by Disney Magic Diva
Have you ever thought about hosting a Disney playdate? It is a marvelous way to continue the magic of a Disney trip once you return home, build the excitement in anticipation of your next visit, or just show off your Disney Side! We were ecstatic when Disney Parks selected our family to host a #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate. They sent us a box stuffed with all kinds of magical surprises to use in hosting our playdate. (You can watch our unboxing video here.) Disney Diva Disclaimer: While I received free products in order to host a #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate, the opinions expressed here are my own.
Once you decide to host a #DisneyKids playdate, you’ll want to choose a theme. With so many favorite Disney options, that’s not an easy task! Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Pirates, Princesses, Toy Story, Jungle Book, Nemo, Superheroes, Star Wars…the possibilities are truly endless! My grandson is a big fan of Disney Junior’s “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” so after much thought and discussion, we decided to have our playdate be a road race through the four parks of Walt Disney World Resort.
Our box of goodies from Disney Parks included an HP Card and Invitation Kit. This makes creating invitations such a breeze! Just use the HP Cards app or free HP Photo Creations software you can download to your desktop. It provides dozens of different preloaded graphics for whatever occasion you want. All you need to do is select your favorite and fill in the text. While there were general Disney themed graphics, we wanted something more specifically in keeping with our Roadster Racer theme, so we just designed our own. It was so easy to just run them through my home printer. They looked perfect!
Next, it was time to plan some activities. I knew as the children arrived for the playdate I would want to have an activity to keep them busy until all the guests arrived. To get everyone in a racing mood, I set out some toy race cars and ramps.
Diva Tip: I love to use pool noodles as ramps because they are sturdy and safe. The inside of the noodle provides a groove for the cars to run down. Just slice a pool noodle in half lengthwise, prop the end up on a table, and you have a ready-made track any preschooler can handle.
I decided to also use the Fortune Tellers included in our box, along with some coloring sheets, as an additional opening activity for children who prefer a quieter game.
The Fortune Teller would reveal a Disney character, then the kids could color a picture of that character. Having some opening activities was a good way to keep children engaged until everyone arrived, and help get in the mood for an afternoon of Disney fun! You can download your own copy of the Fortune Teller here.
To plan the party, I did a lot of research on Pinterest. Disney Junior’s Pinterest Board provided plenty of inspiration! I made race cars from cardboard boxes for each guest to “drive” in our road rally. I found 18x18x24 boxes at Walmart, and painted them to look like Mickey and Minnie’s race cars. (You can see Disney Junior’s pin here.)
Diva Tip: I first painted a coat of primer on the box to help cover the printing, then used wood glue to glue the ends closed. I tried packing tape to close the boxes, but it didn’t adhere well to the primer. The wood glue worked great!
Once the boxes were put together, I used two coats of acrylic craft paint to make them look like Mickey and Minnie’s racers. It would be much faster to use spray paint, but I was trying to economize by using acrylic craft paints I already had on hand.
After the cars were painted, I cut out a hole on the top for the kids to get in the box. I made this a rectangle the width of the box and about 8 inches long. I also cut a hole in the bottom the width of the box and about 12-14 inches long for their legs to fit through. To make a windshield, I cut about 6 more inches along the sides of the top hole, folded that flap back, and taped the edges with electrical tape. Finally I printed off the decals for each race car which were on Disney Junior’s Pinterest board, and glued them on the boxes. These really helped give each car the complete look!
I had the cars lined up and waiting for the kids as they arrived. I had also printed out a racing helmet for each child (which I backed with oak tag), to help get them “in gEAR” for the party. We were ready to start our engines and head to the parks!
Our first stop was Magic Kingdom, where we immediately raced to Cinderella Castle to have our photo taken! A photo in front of each park’s icon is a “must do” for any visit to Disney World! To get the real feeling of being in the park, we projected a photo of the castle on the wall, then had the kids stand in front of it. It was the next best thing to being there!
Throughout the playdate we had similar photo op stations for Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life, Hollywood Studios’ Chinese Theater, and Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. Our promotional materials from Disney included a box of HP Social Media Snapshots for each guest. These make printing the photos from your phone a real “snap!” Just choose your favorite photos, click, and print! The paper has a “peel and stick” back that’s reusable, similar to a sticky note, so your guests can decorate and redecorate their room with their photos. And we all know how much kids love decorating and redecorating with stickers!
During our stop at Magic Kingdom, we also made license plates for our cars. I used a template on the Disney Junior Pinterest Board to print out the license plates, and then the kids used stickers and crayons to decorate their plate and glue it on to the back of their cars.
