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Baby and toddler playgroups - what are REALLY they like?

(26 Posts)
HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:15:20


Wasn't sure where to put this post but here goes..

I've always been a bit wary of playgroups/stay and play/ etc with my DD1 but with DS1 (10 months) I am debating whether to brave them in the new year. Would you recommend going to them? I always get the impression they are a bit cliquey but please correct me if I'm wrong!

Any tips on what to do when I get there?

Thanks in anticipation.

MegBusset Wed 22-Dec-10 16:20:28

It really depends on the playgroup. Some are cliquey, some are friendly, some are deathly dull and some overrun by little sods ruffians!

Worth trying out a few in your area, and go a few times to get your face known.

lukewarmcupofmulledwine Wed 22-Dec-10 16:21:10

No, mostly friendly, nothing to be scared of - not like going to a party where you know no-one, at least you've all got one thing in common! I find them a bit dull, but less dull than staying in the house.

Just go, smile, make small talk (admire clothes/children/talk about developmental stage etc), don't be scared if you're sitting by yourself for a bit. Once you've been a few times some faces will start to become familiar. Who knows, you might even make a new friend!

If you don't like the one you go to, try a different one. They are all different - some small, some big and noisy, some crafty and well organised, some not so much...

(oh, and your DCs might enjoy it as well, but that's a bit by the by.... wink)

Firawla Wed 22-Dec-10 16:22:25

depends on the one you go to i think, but definatly worth a try. when you find one that you like and feel comfy with it can be so beneficial to you. i normally go to mine every day and gonna miss them now cos its holidays so not on for a few weeks, i dont think they are always cliquey maybe some are but try a few to see which you prefer. personally i would say the surestart ones are much better than others, and less cliquey cos they have a better mix of different types of people but i think it can be the staff that either makes it great or not good really so they do vary. if you have got a smaller one and a bigger one near you then i would say the smaller ones sometimes tend to be more welcoming and friendly but that may be just in my area.
even if @ first you didnt know anyone and do get a cliquey vibe just play with your dc and strike up some conversations with people.
if you have an under 12 months stay and play @ your centre go to that one because easier to chat to people, more relaxed atmosphere i think, easier to stay in one place rather than people running round after toddlers

reikizen Wed 22-Dec-10 16:23:14

I always found them boring & cliquey but I guess that's cos I wasn't in the clique! They are probably great otherwise! It must also depend on the group (obviously) as the first one I went to was all rice cakes and yummy mummies and the second one was mostly childminders (not that there is anything wrong with childminders of course, simply that they had all known each other for years and it's different from meeting other mums!) However, I did go as I needed to get out before I went insane so they served a purpose.

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:27:11

Thanks for the tips, I think I'm just dreading the sitting by myself for a bit and then going home in tears cos no one talks to me (did happen a few years ago with DD1). I can be a bit shy until I get to know people so hope I don't get ignored! Paranoid or what...

MegBusset Wed 22-Dec-10 16:30:18

I would second finding your local Surestart group, ime they have a good mix of people, the organisers are paid to be friendly, and they're free!

lukewarmcupofmulledwine Wed 22-Dec-10 16:31:47

But even if no-one talks to you, you're still out of the house, playing with different toys and having a cup of tea made for you (hopefully tea anyway, if its a good group - my favourite one has a cake rota as well).

I've been a few times where I've spoken to no-one, and I can't say its been the best experience of my life, but I wouldn't let it put me off going again to try and see. It does take a while to get to know people, so you just have to get through that initial bit I suppose.

<<disclaimer - I am also v shy, so don't always heed my own advice!>>

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:34:19

I live in Manchester so will look online at the Surestart groups. Will they be ok with my eldest coming too, she is nearly four now?

Thanks for your advice, just need to brave them now!

onlyjuststillme Wed 22-Dec-10 16:35:31

very dependant on the group there are 2 near to me, yards from each other. 1 is brilliant dd goes every week, loved it and learns loads. The mums are all quite involved with their own but are very nice and will talk to anyone who talks to them. The other is horrible! Mums all standing in corner drinking tea in their little cliques and kids are pretty much ignored.

