What to Know About Playgroups

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 04, 2022
4 min read

Playgroups are an excellent way for both parents and children to get out of the house and make new friends. There are many different types of playgroups, and you can often find ones for specific types of families, interests, and support needs.

Playgroups are groups that meet somewhat regularly to allow young children to play together. Often, these groups are aimed at the age range of infants through pre-kindergarten ages. In these groups, the children play together in free play or organized activities while parents supervise, socialize, or join in.

There are two primary types of playgroups: supported playgroups and community playgroups.

Supported playgroups. Supported playgroups are led by a professional organization. This could include the local school district, a community center, a church, or an organization like the YMCA. They often have a specific target demographic in mind that may require extra support. 

For example, a playgroup may be geared toward:

Rural areas or neighborhoods that lack community resources may benefit from a type of supported playgroup called a mobile playgroup. Mobile playgroups travel with their playgroup equipment so they can set up anywhere.

Intensive support playgroups are another type of supported playgroup. These playgroups often involve a social worker and work with vulnerable families who may need help learning how to care for children, creating a safe family environment, and getting community support.

Community playgroups. Community playgroups are playgroups organized by families in the community. This might include families who live in the same neighborhood, families connected by a religious organization, or families who are simply friends.

Both supported playgroups and community playgroups may have a specific audience in mind. For example, a playgroup may involve:

  • A specific age group, like a toddlers playgroup or a mom and baby playgroup
  • A specific type of activity, such as an art playgroup or a nature playgroup
  • A specific religion, culture, or language
  • Specific types of families, such as families with single parents or LGBT+ parents

The types of activities that a playgroup may offer will depend on several factors. These factors may include the ages of the children, whether the playgroup is geared toward a special interest, and whether the playgroup is a supported playgroup or community playgroup. 

Activities may include:

  • Group games
  • Arts and crafts
  • Pretend play
  • Music
  • Education
  • Group outings

Some playgroups may prefer to use a playgroup curriculum. Supported playgroups may also offer support or education to parents while the children play.

Playgroups can offer benefits for both children and caregivers.

Playgroups allow children to try out new toys and activities, learn how to play with other children, and learn how to interact with adults other than their caretakers. Playgroups also help children develop social skills they need for school.

Play is the way that kids learn best about themselves, others, and the world around them. Through play, children can:

  • Understand more about how the world works
  • Learn to care for others
  • Learn to take care of the environment
  • Develop physical skills
  • Develop social skills
  • Work on their language and communication
  • Build their confidence
  • Feel happy, safe, and loved

Playgroups are also excellent opportunities for parents and caregivers. Playgroups offer the chance to:

  • Socialize with friends and other parents
  • Meet new people
  • Share tips, ideas, experiences, and concerns with other parents
  • Learn more about your community
  • Connect with local services

Supported playgroups may also offer additional resources to parents, such as information on community support programs and parenting education.

Whether you’re looking to put together your own community playgroup or searching for one to join, there are a few things that successful playgroups have in common.

Consistent Structure. Most playgroups last for about an hour-and-a-half to two hours. They typically happen once a week in the same location. Your playgroup doesn’t have to follow this pattern exactly, but consistency and communication is the best way to ensure your playgroup thrives.

Playgroup activities. Playgroups may have structured activities or may choose to facilitate free play. Either way, there should be some sort of plan in place for appropriate activities for the kids. This may mean taking them to the park to run around, or it could involve a parent or teacher leading the kids in songs or crafts.

Finances. Most structured playgroups either receive funding through federal or state grants or through non-profit budgets, but some may require a registration or tuition fee. Community playgroups may expect a small fee per child to cover things like snacks, while others may simply expect you to bring what you need for your child and pay for other things, such as tickets, when they come up.

Finding a playgroup will depend a lot on the area you’re in and the resources you have. Here are some things you can do to find a playgroup:

  • Check online by searching “{your area} playgroups.”
  • Check community resources like your local school district or community center.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors for recommendations.
  • Ask your pediatrician if they have resources for you.
  • Start your own playgroup.

Starting your own playgroup doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you have friends or neighbors who want to participate with you. Your playgroup could be as simple as planning to meet at a nearby playground at the same time each week. Tell parents to bring snacks and beverages for their kids. You can sit and socialize while the kids play. Set a time frame if you want or let them play until they’ve worn themselves out.

The playgroup you choose can be as formal and structured or as free and relaxed as you want it to be. It depends on the type of atmosphere you prefer to be in and the type of environment you feel will help your child thrive.