Friday, February 27, 2015

So You Want to Start Your Own Playgroup?

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Play is a key part of developing a child's social, mental, physical and emotional development. Said Jean Piaget, a notable theorist in the Child Development field, "Play is the work of children." 

Unbeknownst to so many that stacking colored blocks beside their friend or pretending to be mermaids as they splash with the hose was such an important moment in their education. Play provides endless opportunities for children to test the world around them, including the people in it. When children are able to play with other children their age the play is even more productive as they reach slightly past those things that they have yet to master and practice them. Allowing children to play regularly with their same-age peers will further all aspects of their development in real ways.

Playgroups provide exactly this kind of play. But not every community or neighborhood offers them. So what is a parent to do? Start their own! The steps are simple and the results are profound!

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1. Set the Parameters.  First determine the when, where and how. Decide whether playgroup will be held once a week, every other week, once a month, etc. Also determine what time of day your group will be, this could be before naps, in the afternoon, or when ever works for your group. Lastly choose a location for your group. This can be at your home, trading off homes, at a park or local meeting area. 

2. Pick the Players. The success of your play group is largely defined by who comes to play. Ideal play groups are made up of 4-6 children in the same age range and a balanced mix of boys and girls. Play group is also for more than just the children, so invite children with whom their parents you mesh with through similar lifestyles and parenting ideals.

3. Establish the Ground Rules. As a group determine the ground rules on toys, snacks, clean-up and communication. Decide what toys will be provided, i.e. blocks, games or dramatic play items that children can play with as a group or individual play items. Make a decision for whether snacks will be included, and if so who will provide them. One way that works well is a sort of BYOB rule where B stands for bananas of course. Clean-up rules can be sticky, especially if the group is held in one members home. Decide if you will confine the group to one room in the house, the backyard or if the whole house is free-reign. Lastly decide how your group will share information. Some ways that work well are group text messages, email or a Facebook page.

4. Test the Waters. The last step comes after the first few playgroups and that is to test the waters as you go. Determine if your time of day is conducive to all the children, the length of your playgroup can be shortened or lengthened, and how often you hold playgroup. Discuss with the other parents these topics and come to a decision as a group. As the one who's spearheaded the group however you are the final decision maker and communicator.

Though the set up of your playgroup requires a little time and thought, once you have your playgroup established there's only fun and games ahead. 

Steps from What to Expect.

Welcome Baby also has some Playgroup Lesson Plans that you can use with your kids. There are generic lesson ideas, special Holiday lesson plans, and all plans are for ages 1-5.
No matter what you choose to do, have fun!

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