REGION — Stacey Messina of Lake San Marcos said she struggled with work while caring for her three children. As a small business owner, Messina said she often took her children to markets where she attempted to sell her products but found the environments unwelcoming.
“I could tell customers saw this as unprofessional and would skip past my booth with kids in tow,” said Messina, a mother of two young boys. “I needed to find a space where this was seen as acceptable.”
Unable to find a business-friendly environment that also catered to children, Messina and friend, Kendra Maister of Escondido, launched SDPopUp PlayDate. The group, which has attracted hundreds of people from throughout San Diego County, hosts free, kid-friendly events for mothers every Saturday in San Marcos.
“The ultimate goal of SDPopUp PlayDate is to provide fun and engaging events for families with children while supporting local hardworking businesses that offer goods and services to young families,” Messina said. “Our goal is to connect the two and support programming for children ages 0 to 5 while offering social interaction for both parents and the kiddos.”
The free event allows vendors, most of whom are mothers, to sell their products while children are able to play. There are also free activities and live music at the events, said Messina and Maister.
“Aspiring to work with kids and wanting to create a space where we could work with our own children is what inspired us to create SDPopUp Playdate,” said Maister, who is also a mother of two. “Our playdates connect young families with kid friendly establishments and small-owned businesses.”
But, it’s not just providing a free space for mothers and their children to socialize. It’s also the bonds that are being created. Messina said she struggled to arrange playdates for her own children prior to launching SDPopUp PlayDate.
“For me, it’s a little awkward and intimidating striking up a conversation with a random person at the park,” Messina said. “We can now grab a bite and relax while the kids are fully entertained by the extra toys, sensory play, and crafts we bring to the playdates. We are so fortunate to have met so many families and several small businesses that cater to our kiddos interests.”
Although both mothers have daytime jobs, they’ve devoted countless hours each week to organizing these free events, Maister said. So far, the rewards have paid off.
“It’s always so rewarding to see the smiles and hear the words of appreciation from families,” Maister said. “Sometimes all we need is a little nudge to get out and enjoy some fresh air alongside our peers who are going through similar situations.”
For Messina, it’s the feedback from fellow mothers that’s most gratifying.
“I hope moms feel recharged and connected,” Messina said. “When you have littles, a child’s constant need for stimulation is exhausting and so is their attention span. We hope that they feel a little less stressed and maybe found a new mom to connect with.
Although the group is only a year old, both Maister and Messina said they see SDPopUp PlayDate thriving for years to come.
“SDPopUp Playdate will most likely evolve and change as our kids grow,” Maister said. “To imagine it being around five to 10 years from now would be amazing.”
SDPopUp PlayDate hosts a free playdate from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at My Yard Live in San Marcos. The events typically include crafts, activities, yoga, live music and more. The group also hosts other free events throughout the region.
For more information or to register for an event, go to sdpopupplaydate.com/.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at email@example.com.