Start Your Own Playgroup

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Starting a neighborhood playgroup may seem like a daunting task. Where do you begin? Where can you find other parents and children? What will the playgroup do once it's formed? Starting a playgroup is easy and rewarding, and there are many different ways of starting one.

Follow the steps outlined here, and you'll be well on the way to making new friends for you and your child!

First, you need to make a few preliminary decisions about your group. That way, when you start getting calls from interested parents, you will have enough information about your goals that you can answer most of their questions. You don't want to discourage your callers by having them think you're disorganized and unsure of how to proceed.

Basically, you need to:
  • Decide if you want a children’s playgroup, a parents’ group, or a combination. Most neighborhoods have playgroups based on the children because this requires the least amount of work on the part of the leader.

  • Determine the desired age-range for children. Only infants, or just toddlers or preschoolers? Will siblings be included?

  • Consider the preferable number of participants. Most playgroups range between 5 and 10 parents and however many children they have. If each parent has one child, that puts the number of children between 5 and 10. If each parent has two children, you may have as many as 20 children.

  • Decide what you want to do with your group. Will it be a playtime for the children and social time for the adults, or will it offer structured parent-child activities, or will it be a series of field trips? The way you answer this question will determine if your playgroup will cost anything and if your members will need to pay dues.

  • Choose a day and time most convenient for you, or at least narrow it down to a couple of days and times. Of course, you will need to consider the other parents before you decide on a final day and time, but that will come later.

  • Select a location. Will you meet in each others' homes or is there a central locaton that will be more convenient?

Second, you need to find other parents who want the same thing from a playgroup as you do.
There are many different ways to find these other at-home parents. Below are seven different methods. Choose one, or combine several, and get started!

  • Follow up all leads for potential members, especially “friends of friends” you hear are at-home parents. Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways of finding and starting a playgroup. Introduce yourself to other parents at the mall, park, fast food restaurants or even your pediatrician’s office. Ask your spouse to mention playgroup to co-workers in case some have spouses and children at home. Basically, mention playgroup to every person you happen to meet everywhere you go!

  • Invite your friends who have children to join you. Perhaps invite them all over for a playdate, and if all goes smoothly, suggest that you all get together on a regular basis. However, don't limit your playgroup to just your current friends. Pre-existing conditions within your relationships may cause problems, so try to mix old friends with potential new friends.

  • Advertise in your local newspaper. Most local papers have a community calendar section in which they will allow non-profit groups to advertise for free. Name your group something like "Baby Bunch" or "Playgroup Pals" and present yourself as a group.

  • Prepare flyers and post them in your community, such as in area businesses, churches, libraries, hospitals, pediatrician's offices and your local Chamber of Commerce. Target businesses where at-home parents may go. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

  • Create a flyer, letter or postcard and target the neighborhoods you want. Attach flyers to the outside of mailboxes of those houses with toys in the yard, minivans in the driveway or carseats in the cars. Or you can mail the letters or postcards addressed to "Resident" or "Neighbor." Include your name and phone number!

  • Send a photo release to your local newspaper. Take a photograph of your child playing at the park or doing a craft and write a paragraph about your playgroup. Your photograph does not have to be black and white, but it should be 35 mm and as close to the subject as possible. The photo release can be written as if the playgroup already exists and as if this photo was taken during a playgroup activity; or it could be written saying that this playgroup is forming, with the photo giving an example of an activity that will be provided by the playgroup. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

  • Add your playgroup to online directories, such as PlaygroupsUSA.com, MommyAndMe.com, and MyPlaygroups.com. For playgroups specifically for at-home dads, try Rebeldad.com/map.html and AtHomeDad.com. The more places you have your group listed, the better chance you will have to reach parents interested in your group.

Finally, once the calls come in:
  • Remember to write down their names, children's names, phone numbers, and the best days and times for having playgroup.

  • Provide them with information you've already decided about the playgroup.

  • Decide on a day and time convenient for most of them, and call everyone to let them know when and where this new playgroup will meet.

About the Author:
Carren W. Joye is the author of A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups. A homeschooling mom of four children, she has founded four successful playgroups and one homeschool support group as well as helped start countless other playgroups around the world via OnlinePlaygroup.com.