Kids are messy, especially toddlers, which is usually the age of children in playgroups. They are too young for school, yet ready for social interaction with others. A playgroup is an excellent way to prepare children for preschool, especially if you add a routine to each week, such as free play, snack, game time, and clean-up time.
Pitch in at clean-up time. Nothing is worse than hosting a playgroup and having everyone leave your house a disaster. It's a great opportunity to teach your child responsibility and respect for other peoples' belongings. It also never hurts to use a little incentive to get the kids to clean up. Offer a treat or snack after they've picked up toys and that's a sure-fire way to get the job done quickly. Just make sure the treat isn't chocolate sprinkle cupcakes, or you'll be back to square one.
Keeping It Simple and Healthy
Keep food simple and easy for little hands, and that will make less of a mess for you later. I belonged to a playgroup and standard fare was bagels and cream cheese, something all the moms and kids enjoyed. Some kid-friendly and healthy options include goldfish, graham crackers, cut up grapes or sliced apples, multi-grain crackers, and cheese cubes.
Schedule an end time or the playgroup may go on longer than you anticipated. Babies and toddlers can change their temperament as quickly as we change their diapers, so it's a good idea to make sure they know when it's time to go home before you actually leave. You know your child's limits. When you think he's had enough, make a quick and calm exit, reminding him that he'll be able to see his friends the following week.
If you see that your child is having problems with another child and his mom is not stepping in to take action, use your best judgment and mother's instincts to handle the situation. Similarly, run interference if you see that your child is causing the problem (which never happens, right?). If it's a sharing dilemma, divert one of the children's attention by showing them another toy. That's one of the greatest things about a playgroup—there are loads of new and interesting toys for children to play with each time they visit a new house.
If you're hosting, and you know there are a few toys your child simply cannot bear to share, put them away, but do explain that his friends are coming over and he will have to share some of his things. Remind him that he will get to play with their toys another week.