Our group used to have a holiday party and we all agreed to pitch in to make it easier for the mom hosting. Everyone brought something to eat, and we took turns hosting the big parties. We decided on a grab bag for the children at Christmas and Hanukkah. Each mom was responsible for purchasing a non-gender specific gift for five dollars. Every child got a cute gift, and no one had to spend a lot of money. It was fun seeing a group of three-year-old children tearing into presents and yelling excitedly at the gift they received from their friends.
Throughout the year, we let the children decorate and frost their own cupcakes for birthdays, create Halloween crafts, or exchange valentines. Additionally, each year a mom hosted an Easter egg hunt. The children each painted or colored a paper bag and then we'd all go outside to collect eggs filled with candy. The memories of our babies toddling around the yard not knowing what to do are precious.
There are so many different ways to make your playgroup successful. The key ingredient however, is to make sure that all moms are singing off the same page. If moms don't have the same discipline ideas or parenting skills, this can cause a lot of friction between children and parents.
Kathleen Gimpel, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, participates in playgroups where she is comfortable around the parents because if she doesn't have a similar set of limits as the other moms, it makes it hard for her to relax and enjoy the adult time.
Gimpel also uses the playgroup as a reinforcement tool. For example, she'll say, "See Mary Kate, Annie's mom doesn't let her jump down the stairs either!" She sums it up by saying, "It's the whole 'takes a village' theme of parenting to which I am a big subscriber."
Roseann Fox, also from Newtown, has some suggestions for a successful playgroup. "For obvious reasons, stay away from Play-doh and paint," says Fox. "Once I let the kids string fruit loops and make necklaces they could eat. It was a big hit!"
Gabrielle Watters-Smith, of New Hope, Pennsylvania, suggests setting a time limit of two hours maximum and limiting the group size based on the space available. When she hosts a playgroup, she keeps food simple and also puts away toys her sons do not want to share.
Whatever you do at your playgroup, remember that the focus should be on the children. It's an important time in their lives for learning, and most of the learning is done through play and social interaction.
Finally, two vital things to remember at playgroup: never bring chocolate sprinkled donuts to your friend's home, and, if you act quickly, most stains will come out of the carpet.