Find Your Best Friends in a Playgroup

February 12th, 2013 posted by Carren W. Joye

by Carren W. Joye

mom and son From board meetings and deadlines to board games and diapers, I transitioned from a public relations professional at a university to a full time stay-at-home mom. Quicker than I expected, isolation and loneliness set in as I spent my days at home with a toddler and a preschooler. Realizing that I had to find other children and at-home parents nearby, my solution was to start a playgroup. Since then, I have had two more children, founded three more playgroups and a homeschool group, and have written a book. But I would have to say that the most important result from my early playgroup efforts is that my children and I have made lifelong friends! You, too, can find your best friends in a playgroup and enjoy getting out of the house. Picture weekly playgroup sessions and impromptu playdates, someone to talk to about parenting issues and something to do besides sing nursery rhymes and change diapers! So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started! To save you some time, you may want to look for an existing group in your area first. Contact local churches, libraries, YMCAs and hospitals in your area. Most support groups for parents meet in locations such as these. Surf the Internet for an existing group. Web sites such as OnlinePlaygroup.com, PlaydateConnection.com and ClubsForMoms.com feature directories of playgroups and parents’ groups sorted by city and state. Check the community calendar of your local newspaper. Many groups advertise their meetings. Join a local chapter of one of the many national organizations for at-home parents, such as MOMS Clubs (Moms Offering Moms Support), MOPS (Mothers Of PreSchoolers) and Mothers and More. There are also organizations for at-home dads, working parents, parents of multiples, etc. Although many of them require fees, they are nominal and they cover a variety of services, such as playgroups. If you can’t find an existing group to join, start your own playgroup. Follow these steps and soon you and your child will be making new friends!

Decide to Do It

Make a few preliminary decisions about the kind of group that you and your child would like. Generally, you need to consider such issues as frequency and location of meetings, necessity of membership dues, and the age-range of the children. Also, how many participants do you want? Will the children play while the adults talk, or will your members participate in structured activities? Will you serve snacks? The answers to these questions will determine how you will find other parents who may be interested and will make setting up your first meeting much easier.

Get the Word Out

Find other parents who want the same things from a playgroup as you do. In other words, get the word out about your playgroup! Advertise in the community calendar of your local newspaper. Introduce yourself to other parents you see with their children at the park or fast food restaurants. Get friends, spouses and business associates to pass the word around. Place posters in area businesses where parents with children are likely to see them, such as libraries, pediatrician’s offices and parks. Distribute flyers in neighborhoods that seem to have a large number of families with children. Finally, add your playgroup to the online directories at OnlinePlaygroup.com, PlaydateConnection.com and ClubsForMoms.com.

Plan the First Meeting

You can plan your first meeting once you have just one response from another interested parent! Ideally, you want several inquiries, but that’s not absolutely necessary. For those who do call, whether just one or several, get their names, children’s names and phone numbers and be ready to provide information about your new group, such as what activities are provided and where and when you meet. If you have not already decided on the time and place, ask for their input on the days and times convenient for them. Your first meeting will set the stage and tone for the playgroup sessions, possibly for many months and years to come! Prepare wisely. Important things to remember include babyproofing your house, gathering any necessary materials for activities, preparing refreshments, and making copies of the playgroup’s phone list and guidelines. If your group plans structured activities, decide in advance what the participants will do and approximately how much time will be spent on each activity. Most importantly, remember to call everyone with the date, time and directions to the location!

Host the First Meeting

Make sure you are early and prepared for the first meeting. Once everyone has arrived, discuss the preliminary decisions you have already made, such as location, frequency of meetings, membership dues, and guidelines. Most importantly, have fun and don’t stress out! Within about six weeks, your group will be well on the way to being a successful and long-lasting playgroup. Before too long, you will find that these playgroup members have become close family friends!

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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