The beauty of playgroups is they are run by the families in them. Families decide on the guidelines and routines or if in fact there is any routine. Having a flexible routine can provide comfort and security for those involved. Displaying a broad outline of your playgroup’s routine helps new members understand the flow of a session and reminds existing members of what needs to be done. Taking into account that most playgroups run for between 1.5- 2 hours a week, a basic routine might include the following elements:
Welcome. The first families to arrive put out one or two activities for the ‘early birds’, thoroughly check playroom and yard for hazards, set up the sign in and information area.
Decide if everyone in the group will be responsible for welcoming new families or if it will be one person’s role.
Putting some thought into how your playgroup is laid out can reduce the risk of accidents and conflict
Create a space for babies to keep them safe from older children’s action by putting a few baby toys on a baby quilt surrounded by big soft cushions in a corner of the room.
Understandably, children choose sometimes to play alone. You could set up a table with space for just one to draw or put a felt board in a big box with room for just one to wriggle in. You can also create a quiet reading area by having big comfortable chair or cushion near picture books. It’s important to create a space for babies to keep them safe from older children’s action by putting a few baby toys on a baby quilt surrounded by big soft cushions in a corner of the room.
Use big cushions or break up an open area and prevent children running the length of the room. To reduce potential conflict, provide enough equipment for children, for example four paint pots for four children, four lumps of play dough on the table in front of four chairs.
Reduce background noise and use music selectively. Children can tune out if there is constant background noise. Play a little music to help children move from one phase of playgroup to another, for example, from play time to pack up time.
Open ended play
Provide opportunities for open ended play. This simplifies the job of providing play ideas on a weekly basis. It’s a good idea to have the same basic set up each week.
Wash hands and prepare for a snack. Some groups enjoy everyone sitting down to enjoy snacks together. This provides an opportunity for adults and children to socialise and catch up. It’s also a great time to discuss issues as a group or plan upcoming events. Be realistic about your expectations of young children, most won’t be able to sit in this group situation for long.
Perhaps have some time for outside play. Remember that each adult is responsible for the children they bring to playgroup - if the child is outside the parent needs to be outside.
Packing up can be streamlined if each adult clears away the activity their child is playing with at pack up time. Tell children a little before that it will soon be pack up time so they don’t become frustrated if their play is abruptly cut short. Packing up is easy if each adult clears away the activity their child Is playing with. Encourage children to take part in the packing up.
Some adults could take children for group time (perhaps a story and a song) while others finish packing up and cleaning up. Don’t be too ambitious with group time, ten to fifteen minutes is probably the maximum time most children could sit happily and pay attention.
At the end of the session say goodbye and collect anything that needs to be taken home. Singing a goodbye song or even just saying “bye" (child’s name) and (parent’s name) see you next week creates predictability and anticipating for returning to playgroup. See you again next week!
Download The Playgroup Routine here.