Playgroup Planning

If you have to watch one more minute of Dora the Explorer, you may go clinically insane. You haven't left the house in two days, and the child you love more than life itself is seriously testing your patience. You need a playdate, Mom, and for that to happen, you need to start a playgroup.

Three Moms and Their Toddlers

You love spending time with your child, but you didn't quite realize that you would be spending so much time together. Alone together. How many times can you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and be surprised by the ending? (Spoiler: He turns into a beautiful butterfly.)

Your BB (before baby) girlfriends don't call all that much, and you don't have so much in common anymore. You're starving for adult companionship, and the UPS guy now hurls your packages from his truck, afraid you're going to invite him in to watch Desperate Housewives again.

Or maybe you're just a little bit lonely, and you'd like to find a way you and your child can enjoy some company on a regular basis. Time to start a playgroup.

Playgroups 101

The ideal playgroup for babies 0 to 2 is about 4 or 5 kids and caregivers. So how do you round up the gang? You can put up signs at a local community center, coffee shop, or library; hit the playground to scope out the moms; call your church or synagogue; or even post on a local message board.

Let your interests guide you when choosing where you place your ad. Post it in a place where you might meet people you have something in common with. In other words, if you're an avid reader, post a notice at your local library. If you love knitting, consider hanging a sign at a local craft shop. That way, you have a better chance of meeting people you'll enjoy spending time with.

Don't give out your address on signs in public places. Instead, post general information, such as, "Mom of 18-month-old girl looking to start weekly playgroup in the Hampton Heights neighborhood. Moms (or Dads!) and babies up to age 2 welcome. Email janedoe@yahoo.com or call 555-1212 for information.

Do not hesitate to create a temporary email address and phone number (you can register for disposable numbers online) for this purpose. You are basically inviting strangers into your home, and it is totally legitimate to protect yourself.

The basics

For the same reason--your safety--it's fine to suggest that the first meeting be in an enclosed playspace. You can even be up front about why you're doing this -- as long as you do it with good humor. "Let's meet at Chuck E Cheese the first time, so we can make sure none of us are axe murderers. Then we can set a rotating schedule at our houses."

Make sure all the moms understand that this is not a drop-off babysitting offer. And think about the kind of playgroup you want: are you looking for structured activities for the kids, or are you just putting them down on the floor with some toys and sitting with your coffee and your adult conversation? Both groups have their merits -- it's a question of personality and desire.

Advanced playgroup tactics

Once the group is up and running, think about adding a Mom's Night Out once a month where you can get together without your little angels. Even if your playgroup is unstructured, your conversations are undoubtedly interrupted to change diapers, rescue toddlers, and so on, and an evening of just grown-ups can be a welcome change.

Also, don't hesitate to invite the moms and kids on a one-on-one basis occasionally. You might find a stroller walking buddy or someone to trade babysitting with. And be on the lookout for the occasional new member, too. If you see a young mother in the neighborhood, and you notice her eyes have that slightly glazed look you remember from your pre-playgroup days, invite her to join you. She'll be able to catch you up on what Dora's doing these days, so everyone wins.

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Comments

Comments on "Start a playgroup and save your sanity"

Betsy February 10, 2009 | 3:47 PM

You can also go all Web 2.0 and find like-minded mamas online! For example, you can hook up with (or start your own) local playgroups, mommy and me groups, mommy support groups etc. at http://meetup. It's a great resource - especially if you're new to a community.

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