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Playgroups Offer More Than Child's Play
by Carren Joye
Playgroups are not just for children; they provide wonderful resources for parents as well. Playgroups are ideal for families on a one-income budget, and even working parents find the benefits worthwhile. If you want to find practical parenting support, spend time with your children and their friends, and make new friends yourself, then you need to consider joining a playgroup.

Practical Support System

A playgroup offers parents a chance to share experiences and seek parenting advice from peers who are facing the same struggles. In today's society many new mothers not only have postponed having children, but also have moved great distances from their families and friends. They no longer have that built-in support system of relatives that all new moms need. Playgroups and parents' groups fill that gap.

In addition, many playgroups offer practical support systems through extra services that they provide to their members. Some playgroups institute an "In a Pinch" service with a list of members who can babysit at the last minute. Others set up a babysitting co-op of families who decide to share babysitting among themselves without the exchange of money. In both cases, not only is it convenient for parents to have someone they can call to babysit, but it is also comforting to have someone whom they know and trust to watch their child. In addition, through playgroup, their children know and feel comfortable with that other adult as well.

Time Out and Entertainment

All parents need a break now and then, particularly at-home parents, but many don't have the extra money to spend on a Moms Day Out program or on going out. For free or low cost entertainment on a regular basis, the playgroup makes an ideal option! As free entertainment, weekly playgroups provide an enjoyable diversion where the children can play with friends while their moms talk or where all the members enjoy a structured mom-child activity. The parents get a weekly break from home, and yet spend time with their children at the same time.

In addition to regular playdates, many parents' groups and playgroups schedule field trips and other special events, according to information at OnlinePlaygroup.com, an Internet resource for finding, starting and managing a playgroup. The field trips are often "behind the scenes" tours of such places as fire stations, police stations, and other no-cost locations. Members get a chance to see the local sites and learn more about the area in which they live. Some groups even become involved in the community through various service projects.

However, even if a playgroup does not schedule special activities like field trips, regular playdates provide a chance for socialization. During play, the children learn valuable skills, such as how to share, take turns and role-play. They can also engage in crafts or other structured activities. For families who do not want to consider preschool or a Moms Day Out program, a playgroup is a viable option.

Keep in mind that, unlike a Moms Day Out program or babysitting service, playgroups keep parents and their children together. That means no worries with separation anxiety! The children can play and have fun without having to worry about mom leaving. It's a very reassuring and confidence-building way to introduce children to socialization and to give them a little bit of independence at the same time. Not to mention, if the playgroup offers structured activities, it's 100 percent quality time with your child!

Friendship

Friendship may be the most important reason for joining a playgroup. Playgroups provide children with the opportunity to make new friends and to play with others besides their own siblings. In addition, many of the children in playgroup will likely be in their classes when school starts, especially if the group is composed of neighborhood residents. Children can make lifelong friends in playgroup!

Playgroups are not just for children, however. After having a child, new moms almost instantly experience a lifestyle change with which their current set of friends cannot identify. Playgroups give moms a chance to make new friends who have children too. The same goes for fathers who choose to be at-home dads. As a result, many adults find lifelong friends in their playgroups as well.

As a parent, you owe it to yourself and your child to consider joining your local playgroup. So go out and find a playgroup! Your new friends are waiting for you!

About the Author: 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.

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