by Carren W. Joye
I started my first playgroup with my first child in 1995 when she was four years old, and I am still attending each Thursday with my fourth child who is herself now four years old. I often wonder what has kept this playgroup going for so many years despite such a fluctuating membership. I think I have a few pointers on what has worked for us. Here are ten do's and don'ts for keeping your playgroup together.
1. Do keep the group between 5 and 10 parents to keep it manageable and fun.
Don't let it get too big or dwindle down to only 2 or 3 parents. When it gets too big, the parents will worry about a child getting hurt in the crowd. When it gets too small, you run the risk of hosting a playgroup where no one shows up because the other two members are sick.
2. Do devise a set of guidelines and rules for parents and children.
Don't assume that other parents should know not to bring their sick child to playgroup or that they will know to call if they can't make it to playgroup that week.
3. Do limit the playgroup time to two hours or less.
Don't linger for more than two hours because little ones will get cranky.
4. Do meet about once a week and make an effort to get to know the other parents.
Don't think that you can make friends out of strangers by meeting only once a month or by talking about others behind their backs.
5. Do expect a variety of parenting philosophies and be tolerant of other methods of discipline.
Don't expect other parents to discipline the way you do.
6. Do be understanding of other children's behavior.
Don't count on everyone to behave and get along all the time (kids and parents!). Everyone has a bad day every once in a while.
7. Do be flexible and open to new ideas within playgroup.
Don't expect that the founding members will always be part of playgroup or that the way things are done will always be the way things are done; new members mean a whole new dynamic and some great new ideas.
8. Do spread the word about your group by telling every mom you meet, by putting your group on the lists at OnlinePlaygroup.com and other online sites, and by distributing flyers at any business where a mom is likely to shop.
Don't just think other parents will find you. You have to find them, and it may take longer than you think.
9. Do make playgroup your priority, and be there every time.
Don't expect everyone to come every time because playgroup will not mean as much to them as it does to you. They may even forget about playgroup sometimes, so call to remind them each week.
10. Do be friendly and keep a positive attitude; others will follow your lead.
Don't get discouraged and don't give up!
Carren W. Joye is the author of A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8). A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded five successful playgroups and helped start countless other playgroups around the world. Visit her web site at http://www.OnlinePlaygroup.com for more information about playgroups.