Pedagogical Playgroup

drawing.jpgThis past Saturday was remarkable in that: a) Laurel happily attended a drop-off playgroup with a group of kids she largely was unfamiliar with (she tends to turn reticent around strangers, even little ones); and b) the playgroup essentially was organized and hosted by a 9-year-old (supervised, of course). This concept was fantastic for several reasons: it offered the families of the young guests a means for socialization and separation, it provided a way to teach an older kid about responsibility and earning money, and it gave me food for thought as I mull how we’ll handle the whole new ball game that will be kindergarten, with its vacation stretches and early school pick up days.
The context: At our previous flat, we became friends with our landlords, one of whom is a former childcare provider and expert in the field of child education. We also quickly befriended our landlord’s granddaughters (ages 5 and 9; Laurel played with them regularly when we lived there) and their parents. The play date invitation came from the older daughter, who planned the event with her Nonna.

Logistics: We received an invitation for a drop-off playgroup - starting between 9 - 9:30am and ending at 11:30am - that would be hosted by Laurel’s 9-year-old friend and her Nonna (our former landlord). The invitation indicated that the cost was $5 and guests were asked to bring their bathing suit for water play if the weather was favorable.

Activities: Essentially, activities were as they would be at any play date but with more formally laid out stations. The backyard was set up for a variety of activities, such as a picnic blanket with books laid out for story time, an arts and craft table, outdoor games, etc. Snacks also were served.

Safety: I was impressed that our young host created a separate sign in sheet for each parent to indicate the child’s name, primary and alternate contact phone numbers, allergies, and any other issues she should be aware of.

Why it rocked: From our perspective, this event was wonderful in that Laurel was able to have fun playing with friends while Jon and I got to do things such as read the newspaper, do yoga, and catch up on a little work. But what I thought was especially awesome was that hosting the playgroup offered a creative way to teach an older kid about responsibility and earning money. All of the basic details – how many kids to invite, sending invitations (and making sure to include information about timing, money, the fact that it would be supervised by a grownup, etc.), planning activities, serving food and being aware of allergies – needed to be thought out, and then of course there was the actual act of entertaining and looking after the kids, and handling unexpected situations (e.g., my forgetting to sunscreen Laurel).

The parents of the hostess tried to decline payment, saying they would take care of compensating their daughter, but I wouldn’t hear of it. Not only was $5 a major bargain for two hours of childcare, but it was a pleasure to pay the hostess for a job well done. When Laurel starts kindergarten this fall, I'm hoping we'll be able to take cues from our 9-year-old friend and her Nonna and set up a revolving playgroup scenario with other families that allows the kids to have fun while the parents juggle work and home demands with open afternoons and vacations.

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