Start a Playgroup, Begin an Adventure

It's fun for your kids, and good for you too

So, you want to start a playgroup? Are you ready to watch your children build lasting friendships? Do you have room on your busy calendar to add a few more scheduled activities? Perhaps you don't have an overloaded calendar, but would like one? You have come to the right place for ideas, support and overview.

What Is a Playgroup?

Members of a playgroup consist of children close in age and sometimes, of the same gender. A group of four to six children works well because it allows social variety within a small, tight-knit group. You may choose to start-up your playgroup with more or less children, depending upon your personal preference and how much noise you can tolerate.

Mothers are included in the group, as it is also a friendship building and support event for moms. Fathers, grandparents or other relatives may be involved on occasion if they are available but the child's mother is not. Children do not want to miss their biggest day of the week. If mom is unable to participate in the activities, plan B is set into motion.

Members of the group take turns hosting social time in their homes. Mothers gather to chat, exchange recipes and share the details of the latest bargain they've encountered. Children play, loving the opportunity to play in a new home with a new selection of toys.

Why Start a Playgroup?

The primary goal of most parents is to ensure the happiness of their children. Happy children are healthy, nurtured, well-fed and have an active life. A scheduled weekly or bi-weekly playgroup gives children a special day to look forward to.

In a playgroup, children begin to learn social skills that are an important step in their development. Sharing is encouraged, compassion is learned and negotiation skills form from a task as simple as trading a truck for a choo-choo train.

How to Start a Playgroup

There are two things to consider before forming an assemblage of tots and moms. Do you want your circle to include established friends who you know will blend well together, or are you ready to branch out and offer your valuable friendship to others? A combination of the two is another option to consider.

Starting a group with your current friends is simple. Normally, your friends have all heard wonderful things about each other, or have met at birthday parties and are eager to develop a closer relationship. I'm willing to bet that if you pick up the phone right now and invite a handful of your friends and their children to your house on Monday at 10:00 a.m., the response would be positive and welcoming. Wouldn't you be excited if you were invited to such an event?

If you are new to your neighborhood, or simply ready to add new moms to your phone book, starting a playgroup with new faces is an ideal way to encourage an acquaintance to blossom into a friendship.

Where do I meet these new moms, you ask? The opportunities are definitely out there waiting for you

Go outside. Play in your front yard with your children and introduce yourself to passing neighbors. When you meet someone who has children, you already have one thing in common--parenting. It is easy to strike up a conversation with another parent about the one topic that you both know so well.

Explore your neighborhood. Load up the stroller or wagon and cruise. A person with your morals, values and children the same age as yours could live just a fraction of a mile from you.

Take advantage of low cost neighborhood events. Parks, library story time sessions and fast food establishment playgrounds are usually patronized by parents seeking to entertain their children on a budget. Reach out and talk to another mother while the children play, and in a short time, you will know if this person is someone who you would like to see again.

Remember to be careful. Do not invite any strangers to your house for a playgroup too abruptly. Wait until you feel comfortable and have some confirmation that your new acquaintance is a stable, trusting person. You may want to arrange a meeting at another public place before opening the doors to your home to your new friend.

One last word on going out there to meet new friends. Women who are shy or have a hard time starting up a conversation with others will feel blessed that you have found them. You will be doing something wonderful for them and their children by making the first move.

Routines and Themes

You now have a list of potential members for your new playgroup and it's time to arrange the first get-together at your house. As the person who has decided to step forward and start a playgroup, you have yet another title to add to your name--"official playgroup coordinator." Get ready to coordinate!

Make telephone calls to invite your friends over. Keep in mind that if young children who take afternoon naps are involved, you may want to plan a morning playgroup.

You may want to have a theme. Some playgroups include snacks, lunch or crafts. An example would be having the hosting mother provide a lunch entree, and the attending mothers bring an assigned side dish, beverage or dessert. There are many variations regarding meals. Another option is for the children to eat breakfast before the playgroup, allowing the moms to enjoy a potluck breakfast while the children play.

The tail end of the first playgroup is a good time to sense if everyone would like to get together again. Now is the time to discuss how often to meet (weekly or bi-weekly) and see if someone else is willing to host the group next time. If you feel a little resistance, offer to use your house again. You may find that it takes more than one meeting at your house before others are ready to host the group themselves.

Playgroups do not always have to meet at a member's house. The group can utilize parks, beaches, lakes, malls, pizza parlors or any other public facility. This breaks up the routine of being confined to a house and offers variety.

Have Fun!!

You have a wonderful journey ahead of you that will include the laughter of children and moments of bonding with other mothers. Load your camera with fresh film and get your scrapbook ready because a milestone in your child's life is about to begin.

Sharon Waldrop is a stay-at-home mother of four children, married to a Deputy Sheriff. They live on a mountain. She is an active member of La Leche League and Moms Club, a PTA volunteer and Sunday school teacher.