The moral of the storey- dont let 1 horrible experience put youoff a great experience may be just around the corner!

gorionine Wed 22-Dec-10 16:35:33

HG sells where about are you? I run one and we are ever so friendly grin

I think you have to go to several groups sometimes before you find the one that suits you.

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:36:38

Thanks Lukewarm, your disclaimer is so true!

FairyTaleOfNewYork Wed 22-Dec-10 16:37:52

i have a list of 4 to try with new baby and dd4 in the new year. i just neeed to get out of the house.

gorionine Wed 22-Dec-10 16:37:56

HG I am in the north west too in a village with the same initials as your nickname!

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:38:26

Gorionine, I live in Salford but willing to travel if it's friendly!

paperclips28mm Wed 22-Dec-10 16:44:09

I think you should go prepared to sit by yourself for a bit and then go home - but NOT in tears. People won't necessarily speak to you first time without you speaking to them first, if it's the kind of group that's basically a big room with the toddlers playing and people sitting and standing round the edges with tea. Don't read too much into that.

The playgroup I went to was big and busy and although there were a few faces who were there every week, there were also plenty who came along only every now and then, so although it might feel blindingly obvious to you that you're new that very week, it won't look obvious to everyone else. To most people, you'll just be another face in that week's crowd. There's unlikely to be anyone there who has even a semi-official role of greeting new people - so it's quite likely no one will. It'll be up to you over the weeks to pluck up the courage to exchange tiny bits of small talk about the children with whoever's standing near you, and very gradually get to know people that way. It does work eventually but you need to have low expectations at first.

I know what you mean about being shy, but the killer when you're shy, the biggest obstacle to getting over it, is reading too much into what other people do and don't say - so much so that half your mind is on that all the time and you're not relaxing and just being normal. Going home in tears and seeing it as deeply significant that no one spoke to you could be an example of that.

Remind yourself that mostly other people are thinking about themselves and not you. Part of getting to know people and becoming known is going a few times so you become a familiar face - even if the first few times you hardly do any talking except to your dc - it's a dull but necessary stage of becoming known in the group, if it's a big informal group.

Good luck! I'm shy almost to the point of social phobia but now almost the other side of the toddler group thing - it does get easier.

gorionine Wed 22-Dec-10 16:44:41

It is on the other side of Manchester (Stockport)probably a little bit far to travel for a toddler group. It might be easier to find something a bit closer to yours. Although it would be very nice to meet yougrin I am on Mumsnet local either under "Playgroups" or "Nurseries and playgroups". Look for "little Ducklings".

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:48:41

Thanks Gorionine, probably is a bit far but you never know!

paperclips - going to bite the bullet and not walk away even if it does go against my personality. Better than staying cooped in the house!

Thanks againgrin

HereInMyHead Wed 22-Dec-10 16:49:09

I go to lots of different play groups in manchester and try to be welcoming to new faces!

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:49:22

Good luck Fairytale too!

pastaplease Wed 22-Dec-10 16:49:25

I always see them as something for the child, not for the parent.

I find a couple a bit on the dull side, but it gives DD the opportunity to play and make friends. Can't be a bad thing!

HGsells Wed 22-Dec-10 16:54:16

Hope I meet some welcoming mums like you Hereinmyhead!

SkyBluePearl Wed 22-Dec-10 21:05:02

Both me and my son love them. We go to one near my oldest sons school and we have a real laugh as many of the women are really nice - and some have become very good friends. It does take time to get to know people and there are one or two very small cliques but otherwise we all rub on together and chat. Maybe it's best to go, follow your child round activities and chat willy nilly about anything to parents who happen to be on the same activity.

Firawla Wed 22-Dec-10 21:46:06

surestart will be fine with your nearly 4 yr old going, its for under 5's so she is within that age group

BertieBottlesOfMulledWine Wed 22-Dec-10 21:52:42

The sure start one sounds like a good bet. The organisers will usually talk to you even if nobody else does, and once you've been along a few times then you get into the group. Our local one is great, I've been going for a year now, it did take me a while to get into the group and I still wouldn't say I'm in the centre of it but there are one or two people that I've made friends with through it and TBH it's just nice to get out of the house and have an adult conversation even if it is a bit superficial. DS likes the chance to play with other children too. At our group there are children from 6 months to nearly 4, and sometimes in the school holidays parents even bring their older children (though this isn't strictly allowed).

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