Each year millions of American toddlers and preschoolers enjoy the many advantages of playgroups and the associations and development of social skills that result from them. Aside from the obvious advantages of playgroups for young children, stay-at-home moms and dads also feel the advantages of playgroups since they offer a place for otherwise isolated adults to gather and socialize.
Most playgroups are gatherings of similarly aged pre-school children. While the advantages of playgroups are most apparently realized by toddlers and pre-schoolers, parents of newborns and infants also start playgroups for their children's and their own social and developmental needs.
Parents that do not have older children in school may choose to have their playgroup meet year-round, while those with school aged older children usually will not meet during the summer. The advantages of playgroups can be enjoyed no matter how often the group meets, though most parents like to meet once a week or at least once every 2 weeks.
While every playgroup has its own unique characteristics based on the age of the children involved and the activities participated in, there are two basic types of playgroups.
The most popular type of playgroup is the informal playgroup that is formed by a group of parents with children about the same age who gather in each other's homes or in child-friendly locations like parks or playgrounds. These informal playgroups have no set activities planned for each meeting, instead allowing the children and adults to interact and socialize freely.
There are also more formal playgroups that are formed at community centers and often are organized and structured. Parents may hear about these playgroups in local newspapers or community bulletins and may not be previously acquainted with any of the other parents involved.
The advantages of playgroups, whether informal or formal, are similar and of real benefit to both the children and adults involved.
The primary and most publicized advantages of playgroups center around the social development of the young children involved. Most of these children would otherwise have limited exposure to other similarly aged children since they are typically not enrolled in any type of school and stay at home with their caregiver most of the time. Many parents worry that children who have never interacted with children their own age will have a hard time adjusting to formal schooling in pre-school or kindergarten, and choose to become part of a playgroup because of the social advantages of playgroups. Children in playgroups have regular interaction with other young children and learn to verbally express themselves to social equals, share, play appropriately and to develop other socially acceptable behaviors.
Many people fail to realize the advantages of playgroups for the parents involved. Most parents that belong to a playgroup are stay-at-home moms and dads with limited access to adult interaction during the course of a normal day. For these parents, the advantages of playgroups include the ability for them to socialize with other adults, take a break from the sometimes monotonous routine of caring for children and housekeeping, and to both give and receive helpful advice from other parents in the same situation. This interaction is helpful for many stay-at-home parents that may feel isolated at home with their young children and unsure of themselves as new parents.
In order to fully enjoy the advantages of playgroups, parents should put in the extra effort to make sure their playgroup runs smoothly and is a success for both the children and adults involved. Staying committed to the playgroup and making participation in the playgroup a priority, regularly communicating with other playgroup parents, offering to host the playgroup meetings, giving helpful suggestions for playgroup activities, and making a concerted effort to build friendships with other playgroup parents are all important ways to help fully realize the advantages of playgroups.
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