The Big Brooklyn Playdate

A caregiver and baby play during the Big Brooklyn Playdate.

Enjoy fun games and activities that delight young children and encourage early literacy!

At Brooklyn Public Library, we regularly host sensory-learning events for children ages 0-3 and their caregivers. Branches host smaller versions, and once a year, we hold a borough wide event called the Big Brooklyn Playdate, where we turn the Central Library lower level into a world of sensory and constructive play, fine and gross motor movement opportunities, art explorations and more for up to 150 babies and toddlers and their caregivers.  

The idea behind the Playdate is simple. Babies and toddlers learn through hands on, concrete experiences with materials that not only delight and engage them, but teach important cognitive skills such as object permanence, spatial awareness and problem solving. As babies and toddlers interact with the world around them, they start to learn how their own bodies and movement can affect their environment. Our playdate activities, or “Play Recipes” as we call them, have many entry points for learning. They are open ended, so children explore them at their developmental level.

Play Recipes

Fingerpaint, without the mess! Take a large gallon size zip-closure freezer bag. Fill it with two primary paint colors (red, yellow, or blue) or a primary color and black or white. Squeeze the excess air from the bag and zip it closed. Tape the bag flat. Explore using hands and fingers--push paint around, mix colors, and talk about what you see and feel.

You will need colorful scarves or socks and an empty facial tissue box (the “boutique” size box works best). Stuff a couple of socks or scarves in the opening. Let the child reach in and pull out a colorful item. Talk about each color as you pull them out.

Take any clear bottle with a lid and make sure it is clean and dry (plastic orange juice or soda bottles work well). Put some colorful objects inside like feathers, ribbons, pieces of paper, small rubber balls, etc. Put the lid on and tape it closed. Talk about colors, and what you see. Experiment with shaking and rolling the bottle.

Infants see black and white images best since their vision is still developing. Take a tissue box and cover it with black and white pictures. The bolder the design the better. Cover the pictures with clear contact paper or packing tape to protect it. This is a great one for tummy time!

Use a plastic tub or storage container, and fill it with a fun sensory material: rice, potato flakes, split peas, beans, corn, oats, cooked spaghetti, and more! Add a few toys or objects to play with or search for.


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Read more about the Big Brooklyn Playdate and check out Play Recipes on the BKLYN Kids Blog.