Benefits of Joining a Baby Playgroupby Dianna Graveman
Considering a playgroup for you and your little one? There are plenty of reasons to form one or join an existing group, and the benefits for both parent and baby are many. A playgroup can be defined as a small gathering of children who are close in age, and their parents or caregivers. The group gets together, often on a regular or scheduled basis, to visit, exchange ideas and information, or just have fun and socialize.
Playgroups can be beneficial for children of any age, but as babies and toddlers begin to develop social personalities and display empathetic tendencies toward others, joining a playgroup can help them become more independent and confident.
When joining or forming a group, keep in mind that some groups are formal, with designated leaders or planners and a set schedule, while others are more informal and spontaneous. You may wish to choose a group that suits yours and your baby's personality.
Another point to consider is group size. If your baby tends to become irritable when overstimulated, a big group might not be for you. Consider gathering with one or two other children and their parents or caregivers, instead.
Also consider the practicality of the location. You won't want to drive a long distance in nasty weather, but if hosting the playgroup on occasion sounds like more stress than fun, a group that meets at a central location may be the best choice. Time is a factor, too: Does your baby usually nap when the group meets? If so, it might not be worth rearranging your child's schedule to accommodate the group.
Benefits for Baby
As stated above, the more opportunities babies have to interact with others, the more confident they will become in learning to socialize. As they continue to grow, they will learn to interpret social cues and develops skills for coping when things don't always go their way. Once children are older and enter preschool, they will have a head start if they have had the opportunity to interact in group settings with other children the same age. And if your playgroup meets in the area where you live, chances are your child will begin preschool already knowing some of his classmates.
Benefits for Mom
Adult interaction: Full-time moms especially need some adult interaction once in awhile. No matter how much you enjoy being with your kids, sometimes you just need to talk to another grownup.
Advice and Exchange of Ideas: Whether this is your first child or your third, questions or situations will occasionally arise for which another mother's perspective might be helpful. If it's your first child, you can benefit from the expertise of those more experienced--but sometimes it's good to just commiserate with other first-time mothers who are as uncertain about some things as you are. When to offer solids, when to potty train, when to stop breastfeeding--all of these are individual choices, and your pediatrician can offer suggestions, too. But sometimes, there is just nothing like the comfort of knowing somebody else is going through the same things you are and possibly making similar mistakes, at times. You're in this together.
Babysitting Swap: Occasionally, you may need an afternoon away for an appointment or for leisure. You may be able to work out a babysitting exchange with someone in your playgroup, for those one-in-a-while outings. Also, the more parents you know, the more recommendations you can gather--about sitters, daycares, and more. Just make sure to not step on any toes by monopolizing a sitter every weekend after a playgroup mom has referred him or her.
Making a Trade: Babysitting services aren't the only thing you may want to swap. If the children in your child's playgroup are of slightly different ages or sizes, consider handing down gently used clothing or lending and borrowing items like strollers and cribs.
Inexpensive Entertainment: Meeting at someone's home, the park, or the library (after your child is older) is an inexpensive way to socialize and provide entertainment for both you and your child. Occasionally, your group may want to attend an event that charges admission, such as the zoo or a performance event, but most of the time, your playgroup is a free or cheap way to have fun and add some variety to your routine.
If you think a playgroup might be just the ticket, you can find existing groups listed in local parents' magazines or on community bulletin boards at the grocery store, library, or community center. Check with your pediatrician, too. And if all else fails, form your own! Post your notice and wait for the fun to begin.
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