Why Playgroups Are Important for Preschoolers

A playgroup (or play group) is a great way for preschoolers to come together with their parents or caregivers. Playgroups can be formal or informal, just as long as everyone has fun!. Aldo Murillo/E+/Getty Images

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

A playgroup or playgroup is a gathering of same-aged children (or at least children that are in a similar age range) along with a parent or guardian. The group, which meets on a regular basis either in someone's home or a common space like a park, library, or community center, can range from the formal (such as a group like MOPS) to the informal, but the common thread is that they give both children and grown-ups a chance to connect and socialize.

Practicing Social Skills

Children get the opportunity to practice their social skills in a safe, familiar setting while 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. Communication is the key!

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

It's important before you start or join a playgroup that you are 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 — snack, dues, meeting place, are siblings allowed) will help avoid future misunderstandings and drama. 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 play dates in that playgroups tend to meet on a fairly regular basis, while a play date is usually just a one-time thing. However, if a play date is successful, the parents of the children who participate, may consider inviting other friends and starting a playgroup. 

If you are thinking of starting your own playgroup, check out How to Start a Preschool Playgroup for more tips, tricks, and advice.

Also Known As: Playgroup, play group

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