Playgroups are an essential part of life for children and parents alike. For the child, a playgroup provides a chance to socialize with other children, play and exercise, and learn from families with different lifestyles. Parents are able to have some adult conversation, get advice on parenting
issues, and relieve the boredom that can come with being at home all day.
There are several ways to find a playgroup in your area: contact your local hospital, pediatrician’s office, religious group, or La Leche League. You can also use one of the many websites for finding playgroups: www.momsclub.org, www.meetup.com, and www.matchingmoms.org. Bulletin boards on www.mothering.com and www.parentsplace.com have local sections where you can find playgroups, too.
If you can’t find a playgroup that matches your needs, you can always start your own. Here’s how to get started.
First, you need to decide what kind of playgroup you want. How old should the children be? How many people should be in your playgroup? Do you want to meet in people’s homes or in public places? Do you want your playgroup to be affiliated with a certain religion or parenting style?
The age range you choose for you group is dependent on where you hold playgroup meetings. If you’re meeting in someone’s home, the children should all be fairly close in age so that there will be appropriate activities for everyone. If you meet outside the home (at parks or children’s museums), children of widely varying ages should all be able to find something to do.
Likewise, the size of your group also depends on where you’ll be meeting. Meetings in the home should be limited to four or five children to keep the chaos and post-playgroup cleaning to a minimum. For most public meeting places, any number of children can be accommodated. The only time you would want to limit the number of children attending a playgroup in a public place is if it will be held at a story time or other small location.
Deciding on where to hold your playgroup meetings is an entirely personal choice. Some people like the ease of meeting in friends’ homes (your children can’t wander too far or get abducted, it’s easier to keep an eye on your children and still talk to the other parents, and it’s usually free). Others don’t want to have to deal with hosting a playgroup at their home, in which case public meetings are more appropriate. Some ideas for public meetings are: parks, farms, petting zoos, museums, aquariums, zoos, indoor playgrounds, pet stores, bakeries, local fire departments or police stations (call first), airports, and construction sites.
Your group’s affiliation is also just a personal preference. Most playgroups consist of mainstream moms, and if you’re outside the mainstream, it may be important for you to find likeminded parents. If you want your group to have a religious affiliation, you may want to advertise at your place of worship.
Once those questions are answered, you’ll also need to come up with some ground rules. Will sick children be allowed to come to playgroup? What happens if a child is hitting, biting, or not sharing? Will one parent be responsible for providing snacks or will parents bring their own? Should siblings be allowed to come, too?
When you’ve got a good idea of what you want your playgroup to be like, you can start printing up flyers. You’ll want to list the name of your playgroup, the age range you’re looking for, any affiliation, and an email address and phone number for people to contact you. You can post flyers in grocery stores, baby superstores (like Babies R Us), toy stores, your pediatrician’s office, your hospital’s parent education office, coffee shops, indoor playgrounds, and any parks that have bulletin boards. Some places will require you to have permission before posting a flyer, so make sure you ask first.
You can also advertise online. One good way to keep in touch is through a Yahoo Group. Anyone can start one for free and everyone can keep in touch through email. You can also sign up to www.matchingmoms.org and www.meetup.com.
Once your playgroup is well established, you can think about starting book clubs, Mom’s Night Out events, crafting clubs, holiday parties, charitable giving, and community service. A playgroup is truly a wonderful thing and can provide so much more than just playtime for your children.