The kids had such a great time driving their cars round the parks! If you’ve ever driven into the parks, you know there can sometimes be quite a line of traffic as you approach the Main Gate. Hopefully, though, you’ve never experienced quite the traffic jam we had! If you watch our YouTube video here you’ll understand what I mean!
My plan was to also talk about Hidden Mickeys at Magic Kingdom. Our Disney Parks box included a Hidden Mickey game, complete with hidden Mickeys and a game card for each child to record how many hidden Mickeys he or she discovered. I had hidden the Mickeys in each room for our playdate, and we were going to look for them in each park. Unfortunately, we ran out of time, and didn’t get to do this activity. Luckily, I had included a copy of the game in each guest’s swag bag, so the kids can play at home with their families.
Diva Tip: When planning parties (especially one for preschoolers!), it’s a good idea to have more activities planned than you think you can ever have time to complete. It’s always hard to gauge how long or how well-received a particular activity may be, and it’s far easier to skip an activity than to try to find something on the spur of the moment to keep 10 excited kiddos engaged in a safe and appropriate manner.
Our next stop was Animal Kingdom. One of my grandson’s favorite attractions here is Kilimanjaro Safari. He especially loves spotting the lions, so we decided to have some Lion Guard activities. Since you need keen eyesight on a safari, we made Ono inspired binoculars. I had painted toilet paper tubes white, then used tape around then end the make them look more like Ono. I glued two tubes together and punched a hole for a string to go through. Finally, I cut out feather shapes from construction paper. The kids, then, snipped the edges of each feather and glued (or taped) them onto the binoculars. They also tied a string onto them so they could hang their binoculars around their neck.
If you’ve watched “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” you know Minnie and Daisy are the “Happy Helpers.” I wanted to incorporate this aspect into our playdate too, because I think it is so vitally important to reinforce this value in children. As I was thinking about what we could do to be “helpers,” it occurred to me we could help animals. Kids LOVE animals, and can understand that they sometimes need human help. And then I realized the new Disney Junior program, “Puppy Dog Pals” had just premiered. The connection seemed perfect! We could “help” our local homeless puppy dog pals! I contacted the Nebraska Humane Society, and discovered they are always in need of certain types of donations – including jars of peanut butter. We asked each child coming to the play date to consider bringing a jar of peanut butter to “help” the puppies. The Nebraska Humane Society was even gracious enough to agree to come to our playdate and bring a couple of puppies! We were so excited!
Diva Tip: If you are inviting animal friends to a playdate, be sure to let parents know in advance. Some children may have anxiety or allergy issues with pets.
The staff from the Nebraska Humane Society talked to the preschoolers about what they do for homeless pets, the kinds of animals they help, how to safely greet a new animal, and of course why they use peanut butter (for training and treats!). They also had stickers, coloring books, and information sheets for the preschoolers. The kids, naturally, had lots and lots of questions, and the staff was so patient and happy to answer them all. The children proudly deposited their peanut butter in a special Happy Helper donation box. The best part, though, was greeting Macy and Molly, the adorable puppies who visited! (You can watch a video of their visit here.)
I’ve admitted in other blog posts that Animal Kingdom is probably my least favorite Disney Park, primarily due to the fact that we are blessed with a world class zoo in our city. When I’m at Disney,
I prefer to enjoy attractions I can’t find at home. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is consistently recognized as one of the top zoos in the country, and is very active in its conservation efforts, just like Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
I felt like we were sprinkled with pixie dust when we approached them about donating some swag for the kids! The Zoo generously provided us with copies of Zoo Prints, National Geographic Explorer, animal trading cards, pencils, and keychains for each child! It was yet another way to keep kids thinking about nature and conservation…a lesson every guest at Animal Kingdom is reminded of with each visit.
By now we had worked up an appetite, so we were ready for some Road Racer snacks.Our box from Disney Parks included plates, cups, napkins, and decorations to give us a real Clubhouse feel! It also included cupcake liners and decorations, because what’s a party without cake!? My grandson and I had a great time baking the cupcakes, and he was so excited to share them with his guests!
We also were given some Pop Secret popcorn. I decided to add a little “pixie dust” to it by lightly coating it with white chocolate, then adding sprinkles. I found a template for Roadster Racer Popcorn Cones on the Disney Junior Pinterest Board, and used those to serve the popcorn. Festive and fun!
Now we had something salty and something sweet, so I wanted to also add a little healthier choice. I used apples, grapes, and Oreos (okay…maybe not ENTIRELY healthy!) to create a Mickey race car snack. To make the car, just cut the apple into quarters and cut out a notch for the seat. Attach grapes with toothpicks for wheels. To make the Oreo Mickey, twist open the cookie and dab a little melted white chocolate to secure a cake pop stick to the filling. Place the cookie back on top, then use more melted white chocolate to secure mini Oreos for ears.
