A Guide to Surviving Playgroup

For lots of new mums, a playgroup can be terrifying – they’re noisy, intimidating and often cliquey.I’m really lucky – I’ve been to three really fantastic ones amongst the many bad ones. One was at a children’s centre, one was a privately run one and the one I go to now is at a school.

From these I have made some really good friends. They’re great places for the kids to socialise and a chance for me to talk to other adults – this was especially important in the early days of being a first time mum, when it was quite lonely and isolating. Other playgroups haven’t been quite as friendly or welcoming, and I haven’t been back to those ones. I’ll never forget one at a children’s centre where I was the eldest mum by far (I was 26!) and was made to feel really uncomfortable. I think we made our excuses half way through and escaped!.

For anyone who hasn’t yet braved a playgroup, here is what you can expect:

There will be hot drinks

Most playgroups offer you a tea or coffee (they’re usually in the morning so wine and gin isn’t generally acceptable – you will probably need one afterwards though). All sounds very civilised until you try to negotiate your way back to your seat – various toys, crawling babies and wobbling toddlers make it into an assault course.

There will be noise

Screaming. Screeching. Wailing. Whining. Crying – and that’s just the mums! Then there is usually some sort of irritating background music (think nursery rhymes or bubblegum pop) which sticks in your head for the rest of the day

There will be butt sniffing

At some point a smell of a rather dubious nature will waft round the room, overpowering the Yummy Mummy’s Chanel perfume. One by one, children are lifted up for their butts to be sniffed – followed by a look of relief when the mum realises that this time, it’s not hers (it’s usually one of mine!).

There will be toys

Bricks. Cars. Trains. Playdough. Dolls. Plastic food, Pushchairs. Ride ons. There will be toys EVERYWHERE. There’s always one that all the kids want and bicker over, leaving the mums sitting there wondering how on earth to deal with it.

There will be singing

At this point I usually sneak off. Sitting in a circle singing ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ or ‘Row the Boat’ whilst trying to pin down a child who wants to be playing with the toys is my idea of hell. It’s even worse when everyone has to choose their favourite nursery rhyme to sing – we are always the last in the circle and our ‘favourite’ (Twinkle Twinkle in case you’re interested) has already been done.

There will be glitter and paint

Don’t make the same mistake I did on my first few visits and dress your kids (or yourself!) up in nice clothes. They, and you, will end up covered in paint and glitter. Just before Christmas one of the little girls ended up with an entire tub of red glitter in her hair. You will always come out with a piece of artwork that hasn’t quite dried (and quite often not actually belonging to your child).

There will be a snack for the kid

If you’re lucky, there might even be a biscuit for mummy! Because of this healthy eating malarkey, more often than not it’s a piece of fruit for the kids (mine are the ones whining for a biscuit), which ends up half chewed on the floor. Or in Mummy’s hair. Or on her leggings.

There will be one of ‘those’ mums

You know the sort – her child was walking and talking in full sentences by the time he was six months, and now reads War and Peace from cover to cover before bed. Her eldest child is doing his masters degree at university. He’s eight. Yes, she will be there. Avoid.

There will be germs

Playgroups are great places for building up immune systems. Not so great if you are paranoid about germs. A fine layer of snot and saliva covers the toys that your teething baby or toddler then shoves in it’s mouth. Nice.

You will make friends

On a more serious note, I count some of the mums I’ve met at playgroup as some of my closest friends. As soon as you walk through that door you have something in common with everyone in there – kids. You will get the odd snotty cow or two in there, but most of them will probably feel the same as you. Go and talk to them – you may make a friend for life!


What are your experiences of playgroups? Like or loathe?


37 thoughts on “A Guide to Surviving Playgroup”

  1. I used to love taking mine to playgroups. Both my children particularly liked Messy Play at the Children’s Centre so old clothes were worn every time (apart from that first time when we came back with stained clothes from a dye in the bright purple activity!). I think that you have to find the right group/s though. A couple we went to to start with, we just did not fit and it felt obvious. Some groups loads of people come and talk to you and make you feel welcome, in others some parents sit in groups in a ‘no new people welcome here’ look on their face. It depends on the mix of people. We found some great groups that we loved and are still good friends with the parents and children seven years later. #WeekendBlogHop

  2. Great post!!
    When I first went to playgroup I was horrified, but I went back and I now really enjoying it!!
    Not so much the singing…but I am quite a good mime.
    And the bit when you said the mums sniff their child’s bottom…hilarious!!And so true!!!

