Monday, August 29, 2005

Playgroups for your baby

When my baby was about seven months old, I received a flyer from a woman who lived down the street from me about starting a playgroup for the little ones in our neighborhood. I lived in a development of new houses and many people had just started their families-- so there were definitely more than a few babies around.

Still, I wondered if, at seven months, was my daughter ready to "play" with other kids? I decided to go, if for nothing more than to meet a few other moms in my neighborhood. I'm really glad I did-- four years later our little playgroup is still going strong, complete with a second round of babies.

Is a playgroup right for your baby?

Babies love to see other babies, so even though a young baby will not "play" with other kids per se, he or she will still be entertained and delighted. Playgroups are a great way to expose your baby to other children, especially if your baby is an only child. The concept of sharing can come into play and new friendships will be made.

In our neighborhood playgroup, the kids didn't start to "play" together until they were close to two years old. Even today, with some of the kids being four or five years old, they sometimes all play in their own little corners. But then they will come together to play in the toy kitchen or to play hide and seek and nothing is cuter.

The babies in the bunch enjoy playing with their new friend's toys. And as for the moms, they get to have real adult conversations. It's a win win situation for all involved.

So how can you start a playgroup in your neighborhood? Here are some guidelines:

1. Start spreading the word to some of your closest neighbors and friends and send an email or a flyer out to the rest of the parents with young children.

2. Make sure to take into consideration that babies do nap, and schedule your playgroup for mid-morning or in the afternoon after naptimes.

3. Plan to provide a light snack for the adults or, if older toddlers will be in your group, something that they can enjoy too (our group usually dines on mini muffins-- regular sized muffins are too big for the little ones).

4. Make sure the television is turned off and it is off limits-- there's no need to distract the kid's with the TV blaring in the background.

5. Kid friendly music can provide a fun background for young babies during playtime. The "Baby Einstein" music CDs are especially good.

6. Rotate who will host playgroup each week-- every baby should get a turn to share his or her toys with the other kids.

7. Just have fun. Remember that small babies do not need structured play-- just being around their friends in a new environment will be a great experience.

You may think your baby is too young to realize what is going on, but the first time you see that big smile when you tell your child that you're both going to his or her friend's house, you'll realize that the playgroup is a highly anticipated event.

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