Setting Up A Play Group

Nov 05, 2012 No Comments by

Unless there was a convenient little boy or girl next door, toddlers of previous generations did most of their playing on their own or with family members. Interactions with children of the same age were usually pretty limited until a child started nursery.

And then along came play group (some times called toddler group), greatly widening the social horizons of small children, providing those in this generation of toddlers who aren’t in day care or nursery the opportunity for early group play experiences. In a play group, toddlers can practice their social skills while enjoying (or at least learning to enjoy) the company and camaraderie of other children. But play groups are as beneficial for parents as they are for toddlers. Swapping war stories, seeing and hearing that you’re not alone – that your toddler is not the only one who’s having a hard time-sharing, not the only one who’s being hitting or biting, not the only one who’s been throwing tantrums, or not the only one who won’t eat anything but cereal – can be remarkably therapeutic. Exchanging ideas, insights and tips on dealing with toddler eccentricities can enhance parenting effectiveness and confidence.

setting up toddler group

setting up toddler group

  1. Decide on the basic format. In most play ground for the very young, toddlers attend with a parent (or other caregiver), allowing adults to talk while children play. This format also permits parents to hope (hopefully) discipline your own child, making peace keeping (hopefully) less complicates. What it doesn’t allow is for parents to get some time off. IF this is part of the objective, you might consider a co-op arrangement, which combines a play ground situation with child care.
  2. Limit the number of players. A group of six is probably the ideal – small enough to be accommodated is most homes and large enough to function even if one or two members are under the weather or out-of-town. Four or five can work well, too, but more than eight can lead to overcrowding, over stimulation, and chaos (not enough toys to go around, not enough room in which to serve a snack). It may help to aim for an even number of members (though inevitably, there will be times when an odd numbers will show up) sop that as children start playing one-one-one, there will be less of a possibility that a single toddler will be left out.
  3. Look for a good match. Temperament and interest may be tricky to harmonize, particularly since toddler tend to fluctuate in those areas from day to day and week to week. But major disparities in development and skills can be avoided by aiming for not much more than three or four months between the oldest child and the youngest. Generally, groups that are all-boy, all-girl or pretty evenly split between the sexes work better than groups in which one sex overwhelming outnumbers the other.
  4. Match parents, too. Parents in the group don’t have to start out as best friends (although they may end up that way), but all should be compatible, fairly well matched in personality and parenting style. Test the chemistry of potential play group parents by holding a few trial meetings to see how it goes. And only discuss setting up a group when the chemistry seems right. Likewise, if you’re joining an established group, attend a couple of sessions on a trial basis before committing to membership.
  5. Decide where to meet. Most groups rotate from home to home; others meet regularly in one place, such as a community church hall, a synagogue. For a change of place, head for park or playground in pleasant weather, or a child-friendly museum on a rainy day.
  6. Decide when to meet. Toddler are generally jollier at certain times of the day than others. Pick a time when all participants are relatively well rested (not just before Naptime) and well fed (not right before meal-time, unless you plan to serve a sustaining snack). Avoid the very end of the day if parent and toddler stress levels tend to be height at that time. At first, plan to keep sessions hour – an hour or so – so that the children can get acclimatized to the group gradually. As they start becoming more comfortable, begin lengthening the sessions until you find the children’s outer limit for togetherness, probably about two hours.

Set basic safety rules. Most experts agree that it’s best to ban children when they sick.


After The Baby Is Born, The Toddlers Year
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