Janey Beem was looking for something cool – figuratively and literally – to do with her daughters, 3-year-old Julia and 5-year-old Lindsay.

So she put her children in their car seats and headed to Independence Center, where she not only met her parenting goal – she exceeded it.

“It’s just so hot outside, I wanted to find something to do where it was cool, and we found this wonderful Play Date inside the center,” Janey said.

When she arrived, Art Squared artist Betty Kunkle had four card tables filled with crafts as part of the mall’s free Play Date Thursday event, which is from 11 a.m. to noon the third Thursday of each month in the food court and children’s play area.

“We’re expecting grade school and pre-school aged children, and I brought enough crafts that they can be creative all morning,” Kunkle said as she placed paint, stickers, decorative papers and an array of goodies on the four tables. “We were so excited when the center called Art Squared,” referring to the artist enclave on the Square.

“Since this is the first time we’ve done something like this, we weren’t sure of the numbers of youngsters who would take part, but I think we’ll have enough crafts for everyone.”

She was correct, as moms and grandparents brought their youngsters into the area where Kunkle was setting up shop.

While a few youngsters needed some encouragement from their parents or grandparents, Lindsay couldn’t wait to begin creating a bouquet of flowers for her mother Janey.

“At first, I don’t think my girls really knew what was going on,” Janey said, “but once they saw all the crafts and all the different things they could do, they got really excited.”

The same was true for 3-year-old Brynn Yunker, who couldn’t wait to show her grandmother, Ruth Yunker, a fish with a long tail and fins. The body of the fish was made from the pop-off top of a Kleenex box.

“We wanted to use all sort of different things, things most people have in their homes, to create our crafts today,” Kunkle said, as she spent time with each young crafter – helping them create something special.

“Most of the kids really didn’t know what we were going to do, but they all seem to be having fun. And I know that anytime I can work with kids and art, I’m having fun.”

As Brynn put the finishing touches on her fish “that’s swimming in the ocean,” her grandmother beamed with approval.

“She was nervous at first,” Ruth Yunker said, “but now, she’s having so much fun. She can’t wait to finish coloring so she can put on the tail. This is a wonderful thing for kids to take part in.”

When the session wrapped up, all the youngsters had created their own masterpieces, and the smiles on their faces – along with the ear-to-ear grins of their parents and grandparents – said it all.