Playgroups for Toddlers: Learning Through Play
Sue had her first two children at the same time most of her friends were having babies. She had a strong support system of friends and family with whom she could confide in, socialize, and sometimes commiserate with. But when Sue decided to have her third child a few years later, she found herself feeling lonely. Her other friends were dealing with toddlers, and she now had an infant.
Sue began taking daily walks with her 10-month-old daughter, Kristen, and met other moms along the way. Soon, these moms banded together and formed a weekly playgroup, which not only served as a support system for Sue, but was also a fun, social experience.
Extended Family for Moms
The first mom Sue met was Christine, whose daughter was about the same age. Together, the two participated in the weekly playgroup for over two and a half years.
“People don’t live near their families anymore,” says Christine, and playgroups can offer some of that constant support.
“When you’re a stay-at-home mom, you hardly get to socialize with other parents,” says Stephanie, a mother of three who has always participated in playgroups. “You get the chance to grow friendships with people who understand what you’re going through.”
Deb Wonnacott, an Early Childhood Consultant in Toronto, Ontario, agrees, “[Moms] need to see other adults to discuss concerns and share ideas about what worked and didn’t work [with their kids].” It also offers them a break, as group members can help each other out.
Playgroups can help mothers put their kids development and behavior into perspective, she says. Some children are developmentally delayed, and being in a playgroup can bring to light what skills a child is missing.
“If your kid is doing something weird, you can talk to other moms to find out what their kids are doing,” says Christine. She believes playgroups can appease worries you may be having.
How Kids Learn from Playgroups
But playgroups aren’t just support outlets for mothers; they also offer children the opportunity to develop their socialization and language skills, says Wonnacott. Through playgroups, children learn to share, take turns, and understand the importance of language and communication. At home, parents learn what their child wants and needs through body language, trial and error, and intuition. But in playgroups, kids are dealing with one another and must “tell each other what they want if they want their needs to be met,” she says.
“There are appropriate [social] behaviors we all learn through trial and error, peer interaction and home life,” explains Anita Kurti, a Speech Language Pathologist at New York City’s League School, “But no one sits us down and [formally] teaches us.”
Many of the socialization skills acquired in playgroups fall under the category of pragmatic language, she says. Through group playing kids learn “the way to use language (both verbal and nonverbal) and the social norms of communication, including eye contact, staying on topic, reading body language, and allowing personal body space,” Kurti adds.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN