By Patricia Morgan
Babysitting co-ops are fairly common and a boost to families who want to receive and give support. They also provide a very economical childcare option. Here is another idea to consider for parents of young children.
When our youngest daughter, Katie was 18 months old, two friends and I created a Play Group. Mabel was mother to Eric while Dawna was mother to Sarah. There was only a couple months difference in the children’s ages. We agreed to a number of mutually satisfying goals. We all wanted:
How did we accomplish these goals? We established the following guidelines:
1. The children would be together every Tuesday and Thursday morning from
nine am until noon.
2. We would rotate locations with the homeowner responsible for the caregiving. On Tuesday it would be at my home, Thursday at Mabel’s, the following Tuesday at Donna’s and so on. It was wonderful to know that you would have two mornings for errands or rest on a regular basis.
3. When we were on duty our total focus would be the three children.
4. A loose program would be provided. Each morning would include a story time, music, outdoor play, exploration with creative materials and lots of supervised but spontaneous play.
5. The “free” parent would return right at noon.
6. It would be optional if all six of us joined in to have a mutual lunch. This happened frequently and we began to function as an extended family.
Our Play Group served us well for nearly two years. When we enrolled our threeyear- old children at the same pre-school program, they had instant friends. We continued to meet on a less frequent basis but the extended family feeling continued.
Should you decide to form a play group here are some activity tips.
Establish routines such as washing hands, snack, story time, play time, tidy up time, outdoor time and time to go home.
Note about puzzles: borrow them from a toy lending library if possible. Toddlers benefit from the hand eye coordination of using wood puzzles with very few pieces. Once they can put simple ones together they will be ready for more complicated puzzles. The trick with puzzles is if they are too complicated the child will feel frustrated but if too easy will find it is boring. Puzzles need to be developmentally matched to the child.
Scribbling, Drawing and Painting
Avoid “craft” books and projects that require copying. Let children explore possibilities with different coloured paper, cardboard, crayons, washable markers, oil pastels, chalk and paint. Hint: take a man’s short sleeved shirt and put it on the children backwards for a paint cover-up. If developmentally ready include handle glue, sparkles, magazines and scissors.
Imitation and Dress-up
Music and Movement
Water Play or Sand Play
Provide water in a Tupperware pan or bin with bath play items. In a container of sand or coloured rice you can add shovels, sieves and plastic figures such as dinosaurs or farm animals.
1. Provide opportunities to pull, push, climb, jump, crawl, roll and tumble--whether you have equipment or offer a box with a rope attached and several boxes to crawl through.
2. Outside ideas may include a climbing gym, small slide, balance board, wading pool, snow shovel, toboggan, trike, wagon, wheelbarrow or a variety of balls.
3. Go to the nearby playground.
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