Monday, October 4, 2010

Playgroups are not for socialising

Playgroups are not the best way to socialize either yourself or your child. Playgroups come in a wide variety of forms from structured craft mornings and musical sessions to meetings at the local park. They generally all have two things in common, a dozen or so mums who struggle to remember each others names and at least that many little ones attempting to play nicely together.

Playing nicely together is the first hurdle. Much poking, pushing, taking, snatching and crying ensues. The problem stems from the uncertainty about parental duty. Every parent has as slightly different view about what constitutes socially acceptable behaviour. Just how much clumsy pushing and touching is okay. If these concerns seem silly they are only proven as you watch other mums apologise to each other as one clumsy baby pushes too close to another.

The next hurdle is that generally anyone is welcome to turn up. Now I am not saying mums should avoid new people, just that when a dozen relatively random mums turn up it is pretty likely that the baby will be the most they have in common. Making small talk with a mum who has completely different parenting ideologies is tedious at best, at worst it leaves you feel like a crap mum.

Instead of trying to super-socialise our children in a playgroup environment, mums should just be looking for a small group of similar and likeminded mums. A handful of mums that know each other well, that have enough things in common that it is easy to accept the differences.

Playgroups are one of many ways to meet other mums, like a dating pool for new mums. However once the friends are made, and the group is formed they really do not need revisiting (until the next time you are stalking for a mum to join your circle!).


  1. as i read this i felt a little sad because i love playgroup, i went at first for my child , now i go because i can see myself becoming a part of something, thats not centred at home

  2. Don't feel sad, there is always exceptions to my harping on.

  3. I find that the formal playgroup that my kids go to facilitates parallel play, rather than socialising. My girl will play with the friends she has from child care or other external play dates, but otherwise, its just an opportunity to play with and do things that we don't/can't do at home.
    That said, it is a good place to find people to arrange those personal play dates. I must get in touch again with the recently immigrated woman and her kids. We haven't seen them since I returned to work.

  4. Hmmm, great term. Kids engage in parallel play while parents engage in parallel parenting. (I hate that society is so okay with this)

  5. Spot on with this post. I feel even more isolated attending a playgroup than I do if I stay at home...I've only been to a playgroup once and I wont be going back. Love your writing by the way.

  6. Cassie, thanks for this post. I have been having similar thoughts but have had difficulty coming out and articulating them because of fear that I might be the odd one out; that maybe everyone else actually loves playgroup. But I agree that while they might be good for meeting other likeminded families, they're not generally a super thing to return to again and again. Unless of course, if you manage to find a playgroup which is made up of mostly likeminded families, in which case it might be a better experience for all.

    Thanks for coming out and saying this stuff.

    And I haven't forgotten about the last email - I will reply to you when I can! :D