Create An Outdoor Playgroup
Creating an outdoor playgroup is a great way for you to connect with other active parents in your community and build friendships among parents and children. The children will develop; imagination, social, language, and physical skills, and just be smarter, healthier and physically fit kids. And the best thing of all for us parents they sleep better!
Is it just going to be for parents or is it going to be for caregivers (nannies) as well. In our group we happen to just be parents. But there is no reason why caregivers can organize outdoor playgroups. If you are a working parent and don't have time for this, why not help your caregiver organize a playgroup?
What age ranges are you going to have in your group? Is it just going to have a certain group of ages? In our groups we have a wide spread of kids 0-6 years old. This is because we feel it is nice to encourage interaction between the ages and we also have parents with more then one child. Generally speaking, your child has to be able to walk to really appreciate an outdoor playgroup in all kinds of weather. But that doesn't keep them from enjoying fresh air. In our group parents bring their babies to our group so their older children are able to play outside.
Time and day:
To build a sustainable playgroup over time, it is important that the time and day never change. You want to create a habit of coming in the participants and encourage dedication in your parents. The last thing that you want is a constant survey of availability for meetings. If the group knows collectively that there will be children and parents outside at a certain time and day, the incentive is in place for everyone to put the effort in to bundle up and get to the park. It is important to find one time and one day that is going to be committed to by the group and keep that day and time protected.
Where are you going to meet? It is smart to use a public space as your meeting point. Placing the children in neutral territory lessens the possibility of one child running around declaring what is "MINE". Also you want to have a place of new and different opportunities for the children to play outdoors. They will bring back those experiences to their own backyards. Ideally, look for a park that is enclosed, has trees and varied landscape. The trees will provide shade from the sun in the summer and protects against the wind-chill in the winter. A park with a little bump can be a perfect hill for toddlers sledding in the winter. The more varied the landscape the less incentive for the children to always play on the playground equipment.
Who is going to be the organizer? Usually it is the one who has the idea who makes it happen, but you can't do it alone. Maybe you already have a network of moms that would be interested in partnering up with you. If you can find two more parents to partner with, you are already on the road to get a playgroup building critical mass. Not only does it take the workload off of one person trying to hold the group together alone, it also helps make a bigger visual impact in the park during the early days out in the park. It will help catch the eyes of other parents walking by with their children. The child sees others out in the park playing? They want to stop and play? You get the chance to tell the parent what you are up to? They are back next week.
Again, you don't want debate and negotiation whether or not you will meet on a certain weather condition as it is happening. If people believe that the weather may be too inclement for some they may lose motivation to go out themselves. As an example our outdoor playgroup has these guidelines regarding the weather. In our group we dont go out when there is a blizzard, thunderstorm, below -25íC (-13íF), heat alert and smog alert. What kind of guidelines you are going to have is up to your group, now if we have babies in our group we don?t meet if it is -10íC (14íF). If you are going to take and post any photos, you have to get permission from your members. (Make sure you are taking care of your privacy)
Not only will this help you to recruit new members for your outdoor playgroup, but it also can be used as a communication tool with your members. Simply post your blog on your section of the forum and your members will see your blog post. You also will have a special section in the forum that you can discuss, chat and make announcements.
Recruit your members
Hang flyers in your community; libraries, local coffee shops, community centers, pediatrician or dentist clinics or your local Early Child Center or school. Maybe you are already part of a mom's group on the internet, post it there. Look for other parent networks and post there as well. When you have a network of parents interested in your playgroup you will notice that word of month will get you most of your members.
The best way to advertise is word of mouth. Ask your members to recruit new members for the group. It is also important to encourage your members to be part of the playgroup and try to engage them. Find out what interests them or what childhood games they played when they were small. It is everyones playgroup and the more they contribute the more ownership and pride they will posses.
It is also important to make new members feel welcomed. You are outside for the kids, but if a parent feels uncomfortable or left out they are likely to not return. Try to avoid politics, religion or any other conflicts. Keep the time outside light, about the children and supportive for all.
What are you going to do is up to you. Do you just want to meet or are you going to have more structured activities when you meet. Remember that small children should not have too much structure. They learn more when they play on their own terms. To get tips of what you can do read: spring, summer, fall and winter.
Use guidelines for parents of your playgroup: each parent is responsible to supervise their own children, and also are the one who are in charge of what kind of actives their children will participate. We don't share responsibilities of other children during the playgroup days. If a child is in our group, one of the parents or caregiver is there as well. We not only ask the parents to be responsible for their children, we also expect them to laugh, play and sing with them as well. Make sure that everyone knows that this is a community group and not a service provided for him or her. (Your group is not a babysitting service) It is place for parents and kids to connect.
Weather guidelines: Are you going to be outside when it is raining? When is it too cold for your group? Heat alert, smog alert and thunder? This something that has to be clear for your playgroup in advance.
Download our PDF flyer for outdoor playgroup