What about playgroups?

Parents probably benefit from playgroups more than their children do. Parents of very young children often feel isolated, so they welcome a chance to meet with other adults, compare child rearing stories and advice, and observe how other parents handle their children. Of course the children also can benefit from a playgroup, and as they get older, they enjoy seeing their friends regularly and playing at each other’s homes.

If you’re interested in starting a playgroup, talk to other parents about the possibility. Ask your neighbors and friends or look in grocery stores, houses of worship, and newsletters for notices from other interested parents. Although playgroups are most convenient when the participants live near each other, groups often form between people in different neighborhoods.

Your playgroup will probably work best with three to five children of mixed ages. If all the children are two and one-half, there will be a great deal of arguing over possessions, but if some are two and some are four, group meetings will be more harmonious. The youngest child will be happy playing alone next to the others, and the oldest ones will be more likely than the two-year-olds to share toys.

Many playgroups are successful meeting in the morning, although some meet between 3:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon, normally a slow time for at-home parents with young children. Other playgroups meet on the weekends so parents who work full-time can participate.

Your playgroup will probably get together once a week, meeting at each member’s house in turn. In some groups, every parent comes every time, while in others, parents rotate attendance so that in a group with six children, two parents attend any one session while four have the time free. The success of this rotating method depends on the ages and personalities of the children, and how well the families know each other. Some young children do not want to be separated from their parents and may cry for a few minutes or for the whole play session, particularly if the parents in charge are not familiar.

Before your playgroup begins meeting, get together with the other parents involved and develop rules and standards for practical issues. What kind of snack will be served? What happens when children fight? Who should bring toys? How will you handle the problem of sharing toys?

Your playgroup will be most successful if the parents involved share similar interests and attitudes, especially regarding parenting, since conflicts can arise when one group member accepts behavior that bothers another. As long as the adult members of a playgroup are basically compatible, they should be able to talk about their differences and try to work out solutions to the group’s problems.

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