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Making Friends: Choosing or Forming a Playgroup

March 16, 2012

If you’re a full-time or even a part-time stay-at-home parent, or if your children stay with a nanny or a relative during the workday, you know that they (and you!) need some regular socializing. Many parents begin attending a playgroup with their children from just a few months of age. Playgroups can be a great way for you to meet other parents in your area, and even as a baby, your child will begin to learn to share and communicate in an environment with kids of various ages. Even parents with children in full-time daycare may choose to participate in a playgroup every few weekends.

Finding a playgroup in your area may require you to ask around. Your pediatrician’s office, library, church, or local coffee shop may have leads for you, and any friends and neighbors with kids probably have a few to recommend. You may want to visit a few playgroups before committing to one. Take into consideration the structure and frequency of the playgroup. How often does it meet? Are families required to attend every single play-date? Does the playgroup involve structured activities or outings, or is it simply a time for free-play and conversation? Are there a few kids close to your child’s age? Is it close to your home or work, making attendance easy and stress-free?

You may discover that you know of several families who are looking for the perfect playgroup and who might like to form one with you. When putting together a playgroup, remember to keep numbers in mind. Between 10 and 15 kids is ideal. Any larger, and you run the risk of creating a chaotic atmosphere, and a group that may not be welcome at the playground! Any smaller, and you’ve got a group that quickly falls apart when a couple of families get a stomach bug and can’t attend. You’ll want to come up with a few guidelines, so that people know who to call if they can’t make it, not to bring their sick children to the group, and when and where to meet when plans are changed.

And whether you join an existing group or form one of your own, remember that you’re there to make friends, too! Many parents find close friends amongst parents with kids of the same age. Come to the playgroup ready to socialize with other moms and dads, and be prepared to encounter a lot of different parenting philosophies from your own. Another mom might be a bit more laid-back about discipline than you are; try to be as hands-off as possible with her kids unless an extreme situation arises. Other parents might be more concerned about the various head-bumps and minor falls that occur during a play-date. Be respectful of other parents’ worries and methods. And remember that not all of the kids will get along perfectly, all the time. A rude word here or a grabbed toy there do not necessarily mean that your kids won’t play well together in the long run.

During those early years when your kids aren’t in school and are starting to develop their social skills, and when you are new to the parenting and feeling a bit at sea, a playgroup with parents and children who have fun together can be a great lifeline. Set the example for your kids, and have fun!

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