You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
That is so true!! When one is at play, defenses are down and he plays with his whole heart. That is why play is considered so important for children, because at that age, play and learning are closely interconnected. And this is especially true of young children, which is why playgroups for toddlers are becoming so popular.
What is Playgroup?
Preschools or playgroups form an intermediate step between home and ‘big’ school and may be of 2 types, namely preschool playgroups and nurseries. Playgroup is an informal set up that cares for children between the ages of 2 or 3 and school age, for approximately 2-3 hours a day. It assists children with learning basic skills and prepares them for further schooling, all in a relaxed and friendly environment.
What do children do at Playgroups/Preschools?
Playgroups provide children with preschool experiences such as arts & crafts, construction activities, music and movement, books and stories and different kinds of play like sand play, water play, adventure play, etc. They provide a stable, secure and relaxed environment where parents feel comfortable to leave their kids for a short time.
Why are Playgroups good for children?
Here’s a short answer to this question: Playgroups are great fun!
But seriously, while your child is busy scribbling, playing in the sandpit or painting a masterpiece,he is also picking up valuable new skills and experiences. These include the following:
- This is the first time that the child is away from home and family even if it’s for a short period of time. This helps develop coping skills and prepares the child for staying away from home and family for formal school eventually.
- Helps the child deal with separation anxiety before entering school
- Some children may suffer from some amount of stranger anxiety. Attending a play group is a good way to help the child overcome this.
- Helps develop new relationships with other children and make friends with them
- Helps children develop new relationships with adults other than their family members
- Accepting instructions from adults other than the family members
- Experience new play and art opportunities
- Experiencing books and music
- Learn new skills including conflict resolution, problem solving, co-operation and sharing
- They learn more about themselves and others through play
- They learn to have fun through small and simple activities conducted in the play group
- Builds resilience to enable them to cope with new situations and manage stress and adapt to change
Criteria for Choosing the right Playgroup for your Toddler
While playgroups in general have the benefits listed above, each playgroup will have its own style of instruction and its own unique environment. Here’re the things to consider before choosing the perfect fit for your toddler:
- The reputation of the school
- Curriculum followed by the school
- School timings
- Distance between the home and the play group
- Age criteria of the child for the admission
- Fee structure
- Teacher to student ratio
- Toilet facilities; whether each classroom has an attached toilet/wc
- Whether there are other children from your residential complex attending the same playgroup
- Facilities provided by the play group: pick up drop van, refreshments, etc
- Other requirements: the child should be toilet trained, etc
- If the playgroup has a tie up with a formal school to ease the child’s admission to mainstream school
How can you help your child adjust to his Playgroup?
Taking your child to a different place one fine morning and leaving him there for a few hours is bound to be disastrous – for Mom and child!! Rather than this sudden transition, it helps to get your child ready for playgroup well in advance. Here are a few pointers:
- Start talking to the child about the playgroup about a month or two before the school starts to get her used to the idea of school.
- Once you have decided on the school, take your child to the school to familiarize her with the premises.
- Talk about the mode of transport with the child in case you are planning to use school transportation.
- If there are other children who are attending the same play group as your child, get your child introduced to them. A familiar face in a new place will make your child feel more comfortable and positive about the new playgroup.
- It is recommended to accompany your child to her playgroup for the first few days of school. This will ease her (and your) separation anxiety; you can gradually shorten the time you spend there and stop going altogether.
Sending your child to playgroup can make you feel a little guilty and lost for the first couple of days, but remember, most kids take to their new school and new friends sooner than you expect! If you’ve been a stay at home Mom since your baby’s birth and this is the first time he’s being away from you, you’ll feel strangely lonely for a while, but this feeling will also pass! Once your child has adjusted and is enjoying her new playgroup, you’ll find that you suddenly have some free time on your hands; so now’s the time to book that parlor appointment or sign up for that yoga class!
Deepali has a BA in sociology from Pune University; Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai); PG Diploma in School Psychology from Janana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology. She has 15 years of experience in the field of Family & Child Welfare. She is currently a freelancer with 3 different adoption agencies. She is an adoptive parent herself.