Joining A Playgroup
By Carren W. Joye|
You rejoiced when you found out you had conceived your wonderful baby. You eagerly crossed off the weeks during your pregnancy leading to the birth of your beautiful baby. You’ve survived the first couple of months with little sleep and no social life. Now baby needs a little more entertainment than you’re able to give. Plus, you’re ready for a little more stimulation yourself! But you don’t want to expose her to germs and you don’t want to be separated for hours at a time. What can a mom and baby do that will provide entertainment for both of them in a safe environment?
Ever think of joining a playgroup?
Playgroups are not just for children; they are just as important to the parents who participate too. Even if you think your baby is too young to benefit from participating in a playgroup, you may be surprised at how much she and you will gain from joining one! Take a look at some of the advantages to participating in a playgroup for children and adults.
For entertainment on a regular basis, the playgroup is unmatched! Weekly playgroups provide an enjoyable diversion where the children can play with friends while their moms talk or where all the members enjoy a structured mom-child activity. Even babies enjoy watching older children play. “We meet three times a week, which is a big help to keep the kids busy during the week and to allow them to make strong friendships,” says Jessica LaLonde, mother of three and founder of the Younger Moms of Orange County in California.
Playgroups provide children with the opportunity to play with others besides their own moms or siblings. In addition, many of the children in playgroup will likely be in their classes when school starts, especially if the group is composed of neighborhood residents. Children can make lifelong friends in playgroup!
Plus, playgroups give moms a chance to make new friends and network too. Indeed, friendship is perhaps the greatest reward of joining a playgroup. Many adults, too, find lifelong friends in their playgroups!
During play, children learn valuable skills, such as how to share, take turns and role-play. They can also engage in crafts or other structured activities. For families who don’t want to consider preschool or a Moms Day Out program, a playgroup is a viable solution.
Low Stress Mom-Child Activity
A playgroup is not a babysitting service; parents stay with their children. That means no worries with separation anxiety! The children can play and have fun without having to worry about mom leaving. It’s a very reassuring and confidence-building way to introduce children to socialization and to give them a little bit of independence at the same time.
Additionally, you don’t have the added stress of worrying about the safety of your child. Because parents stay with their children, they are assured of the care and safety of their precious little ones during playgroup.
Free or Low Cost
Whether meeting in each other’s homes or at a central location like a park, spending time with friends in a playgroup doesn’t have to cost a cent! Most neighborhood playgroups do not charge membership dues at all. Although local chapters of national organizations often charge fees, they are nominal and they cover a variety of services and benefits.
A Therapeutic Time Out
All moms need a break now and then, but many don't have the extra money to spend on a Moms Day Out program or on going out. Playgroups offer the opportunity for at-home parents to get that weekly break from home, and yet spend time with their children at the same time. “There isn’t any ‘off time’ as a parent,” says Danielle Lee of Mission Viejo, California, who founded the Working Moms Community Organization. “Having a support system like a playgroup is somewhat therapeutic.”
Seek Advice and Share Experiences
Playgroups offer parents a chance to seek parenting advice and share experiences from others who are facing the same struggles. In today’s society many new mothers not only have postponed having children, but also have moved great distances from their families and friends. They no longer have that built-in support system that all new moms need. Playgroups and parents’ groups fill that gap. In addition, playgroups for working parents and at-home dads are increasing, according to information at OnlinePlaygroup.com, an Internet resource for finding, starting and managing a playgroup. So even working parents and at-home dads are getting the support they need from playgroups.
A babysitting co-op consists of a number of families in a community who decide to share babysitting among themselves without the exchange of money. Many playgroups offer babysitting co-ops as a benefit for their members. Some are formal record-keeping groups, while others are more informal. The co-op is used for errands and doctor’s appointments and could even be used for weekends so parents could go out without the hassle of finding a sitter and the expense of paying for one. The parents feel more comfortable knowing their children are watched by an adult they know and by someone with whom the children feel comfortable as well. “Moms all over have discovered how best friends make the best baby-sitters,” says Gary Myers, author of The Smart Mom’s Baby-sitting Co-op Handbook.
Help During Personal Need
In dealing with an emergency for one child, a mom may need a babysitter for her other child in a pinch. Sometimes a mom may need a safe place for her baby when she herself is ill. Some playgroups institute an “In a Pinch” service with a list of moms who can babysit at the last minute. Since many families do not have relatives nearby, many parents find it convenient and comforting to have someone whom they know and trust that they could call at the last minute. In addition, through playgroup, their children know and feel comfortable with that other adult as well. “When I was battling post-partum depression, I needed someone to watch my nine-month-old son at the last minute several times,” says Angie (last name withheld), a member of the Millbrook Playgroup in Alabama. “I don’t know what I would have done without the friends I have made here in playgroup!”
Sharing, Borrowing and Exchanging
Many playgroups offer various barter systems, where members exchange goods and/or services with other members. These can include coupons, maternity and children’s clothes, and other baby items as well as services such as mowing the lawn, painting a room, or sewing clothes.
Many local businesses offer discounts for non-profit groups, allowing playgroup members to save money at the stores they frequent.
Many parents’ groups and playgroups schedule field trips and other special events. The field trips can be “behind the scenes” tours of such places as fire stations, police stations, and other no-cost locations. Members get a chance to see the local sites and learn more about the area in which they live. Some groups even become involved in the community through various service projects.
Don’t delay joining or starting a playgroup just because you think your child is too young. You’ll be surprised how much you both will get out of it!
Carren W. Joye, homeschooling mom of four children, has founded five successful playgroups and helped start countless other playgroups around the world via the Internet. She is the author of A Stay-At-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups and the main force behind Onlineplaygroup.com.
Copyright © 2000 Carren W. Joye, All Rights Reserved Reprinted with Permission