How to Start a Toddlers’ Playgroup
By Christine Louise Hohlbaum |
Your toddler is into everything, and the day feels longer than Rapunzel’s hair. How do you keep your little one occupied in a constructive and fun manner? Start a toddlers’ playgroup!
You don’t need much in terms of materials, but you will need a space big enough to accommodate the number of children in the group. Too many children in too small of an area can lead to disaster. Ask your local church, synagogue, or community center for a two-hour slot in their building. Make certain that there are enough toys and books for the children to use.
If you need participants, advertise in your local parents paper. Oftentimes, parents papers offer free advertising for private groups. You might just be surprised at how many people respond to your ad. They’ve probably wanted to start a group themselves and didn’t know how!
Organizing the playgroup can be simple if you follow a few ground rules. Always start the group in a circle with a few songs of introduction. "My name is Sarah, my name is Sarah, what’s your name? What’s your name?" is a great song to begin your playgroup. It helps the leader get familiar with each child’s name.
Next, allow for some free play for the children. Oftentimes, the children are distracted by the unfamiliar toys in the room. Give them plenty of free time to play with the "new" toys and to interact with the other children. Allot 30 minutes for free play.
Singing a clean-up song helps teach children that it is time to put away the toys and start another activity. They also learn to help their parents clean up, instead of letting them do it by themselves! In my house, we sing before doing almost anything. "This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth..."
Giving the children a snack before craft time is helpful. They are more likely to participate if their tummies are full. Provide a brief, healthful snack (such as fruit or cheese). Once that is cleaned up, you can opt to do a simple craft project or read a story.
I like to emphasize literacy even in the smallest of children. Using oversized books of classics such as "Good Night, Moon" or "Runaway Bunny" is helpful with a large group of children. Make sure to ask the children questions as you read along. Even if they do not respond, your diversified tone more likely will hold their attention.
Singing songs in which the children are engaged is the most fun. "Old MacDonald," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" are some examples. Borrow a children’s songbook from your local library for other ideas.
At the end of the playgroup, you can signal that it is time to leave by singing a goodbye song, again in a circle. It helps ease the transition out of the room for toddlers who have a hard time leaving places, and it is a nice way to end a playgroup session.
Now go out there, gather your friends and their kids, and have some fun!
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, occasionally leads a toddler playgroup in Paunzhausen, Germany. She is the mother of two children, wife to a German scientist, and an overall goofball who likes to have fun.
You can visit her web site at: http://mypages.iparenting.com/webs/diaryofamother/diaryofamother.html