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What's a playgroup and how can I find one??

A playgroup is a get-together of parents and children for socializing and play, usually babies and young children who are not yet old enough to be in preschool. Playgroups are popular with stay-at-home parents as a way of meeting other parents in the community. Playgroup families may meet in each others' homes, or at local parks and playgrounds, often at a regular time each week. Playgroups are most often formed spontaneously by parents, but there are also playgroups that are formed and facilitated by local parenting organizations.

Here are some ways to find a playgroup:

  1. Post a message to the Announcements Newsletter under "Connections"
  2. Visit your local park or playground and talk to other parents who have children of a similar age to yours
  3. Sign up for a class for kids as a way to meet other parents
  4. Visit or phone Bananas (classes, support, etc.)

Any German playgroups in the Berkeley area?

Sept 2010

We will be relocating to Berkeley shortly and I am looking for German speaking playgroups, etc or parents with kids who would like to meet up for play and chat. My son is 2 years old and is raised bilingual. We would love to find some German speaking friends:) Madeleine


Hi Madeleine! Yes, there are many many German families in the Bay Area and a good way to find them is joining the Yahoo Group 'GerMOMs' - a German Mothers Group (there are different groups for San Francisco, Marin and the East Bay). Our East Bay Group used to be very active by meeting twice a week. But due to changing schedules in kid's (and parent's) lives and people moving back to Germany, most of us are left with communicating through the online forum. However, it's much easier to make friends and find children in your kid's age if you know where to look for other German parents.

There is also the GISSV Berkeley Campus (German International School Silicon Valley). You might not be thinking about elementary school yet because of your son being only two but every now and then the school organizes events (Karneval, yard sales, etc.) where you can socialize and meet other German families. Another fun (and very German!) event is the 'St. Martin's Laternenfest' at the Bay Area Kinderstube - a German Preschool in Albany. Kirstin


German kid resources in the area include Bay Area Kinderstube (BAKS), the German International School of the Silicon Valley (GISSV) in Kensington, and the German Saturday Schools of the East Bay (GSSEB). Bryce

Playgroup in Alameda?

May 2010

Hi, I'm a new mom to a 3 month old girl. Does anyone know of a group for new moms/playgroup in or near Alameda that meets on Fridays? It'd be nice to meet some other new mamas that live in the area... Wendy


Walking (or toddling) distance seems to determine the best play groups/ mom's groups. Not sure what neighborhood you live in, but if you hang out at your local park or coffee house (Julie's, JavaRama, Au Lait, Westcafe, etc.) you're bound to run into some nice families.

There are several singalongs, story times, and other events at the Alameda Libraries. This is a great way to interact with other parents and their kids. http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/library/events.html

Tot Tank has a few events for parents as well. Crosstown used to have a lot of wonderful stuff for kids, but I don't know about the new coffee house there (High Street Station). People in Alameda seem pretty open (I've been here 10 years and only met one person I thought was actually mean). You may also meet fun families at Crab Cove during their preschooler activities.

And if you want to start an organized group, consider posting on the bulletin board at Fashion After Passion. Alana in Alameda


I meet a few moms through Alameda Hip Parents & Kids Meetup group. It is easy to join and you get emails of activities.

http://parents.meetup.com/301/

I think the heath department here may also run a new mom's group. I might also ask the folks at Tot Tank because they used to host groups for free.

I have also seen a number of mom's groups form through Alameda Parents Network. If you post on there, with what age ranges you are looking for and what kind of things you want to do with the group, usually people get a bunch of responses.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alamedaparentsnetwork

I hope you find some cool moms. My groups of moms have really helped me out. Alameda mom


Social circle for 17-month-old?

Jan 2002

I need some recommendation or advice as to how to (or whether) to socialize my 17 month old daughter with children in her age group. My older child is almost 4 yrs old. She goes to preschool a few morings a week. When we go to drop her off, my younger one seems to enjoy seeing the other kids and playing with the new toys. All of our playdates are for my older child and the younger one just comes along and does her own thing. My question is whether I should somehow try to introduce her to those her age? If so, how? She has no "school" friends because I am a SAHM. I tried joining a moms group when she was first born but my older one was bored stiff and whiny at the meetings. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. N


Check out the Epworth playgroups. The group meets at Epworth Methodist United Methodist Church on Hopkins St. for two hours (no religious content). There is free play, with toys, climbing structures, play dough, markers, paint, etc. Parents rotate bringing snack for the kids and thre is a circle time at the end where each kid picks (with some help from mom, dad or care giver) a song for the group to sing. The group size is around 12 kids.

