In Search of the Perfect Playgroup

February 12th, 2013 posted by Carren W. Joye

Many parents these days are seeking playgroups for themselves and their children. Although the perfect playgroup does not exist, one will likely be better suited for you and your child than others. To find the right one, you need to ask yourself: What am I looking for in a group? Aside from playmates for your child and friends for you, other considerations may come to mind. Once you know what you want in a playgroup, then you can find a group you would feel most comfortable joining. Here are some questions you might ask yourself before your first visit:

Do I want the kids to be about the same age or various ages?

If you have an infant or a crawling baby, you may want to join a playgroup designed exclusively for infants. After all, it will be difficult to protect a crawling baby from running toddlers and preschoolers. On the other hand, if your child is walking, he will pick up new skills by watching the older children.

Do I want several kids in the group or just a few?

Consider your child’s personality. Is he outgoing and quick to join a group or does he need time to feel comfortable in new surroundings? Does he thrive in stimulating environments? Or do noise and activity overwhelm him? Your child’s personality will help you choose the best playgroup environment for him.

Do I want my child involved in structured activities or just playtime?

If your child is a preschooler, you may prefer activities that will enhance her skills for school. On other hand, a social playtime gives kids a chance to explore and experiment without having to work on any particular skill other than socialization.

Do I want a discussion group for the parents as well as a playgroup for my child?

If you are seeking support and parenting information as well as playmates for your child, then you need a group that does not focus exclusively on children’s activities. You may be interested in a social playgroup, where the children play while the parents talk. Or you may prefer a local chapter of a national mothers’ organization, where the moms meet for crafts or seminars about motherhood issues, while sitters supervise the children.

What day and time are best for my child to play?

Consider your weekly schedule as well as your child’s daily schedule. If your child needs an afternoon nap, you need to join a playgroup that meets in the morning. Also, if you participate in a Bible study once a week, you would want a playgroup that meets on another day.

Do I want the playgroup to meet in our homes or a central location?

Small groups tend to meet in each other’s homes; however, most likely this would mean that you would have to take your turn hosting playgroup. Some parents hesitate to join these groups because they are concerned about the size and condition of their home, particularly those who live in apartments. On the other hand, if you have more than one child, you may feel uncomfortable trying to keep a close eye on two or more children who are exploring different areas of the park at the same time. In that case, a room at a church or community center may be best.

How should the children be supervised and disciplined?

Children should not be left on their own to play. You need to decide if you are comfortable with sitters supervising the children, kids playing in the same area as the parents, or parents taking turns watching the children. Prepare to be tolerant of other children’s behavior and their parents’ discipline methods. However, if you feel uncomfortable or if you think your child will pick up bad habits, perhaps this is not the playgroup for you.

Do I want the other children to be close by or is distance not a problem?

Consider how far you will have to drive to the meeting location. If your child does not ride for long distances very well, you may prefer a group that meets in your neighborhood. However, if there are no other youngsters in your area, you may be willing to drive a long distance. Remember, if you want to be able to invite playgroup friends over one afternoon, they need to live fairly close by.

How much am I willing to pay for membership?

Most neighborhood playgroups are free. The only costs involved may be serving snacks during your turn to host the group or bringing craft supplies. On the other hand, most local chapters of national mothers’ organizations charge minimal annual dues. You need to decide how much your budget will allow you to spend.

Am I looking for something in particular?

Finally, turn your attention to other concerns. Perhaps you want your son to join a playgroup exclusively for little boys. You may be looking for even more diversity or exclusivity, such as groups for new moms, premature babies, working moms, or at-home dads. On the other hand, you may be more interested in certain services and benefits offered by the group, such as babysitting co-ops or moms’ nights out. Consider all of these issues as you search for the perfect playgroup for you and your child. You may be lucky enough to have several groups to choose from in your area. If you do, by all means, visit them all. See if you click with the parents and see if your child feels comfortable. You may even want to visit each group more than once before you decide to join one or even all of them. In any case, if you go to a playgroup session with an idea of what you are looking for, you will know more quickly which group would be the perfect one for you.

Carren W. Joye (2 Posts)

Carren W. Joye, a homeschooling mom of four children and author of "A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups" (Writers Club Press, Dec. 2000), has founded five successful playgroups and assisted countless playgroups around the world via the Internet. In addition to writing for various magazines, she maintains the playgroup and homeschool web sites. She is also the main force behind OnlinePlaygroup.com, an Internet resource for finding, starting and managing a playgroup.


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