With school out for the summer, hosting a play group for my daughter and her school friends seemed like the perfect opportunity to let her play with her friends and help out the other parents as well.
We moved to a new city a year ago, and one of my goals for this past year has been to make new friends and build community in our neighborhood.
Play group has been a success, and here is what I’ve learned to make the play group something we look forward to every week:
1. It’s scheduled at the same time every week so that we don’t have to coordinate plans. Instead of sending text messages back and forth each week to see who’s available, I went ahead and put it on the calendar: every Thursday morning this summer. Show up if you can.
2. I sent out an information email at the beginning of the summer to let the other parents know what to expect.
- One thing I let them know was that the parents don’t have to stay. They’re welcome to stay if they want, but I figured they would want to drop off their kid and then take some much-needed time elsewhere.
- I specified the best way to contact me before and during the group. They should call me when the kids are here because I won’t see their text until afterwards.
- I let them know the routine and what their kids could look forward to doing each week.
- I told them what they need to bring (just a snack).
3. Each child brings an individual snack. This has been more helpful than I originally expected. The kids can have what they like to eat, I don’t have to wonder what to feed six kids, and I don’t have to run to the grocery store at the last minute. Because of food allergies (one child can’t have peanuts and another child can’t eat wheat), I recommended that everyone brings a favorite fruit instead of baked goods.
4. Plan an even mix of structured and unstructured play time. When the kids arrive they’re excited to talk and play, but with six kids, two hours of free play can lead to chaos. I always have one activity planned, so our morning routine goes something like this:
9:00 – free play (outside hopefully, as weather permits)
9:30 – activity of the week
10:00 – snack
10:20 – art
10:40 – 11:00 free play
Two hours seems like the perfect amount of time. The kids are happy that they’ve had enough play time, and everyone is still in a good mood when it’s time to go home.
5. Do something new each week. Every week I do a short activity with them such as dance, drawing, how to braid, or beading. I look for ideas on Pinterest and try to keep it easy. Art time is generally paper and a lot of markers. I thought back to old camp activities for inspiration.
Play group is definitely one thing we’ll look back on as a highlight of our summer.