Diva Tip: I was a little worried we didn’t have enough food choices for everyone. It just didn’t seem like much. But it worked out perfectly. Remember, preschoolers don’t usually eat very much, especially at a playdate. They are much more interested in the PLAY part! So don’t stress too much about the food. A quick snack and drink is really all they need.
After feeling refueled, we were ready to take on the galaxy! One of the most generous surprises in our box from Disney Parks was a Stormtrooper suitcase from American Tourister. As my grandson and I admired the suitcase, we thought about all the Star Wars fun packed (pun intended) into Hollywood Studios. So for this stop on our road rally, we wanted to have some galactic fun!
My grandson’s school, Gingerbread House Preschool, was kind enough to let us use their facility as the venue for our playdate, as well as some of their materials. They have an inflatable spaceship, and we had a great time pretending we were on board our own Star Tours flight to a galaxy far, far away. Thankfully, C-3PO didn’t crash our ship on the landing!
What’s Star Wars without lightsabers? Every kid loves them, so I knew we needed to have some lightsaber fun at our playdate. Thankfully, it’s easy to make the perfect lightsaber for padawans with a pool noodle! Just cut the noodle in half (a serrated knife works great!) and wrap the end with some duct tape. We had a little Jedi training (reminiscent of the more elaborate training young Jedi can receive at Hollywood Studios -read Dopey Diva’s article, here) then let the kids use the Force to battle some balloons. To say they had a blast would be an understatement!
Now that they were trained in the ways of the Force, we were ready to take on the Empire and battle some stormtroopers. I used stormtrooper masks I found at Walmart to cover 2-liter bottles, and created “Stormtrooper Bowling”. A quick, easy, and inexpensive activity that was as fun as an Ewok celebration.
Finally, it was time to head to our last park of the day – Epcot. Our Disney Parks box included a Nemo Pillow Pet, which was a perfect tie-in to one of our favorite Epcot attractions – The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Who couldn’t love that adorable little clown fish? We had a fabulous time bouncing Nemo in his Big Blue World (which looked remarkably like a parachute!)
For our next activity here, I wanted something to calm down a little. I printed off simple Nemo and Dory puzzles I found online then put the pieces in a Dory-inspired gift bag for each child. They had a great time putting their puzzles together, while getting a little number recognition practice in too! It also made a wonderful take home activity.
To help Nemo feel at home, I also created a cardboard cut-out of his friend Bruce. If you’ve been to The Seas with Nemo and Friends, you know when you exit the attraction you enter a play area with a giant Bruce photo op. I printed out a photograph of my grandson peeking out of Bruce’s jaws at Epcot so he could show his friends, then we had fun with our own little version.
I’ve never met a preschooler who didn’t enjoy playing in water, so we set up a water table for a little more ocean fun. It served as the perfect activity for kids while they were waiting for their turn at the photo op.
Everyone knows that when you finish a race, you earn a trophy! So I made Mickey trophies for each child. I used a 3″ styrofoam ball for Mickey’s head which I painted with acrylic paint and then attached smaller balls with toothpicks for his ears. I found some craft wood pieces at Michaels which I glued together to form a base, spray painted, then glued the Mickey head to the wooden base. Wood glue worked great once again for this project!
When it was time to say good-bye, each child went home with an “authentic” Disney Parks swag bag. On our trip to Walt Disney World Resort the week before, I made the selfless sacrifice of frequent shopping so I could gather enough Disney Parks bags for each child to have a bag straight from Walt Disney World to take home. (Anything for the kids, right?)
Disney Parks provided some games for our party which we didn’t have time to play at the playdate, so I sent them home to continue the magic with their family. Each child took home materials for Character Charades, Magic Match, and their own complete Hidden Mickey game. (You can download your very own too! Just click on each game’s name for the link!)
While at Walt Disney World Resort, I also picked up a map of each park, an “I’m Celebrating!” button, and several Mickey stickers for each child. They also used their bags to take home all their Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium swag, Nebraska Humane Society stickers and info, their box of HP Social Media Snapshots, Nemo/Dory puzzles, lightsaber, Fortune Teller, a Star Wars coloring book and crayons, Mickey number flashcards, Mickey trophy, and race flags. We tried, but their race cars just wouldn’t fit in that bag.
We had such a marvelous time at our #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate! It was so much fun to plan, and wouldn’t have been nearly as magical without the generosity of Walt Disney World Resort, American Tourister, HP and MyPrintly, Pop Secret, Pillow Pets, and Softsoap. We are also very grateful to the Nebraska Humane Society, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, and Gingerbread House Preschool for helping to sponsor our playdate.
Are you ready to host your own #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination! Because with Disney, the magic is endless!
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