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Life is a circus that demands a tightrope walk; we need to play the balancing act to perfection. Work, home, time with children and a little time for you - does it sound you need more than 24 hours a day. This is when a playgroup will sound heaven to you, not only to take care of your child but also mold your child's future. All parents have a dream for their little toddler; and would like the little one to have a head start.

Play groups in general refer to a type of pre-school care. Playgroup is a relaxed gathering where parents, care givers, children aged between 0 and 4 years meet collectively in a tranquil and affable environment. Playgroups give the parents and children an opportunity to spend quality time with each other. A playgroup is an environment where children interact in a focused way and nourish and build foundation skills.


Playgroup

Roster playgroup: In such types of playgroups, the parents take turns to spend time with the children and oversee the classes. The advantage in this playgroup is that the parent can spend time with the child as well as can take regular time out. A roster playgroup is usually run by parents. The playgroup may meet daily or only a few days in a week depending on the plan. This play group always has a parent in presence and is always non- profit-making.

Paid leader playgroup: Playgroups employ a person under their payroll and allot the duty that is generally taken care of by the parents or caregivers. The expenditure to employ and maintain the person is collected from the playgroup associates. This person does the scheduling and training of all the activities of the playgroup. This person should be responsible for conducting the playgroup and managing it.

Special interest playgroup: Families and friends often get together to form a playgroup to cater to their needs and desires. Jointly they form special interest playgroups such as Montessori, music, Steiner etc. that helps their children. Special groups for the physically-challenged children are also gaining popularity. Religious and cultural factions too form groups to educate their community children.


Playgroup activities

Children are always busy with little things to explore, observe and play with. Give them the chance and they will be ready to explore anything and everything. Listed are a few play activities that will interest children and are generally a part of any playgroup schedule. Interactive toys and sit and ride toys allow the gross motor skills to develop.

Playgroups also organize visits and outings to give kids a feel of the real world. Kids get used to being away from parents and being with other adults. Music, art and movement, dance, exercise and finger play are essential activities for little kids. Other skills such as gross and fine motor coordination, language acquisition, shape and color recognition also will be learnt during playgroup activities.

Drawing and painting: This playgroup activity allows children to let their mind's eye wild and work on their imagination. It improves synchronization and encourages communication of thoughts. This explains why the painting area of any playgroup is always busy and messy. This gives them the opportunity to build up new skills and prospects to learn.

Puzzles: Children love puzzles and are great at it. Playgroups start with such activities and encourage children to nurture it further. Children are encouraged to identify pictures of shapes and colors and solve jigsaws. This fosters independent thinking.

Music and singing: In general you get to hear children always singing, in the bathroom or play area or yard. Playgroups encourage children to sing, create their own music and investigate sound and cadence.

Storytelling: Children dream of being in a fairyland and imagine themselves to be the prince and princess of every story. Playgroups help children build their feelings into stories and bring out the listening ability in them.

Water and sand play: Bath is my favorite place so why not the water and sand play at my playgroup? Measuring and weighing is the basic idea in this activity. It also arouses the sensory organs and helps in organization activity.

Cutting and pasting: Different shapes and colors sweep away children into a world of imagination. This activity in the playgroup will help the kid imagine and visualize. This playgroup activity also encourages fine motor skills.

Play dough: Give a child something soft in its hand and the child will try to mold it according to his whims and fancies. Children love to wring, thump, nudge and twirl the play dough with their eager hands.

Theme days: A theme day at the playgroup will be the best way to bring out the hidden hero in himself or herself. Your son may want to be Harry Potter or Spiderman while your little daughter might want to be a Barbie or Cinderella. Make believe games allow a child's imagination run riot. This goes a long way in fostering learning and creativity.


Playgroup benefits


For the child


  • Playing and learning in little groups helps the child gives the child a head start while going to school.
  • Children learn skills such as verbal communication, non-verbal communication, listening, perseverance and attentiveness.
  • Children learn to work collectively and lend a hand to other children.
  • They develop hand to eye coordination, balance while at play with blocks, clay and boost better body control. Motor skills are honed with various activities.
  • Children learn to share their toys and other play items with their playmates, which induces the concept of sharing.
  • A playgroup is a wonderful experience for a kid to accept the discipline of a group.

For the parents


  • Interacting with fellow parents gives a fair idea on various child raising issues.
  • Parents require their space and not everybody can afford a private baby sitter; playgroups come as a boon in disguise for these parents.
  • Other parenting styles can be seen and discussed with parents effectively.
  • The friendship network for parents and the child widens through enrolment in playgroups.

Choosing playgroup


  • Ensure the playgroup is located close to either your workplace or your home.
  • The playgroup should not have more than 26 children in a group.
  • There has to be a member of staff for every 8 children in the group.
  • The staff has to be well trained in handling children.
  • Check personally on the hygiene of the place and how spacious and well ventilated it is.
  • Educate yourself on the activities of the playschool and check on how friendly the staff is with the children.
  • Verify on the safety aspects before you enroll your child into a playgroup.
  • The playgroup must be conveniently located to your home. It must be held at times that are convenient for your child and you.

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