitchen that is painted a neutral color. No need for a back drop when you have such cute little kids and props for the photos! Although you certainly could add a backdrop with streamers, balloons, lights, or a colored table cloth. I had a basket with the props ready for the kids to make their selections. There were feather boas, top hats, glasses, lips, and mustaches. I made the glasses, lips, and mustaches out of construction paper, tape, and wooden dowels. Easy and cheap. The top hats came from a local party store for a dollar apiece and the feather boas were from Hobby Lobby.

Some of the photo booth props used

After the "photo shoots" I printed off the pictures, which just took a couple minutes. With the help of the other moms we put the pictures in the frames.

My boys then handed out pink heart shaped Rice Krispy treats that we made and put in plastic bags tied with red ribbons for each guest. The kids also exchanged valentines and went home happy campers with a really cute party favor and gift for their dads!

This play date or party has always been one of my favorites because there was absolutely no stress for me. I had everything set up the night before, the food was simple and mostly pre-made before the party, and since the guest list was small I got to have uninterrupted conversations and everything went very smoothly. 
One of my boy's finished frames

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