Parenting

How to Start a Weekly Playgroup

Website screenshot of Josh Harris. Taken from JoshHarris.com

If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. Right? Right. So if, like me, you’ve been wishing for a weekly playgroup to take your child to, where you can socialize with other moms and he can socialize with other kids, it’s probably time to start one yourself. Here’s how.

1. Make some decisions about what kind of group you want to form

So, you’ve decided that you’re up to the task of organizing a weekly play group. But, what exactly does that entail? It could be as simple as a bunch of moms and kids meeting once a week to chat and play. Or it could be more formal and include an activity and a snack. Some helpful questions to ask yourself might be: Will the group meet at the same location each week? Or will you be asking moms to host it on a rotating basis? If you’re offering a snack, who will provide it? Will you impose any limits on the types of snack food options? If you want to have activities, who will lead them? And where will the supplies come from? Make sure you know the answers to these questions (and any others you think of on your own) before reaching out to other moms.

2. Reach out to other moms to see if they’d be interested

If you (like me) are the type of person who’s interested in organizing a playgroup, then you probably already belong to some kind of moms forum, like a neighborhood Facebook group, or a meet-up group, or something. Write a post on whatever forum you belong to asking if there’s any interest in forming a weekly playgroup. When people respond (and they will respond, everybody loves a group they don’t have to organize), ask them to private message you their email addresses. If you don’t belong to any type of forum, reach out to your mom friends, your mom acquaintances, or the nice-looking moms at the playground. I know it can be hard to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know (terrifying even), but if you’re wishing for a group like this, that mom who you see every Thursday at the park and looks interesting might be too. Remember, you don’t actually have to know these moms that well beforehand; that’s part of the point of creating the group.

3. Choose a day and time

The easiest way to do this is to create a Doodle poll. (Just go to this website and follow the directions.) Enter the days and times that work for you and then use the website’s feature to send the poll to all the moms who expressed interest. (You’ll need their email addresses to do this, which is partly why I suggested collecting them beforehand.) Give the group a deadline for completing the survey (5 days is probably enough). When the deadline rolls around, it doesn’t matter that not everyone has filled out the poll. Assume that the people who didn’t fill it out don’t care what day and time the group meets. Choose the day and time with the most votes. Remember, you’re never going to find a day and time that works for everyone. That’s why you created the poll — to be as fair as possible. Feel free to suggest that the people who can’t make the chosen day and time form their own group, and offer them whatever support/advice they need to get going.

4. Send out a welcome email

Now that you know what day and time the group will be meeting each week, send out an email to the group. In addition to letting them know the date of the first meeting and welcoming them to the play group, you’re going to want to them to answer a few questions to help you organize the group a bit better. Depending on what kind of play group you’ve decided on, here are some questions you might want to ask: Who would be willing to host the group on a rotating basis? (Make sure you have the addresses of the people who volunteer to host.) Would you be willing to lead an activity? Would you be willing to provide snack periodically? Does your child have any food allergies? Is there anything you’d like the group to know about your child? (It’s also important to note here that if there’s anyone who feels they can’t host for any reason [super small home, three enormous Rottweiler dogs, whatever], it’s totally fine for them to still be in the group. They can contribute in other ways, like bringing snacks or leading an activity.)

5. Create a calendar

Assuming that your group isn’t meeting in the same place every week, it’s a good idea to create a spreadsheet-type calendar so that everyone knows what they’re supposed to be doing each week. Depending on how you’ve decided to run the group, this document could include: location of the playgroup, who will be bringing the snack that week, who will be leading the activity that week, and any other information that seems pertinent. Share this document with everyone in the group (a Google doc is probably the best way to do this, but a regular spreadsheet will work too). It’s worth noting that, even though everyone will have access to this document, people usually also need a reminder email each week. Just a quick note a few days before letting everyone know where the play group will be meeting and any other responsibilities people have that week is a good idea.

6. Have the first meeting

It’s a good idea to have the first play group happen at your house (unless you’ve designated a permanent location that’s not your home). Just see how it goes. If there are things that aren’t working about your plan, you’ll find out soon enough. But do your best to have fun and relax. You’ve come this far!