Playgroups are just one of those great things for kids and for their parents. Everyone gets to play, socialize, have fun, and connect. It also provides a scheduled activity to help stay at home moms get out of the house and for their toddlers and preschoolers to be active and wear themselves out. It’s such a win! I have been blessed to part of a great, active, successful playgroup for the last three years. We’ve had regular playgroups year round at various locations with regular attendance from many of the members of the group and lots of great socializing and fun along the way. So, today I wanted to share some tips on how to run a successful playgroup in case you want to start your own playgroup or improve upon the one you already belong to.
How to Run a Successful Playgroup
1. Put One Person in Charge
For better or worse, you really need to have one person in charge of running the playgroup. With one person scheduling playgroups and being the go-to person for current info about locations, times, cancellations, upcoming play date ideas, and more, everything just runs smoother. Just be sure to put someone in charge who really wants to do it and will not slack in her duty. If the person you have in charge is slacking, she might just be burnt out and not want to do it anymore, so offer yourself or see if someone else in the group wants to do it going forward. The person in charge should figure out what method of communication works best for the group, whether text messages, a Facebook group, email, or something else, and be on top of communicating through the various channels.
2. Have a Set Time and Date
When it comes to young kids, schedules tend to be king. Make sure your playgroup is at the same day each week and at the same time. Do your best to schedule a time slot that works for the majority of people in the playgroup. Be sure to account for those who have kids in preschool or half-day kindergarten as well as nap times. I’ve been part of a very large playgroup. We meet every Tuesday for a span of about three hours, from 10:30am-1:30pm. It works out that most people can come for at least an hour of the three hour playgroup time window, even with naps or preschool pick-ups.
3. Plan Ahead
Help out the person scheduling play group by offering them some great suggestions of parks, libraries, museums, playgrounds, or other attractions where you could hold a play group. And then try to plan out several weeks or a whole month so people can plan ahead. Also have a general back-up rainy day location so you aren’t scrambling the morning of play group trying to figure out where to have your play group. It could be at someone’s house or a library. Also, have an end time, especially if play group is at someone’s house. You want to be a good guest and not over-impose yourself on someone’s home, time, and hospitality.
4. Change Up Locations
If you want run a successful and fun playgroup, it helps to vary it, especially with the seasons and holidays. In the summer make sure you schedule in some trips to the pool and splash parks. In the fall add a trip to the local apple orchard or pumpkin patch. In the spring go visit a botanical garden. For Christmastime, make and decorate Christmas cookies. Have fun and be creative with the changing seasons and holidays. I always liked the pitch-in potlucks for Holiday play groups and all the fun activities or games planned just for that day. It really was something to look forward to and generally had great turnouts.
5. Remember Costs
Depending on who’s in your playgroup and their financial situation, you really should remember the costs of certain venues, even if only implied. Many people don’t want to eat at McDonald’s every week just in order to play at the playscape there. And not everyone will have a museum or zoo membership so they won’t be willing to pay for the one-day fares. While holding playgroup at different locations can be very fun, try to make more expensive playgroup ideas, like trips to the bounce house, quarterly or even less frequently. The best playgroups try to be inclusive of everyone in the group and mindful of their situation, locations, and finances. You should also remember travel expenses and the time it can take for some as well.
To make things easier for everyone, have play group members provide their own food for their families. It keeps the stress off of everyone, especially any hosts. Chip-ins or pot-lucks or lunches are fun, but not for every single play group.
7. Park Checklists
Not all parks and playgrounds are created equal. In fact, some parks don’t even have public restrooms available, or they may only be open seasonally, or they might be port-a-potties, or outhouses. If your child doesn’t handle “alternative” potty solutions, you might want to forgo that park unless a member of the group lives close by and doesn’t mind letting people use their restroom during the designated playgroup time. Also some parks are better suited for younger kids or older kids, and some are not handicap accessible. Make sure to patron parks that fit your group and its needs the best. If visiting parks, check out my tips for extending outdoor fun for young kids.
8. Easy Clean Up
When your play group members are bringing lunches or snacks, it can often create a lot of trash. Make sure there are proper trash receptacles available and that your trash ends up in it or that you take your trash home. Also, because kids like to play in the sand and mud, bring something to clean them up, especially before they eat their lunch. You don’t want your kid’s sandwiches to actually include sand!
I really like these Wet-Nap pop-up hand wipes. Not only are they soft, strong, and moisturizing, but they even sanitize my kid’s dirty hands. You just never know what things they might be picking up from the dirt, their friends, or the toys. And not every park has a place to wash your hands and face (see previous point). I just picked up a Wet-Nap canister from Walmart, because of their everyday low prices, in the feminine care section, and used a $.55 off coupon which made the 40-wipe canister only $1.42! A great price for clean hands and faces on the go.
I have really loved being a part of our church’s large playgroup the last few years. It was often the highlight of my week! I really think the people who ran it did a great job creating a successful playgroup with active members, inclusiveness, variety, and thoughtful locations. I will be leaving this group behind, but thankfully, I am equipped to spearhead my own if need be the case.
What tips do you have for running successful playgroups? What has worked well for you?