  3. Haha love the one about “those” mums… Yeah I don’t want to hear about people’s perfect children… I want to hear all about the trouble makers and the ones who we’re not fully potty trained at 18 months!! #sharewithme

  4. Oh goodness I remember the playgroups when my son was little, I think I avoided most of them haha. I wasn’t very confident first time round but I got there in the end. Playgroups are definitely a scary place when you don’t know any of the other parents!

  5. So nice that you’ve had such great playgroup experiences. I think I’m just too shy as I always feel so awkward at playgroups (which is why we stopped going). That and all the butt sniffing. haha #pocolo

  6. Loved this, so true-there will be toys particularly resonated, I feel like I am existing in a playroom-I had to vacuum up tiny pieces of toys the other day! No one warns you about the toys-Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  7. Hehe, great post, I have been to some groups with Boo and some are better than others, and I have met some lovely mums through them, and some of the best groups I have been to have been at the local library and are free!

  8. Love this! Playgroup is how I survive the rest of my week! I have missed only a handful of weeks in over ten years! SAHMS have got to find a playgroup! Please check me out at the Share with Me Blog Hop!

  9. Oh my goodness, yes on the glitter and paint! I can really remember Grace’s first playgroup – I really loved taking her there and it was such a friendly place. Thank you for linking to #PoCoLo x

  10. Hello there, we were really lucky with our playgroups, and everyone was lovely though there’s always the occasional competitive soul! The only one I went to which upset little man was when he was very little and they said he couldn’t hold onto a toy when he was eating at the table. Cue an almighty tantrum and lots of staring but we got there in the end! I think one of the great things is that when you have children there’s never a dull moment, and always plenty to talk about! x #binkylinky

  11. I do love playgroup. I take my girls to two different ones a week as well as music group. One of the groups is really busy and although I’ve been going for well over a year, I don’t really know anyone there. The second playgroup we’re fairly new to. It’s smaller and the people are friendlier! Thanks for linking up to the #BinkyLinky

  12. I’ve met some lovely people through playgroups, they can be such a life line. They do have there pitfalls too, which you have covered perfectly 🙂

  13. This is hilarious I couldn’t stop laughing and agreeing too. WOW. Lovely list here sounds like you know your playgroups! lol Great post. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me and I hope to see you again tomorrow for another great round. #sharewithme

  14. I never enjoyed playgroup with the boys, but I went every week so that we got out of the house and I got a warm drink. I guess some people are just not made to be thrown in to social situations where all they have in comm on with the others is kids of the same age!

  15. i take my daughter to lots of groups at our Sure Start Centre and everyone is really lovely (well most anyway!). Only downside is we don’t get tea or coffee! And yes I know what you mean, there is always one of those Mums there isn’t there!

  16. Ah the memories. Play group is so loud and messy and disorganised. High pitch noises drive me nuts so play groups were never really my thing.

  17. Hello – great post and really good advice and info for first time mums.
    I have mixed feelings about playgroups but i did eventually find one that we loved.
    Our playgroup is fun when we get the chance to go along but i wouldnt say i have made many friends there!
    All the Mums are friendly and polite but i am usually busy playing with my little girl! I am a big kid at heart! x

  18. My youngest is almost three, and we’re coming to the end of the playgroup years, I think. I did enjoy them, but I’m a bit relieved. There are only so many times you can sing Wind the Bobbin Up without cracking!

  19. My youngest is almost three, and it feels as though our playgroup years will be drawing to an end soon. I enjoyed them at the time, but I’m also a bit relieved. There are only so many times you can sign Wind the Bobbin Up without cracking!

  20. This Post brought back memories of me taking my children to Play Group some 25 years ago!! I loved meeting other parents there and some of them are still good friends of mine.

  21. I loved going to playgroups when I had my singleton but I hated going with my twins. Everyone was so hostile and unhelpful and I was so stresssed

  22. Like you I tried a few before finding a couple that were right for us (I say us, I mean me – the kids would have been happy at any of them!)

  23. Well I’ve been to a fair few in my time. Some pretty nice and others dire. I’ve also been to twins groups too. To be fair, I’ve never really enjoyed going that much, it’s been a needs must… somewhere to take the kids now and again. I didn’t get into it at all! Funny post 🙂

  24. I loved playgroups. I’m sure going to so many helped my son to be so confident. My husband always felt a bit uncomfortable going to them, though. But he found one he was comfortable taking our son to and enjoyed it. I think they’re amazing for forcing you up and out of the house!

  25. Haha it made me laugh. The playgroup sounds interesting, I will try it with my kids. 🙂

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