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?