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Author Bio: David Reeves is Marketing Manager of Playland Inc. in Carrollton, GA. Playland Inc., is a total solutions manufacturer and supplier to many industries, with its roots deep in the park and playground markets including churches, schools, and day care centers. It has developed into the only company in its field to offer direct to all of its customers, the ability to purchase outdoor playgrounds, shelters, shade, indoor playgrounds, water slides and site amenities.

Social interaction is crucial to your child’s individual and intellectual development. Being around other children gives your child an opportunity to share, learn and communicate with other boys and girls his or her age to prepare for a group setting.  But don’t think playgroups are only beneficial for the children—parents get a lot out of them, too! From much needed time away to mingling with the other moms and dads, playgroups give parents their own socialization and intellectual fix.

Parenting is full of questions, and your best outlet for information is friends, coworkers and neighbors with children the same age. Trading war stories and offering advice on helping your child with socialization is also an excellent way to create or strengthen friendships. Some parents never have the time to get out or meet other parents, and playgroups provide the perfect outlet.

So what are you waiting for? Chances are there are a handful of other parents nearby wanting the same thing you do. Listed below are some basic guidelines of how to start a playgroup, and they should get you started down the right path. Make sure to keep everyone involved and to keep an open line of communication at all times. Good luck!

1. Recruit Members

When selecting members of a playgroup, age range is the first factor to consider. You want to keep the children 1-2 years apart; the age groupings of 0-2, 3-5 and 5 and up are typical. A group of four to six children is optimal, with at least two caregivers on hand at all times. It is also ideal to have a balance of boys and girls.

The type of neighborhood you live in will also influence your recruitment. Do you want to keep it within a few blocks or extend the invite across town? One way to spread the word is to talk to other parents at the playground. Posting flyers at schools, churches, libraries and grocery stores are also useful means of recruitment.

2. Meet the Parents

Once you receive interest from enough candidates, organize a meeting (adults only) so everyone can introduce themselves. This will give everyone a chance to meet in a relaxed setting and concentrate on each other and not their children.

This is also a perfect opportunity to discuss how the group will handle sensitive issues. All of the parents should be in agreement in terms of tantrums, biting, fighting, etc. You can also talk about what types of toys will be available and what snacks to bring to each session. By establishing the ground rules early, every parent will feel confident going into the first play date.

3. Set the Schedule

Once the group is finalized you will be able to set a schedule regarding days, times and a rotation of houses. The larger the group the harder it may be to find a playtime that works for everyone. Once the schedule is set be sure to stick to it.

Play sessions for toddlers should be kept to under an hour to avoid overstimulation. Each child will react to the playgroup in his or her own way, but try to use one hour of play as a rule of thumb. Outdoor playtime versus indoor playtime is also another great topic to cover when setting the upcoming playgroup schedule.

4. Plan Activities

It’s always wise to have the activities planned out a couple of weeks in advance so the parents know how to prepare. Although some playgroups’ activities may just be supervising the children in a room full of toys, the playgroups that offer games, music and field trips should always have a calendar of events. There are many benefits of play and you can all discuss what is best for your children.

Planning the activities is a lot of fun for the parents because you can incorporate holidays and other significant events into the preparation. If you schedule a trip to a children’s museum or library you can provide the children introductory information in the weeks leading up to the excursion. Back at home, you’ll need supplies for activities like painting and scavenger hunts, and by planning ahead you can be certain to have everything you need.

The overall process is simple and the right group of parents can make your playgroup an instant success for children and adults. Start making your list of candidates today!

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