Why Playgroups Are Important for Preschoolers

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If you are looking for a way to help your preschooler make new friends while learning important social skills, a playgroup might be something to look into.

A playgroup is a gathering of similarly aged children and their parents or caregivers. The group meets on a regular basis either in someone's home or a common space like a park, library, or community center.

Playgroups can be formal groups, such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), or an informal gathering of local moms. The common thread is that they give both children and grown-ups a chance to connect and socialize.

Research shows attending playgroups benefit both children and their parents. The regular groups support children’s social development, ease the transition to school, and improve overall health, while also providing social and health support to parents, knowledge sharing, and learning opportunities. 

Practicing Social Skills

In a playgroup, children get the opportunity to practice their social skills in a safe, familiar setting. Adults can get both friendship and support from people who understand exactly what they are going through.

Activities can be organized for kids (such as song time or crafts) or they can simply come together to play. It's important to figure out ahead of time what each participant is looking for from the playgroup. Some may want a more formal structure, while others prefer an informal meeting.

For the most part, many playgroups try to keep the children who participate all within the same age range, but that isn't a requirement. There are different reasons people come together to create or participate in a playgroup. 

Some playgroups are simply made up of common friends from the same school or daycare. Sometimes they are brought together because people answered an ad or saw a flier or Facebook post. Other times children are diagnosed with a similar issue such as ADHD and the playgroup environment is a good one in which everyone can feel relaxed and accepted.

Set up Rules and Goals

Before you start or join a playgroup, it is important that you become familiar with the goals and rules of the playgroup (and in some cases, there may be none or very little).

Knowing what the basic guidelines are ahead of time—for example bring your own snacks, how much and how often dues are paid, the location of the meeting place, and if siblings are allowed—will help avoid future misunderstandings.

Depending on the size of the playgroup, parents may establish other social rules. For example:

  • If a birthday party is held, do all the children need to be invited?
  • If one of the participants has a friend or relative visiting at the time of playgroup, is the other child permitted to come?
  • Are drop-offs allowed at playgroup or are parents or caregivers required to stay?
  • How are disagreements within the playgroup handled?
  • Is there ever a circumstance where a child or a parent is asked to leave the playgroup?

These issues may also work themselves out on their own if they even come up. It really depends on the makeup of the group and how formal they are about setting rules. 

Playgroups are different from playdates in that playgroups tend to meet on a fairly regular basis, while a playdate is usually a one-time thing. However, if a playdate is successful, the parents of the children who participate may consider inviting other friends and starting a playgroup. 

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