Continuing our previously published articles on FAMILYPLACE (a project funded by DAGS), might be useful to some. FamilyPlace was the predecessor of Learning Beyond Schooling when our children were very young and reflected our thoughts as young(er parents).
This article was a workshop paper delivered at the OMEP’s Asia & The Pacific Seminar & Workshop on the 22nd Oct 2000 at the PWTC KL Malaysia.
A parent-initiated playgroup is a non-commercial playgroup involving several parents and their children who take turns to organize the play activities at their homes.
Why a Parent-initiated playgroup?
For the reason that we are increasingly losing touch with our children and our community. In our urban cities, where our natural jungles are being replaced by concrete ones, our rivers are by gigantic dams, and our community-spirit replaced by a feverish wave of consumerism, we face an increasingly difficult task of keeping our community links warmly intact and alive. Families today are increasingly displaced and disconnected with one another. Parents are losing touch with themselves and their children. As consumers in a capitalistic market, we are so used to buying and paying for services that we forget that many of them can be done ourselves with minimum investments and highly rewarding returns.
What are the benefits of parent-initiated playgroups?
1. We have our children in mind when planning the activities.
2. Children are involved in the planning and decision-making.
3. We choose our playmates.
4. We learn to make friends and develop lasting friendships.
5. It is more economical compared to commercial ones.
6. Parents and children have full control of play activities.
7. Parents and children learn to co-operate and socialize appropriately.
8. Parents and children feel a sense of ownership of the playgroups.
How to start a home-based playgroup?
1. Gather a couple of friends with children of similar age group.
2. Lay down some ground rules so that everyone knows what to expect.
3. Follow a planned program so that the children get used to an enjoyable routine.
4. Do some pre-planning before each session to avoid disappointment.
5. Prepare the environment for space and safety.
Some ideas for home-based playgroups
Besides the usual stories, songs and games, we should also look into our traditional games that we played in our childhood and introduce them to our children, eg hop scotch, the eagle and the hen, A-E-I-O-U, etc.
You could get many great ideas for play in the library, like kite-making, art & craft, painting, music & movement etc
The materials used can be from recycled materials like cardboard and boxes, or kitchen utensils and even food in cooking and printing.
Incorporating parent initiated playgroups into nurseries & kindergartens
This idea can be used in nurseries and kindergartens with the parents taking the lead. The school provides the space for play while the parents and children plan and run the play activities themselves. The cost could be shared out with better utilization of the school facilities without burdening the teachers in extra work of planning and running them.
When done properly, home-based playgroups could do much to build lasting and meaningful friendships between the children as well as the parents. More parents should be encouraged to start these playgroups in their neighborhoods.
Chong Wai Leng