Call the coordinator Liz Dunkle at (510) 528-0467. There is a fee for the playgroup, but it's not too much. There is usually a waiting list.

I have been taking my now 18 month old there since he was about 10 months old and we both like it a lot. Both he and I have made friends there and it's a great social experience for him. The only thing I would mention as a warning is that the Thrusday group is currently full of 2 year old boys who have been together as a group for a while and our day (Tuesday) keeps getting refugees from the Thursday class who are not 2 year old boys.

Also, my little guy enjoys the gymnastics plus classes at University Village. --Karen


At 17 months, your child is not developmentally ready for cooperative play but rather parallel play. If you try to put her together with other kids her age, they will most likely not play together yet and they may have difficulty sharing their toys if a playdate is arranged at one of their homes. I found that the best way to begin to socialize a toddler this age is to take them to parent participation classes like Gymboree or Music Time/Kindermusik where they can get used to being around others the same age and they can learn to share equipment, take turns, and play and laugh together. I did this for a year or so with both of my kids and I think it helped get them ready for preschool at age 3.
As you have probably noticed babies and toddlers love to be around other little people. So if you don't have a bunch of cousins for your little one to interract with provide her with a socialization experience through park play, Mommy and me classes at the community center, music class, Gymboree, Kindergym or a playgroup. If traveling to Walnut Creek isn't too far for you I would be glad to welcome you at the John Muir Hospital Women's Health Center (1656 N. California Blvd. across from Perfominrg arts Center)Toddler Support group every Thursday from 9:15-10:15. Drop in basis, different discussion topics every week, circle time, songs, playtime. For more info feel free to email me. Ksenija
I had the same problem with my second child. She had no "friends" until 2 1/2 yrs old. I joined a parent participation program for 2 yr olds - loosely based on a pre school structure ( you didn't say where you lived but there are many of these programs around in most communities. In Berkeley, there is the playgroup at Epworth Church) while my first attends her pre school. You could also try joining a moms group that meets on a morning your older child is at preschool.
Now that the older child is in pre-school it would be good to try again to find your toddler friends of her own. Do you know anyone with kids both ages? That's unbeatable. Otherwise, either a formal group, a moms & tots group, a music class or lots of time at Totland playground seems fair. Even younger children should get to be the center of attention sometimes! Heather
I am a SAHM who joined a playgroup when my second child was around 9 months old. Our playgroup is still active 2 years later, and my daughter has formed meaningful friendships with several children from the group. I have as well. My daughter is independent and outgoing, and she truly enjoys other children. However, some of the children in our playgroup never bonded with the other children. They tended to be shy and unable to leave their mothers' sides. Now that those children are in preschool, though, they are making friends. So I would advise that you try joining a playgroup and see if your toddler enjoys playing with others in that setting. I found my playgroup through the Neighborhood Parents Network. Another option to consider is enrolling your toddler in a part-time "playschool" program, such as the one my daughter has been in since 19 months for 2 mornings a week. Several wonderful people do home-based programs in the Berkeley area. You can get the information from the Neighborhood Parents Network Preschool Directory. I wholeheartedly recommend Bari Nelson's program.

Friend upset that she's not included in new playgroup

April 2007

A playgroup I've attended since my child was very young recently disbanded, mostly because of conflicting schedules, the arrival of second babies, etc. A member from the old group and myself (we were pretty much the only ones who showed up regularly) created our own new playgroup, and invited new people with similar-aged children to come, in hopes of creating a more reliable group. It's been great!

But an acquaintance from my original playgroup is upset that she hasn't been invited, even though her toddler is in school daily. She wants to come and hang out with her baby alone. I tried to explain, this is a toddler-focussed group, but she gets so incensed, like what a ridiculous premise and how dare I impose a limit on her. It's very awkward because our children are friends and I consider her a friend, too.

But the whole reason I'm doing a playgroup is for camaraderie AND so that my child has friends to play with. Is it too much to ask that a parent who attends has to bring their toddler? I feel bullied. losing my patience


So what's the downside to her coming to hang out with you, her supposed friend? Her baby may detract attention? I don't get it... you must only have one child. It's very hard to have 2 little ones and always feel left out of playgroups. Either our toddler can't come to the baby group or vice versa. These are the rude things that I hear from mommy-land that make me happy I don't stay at home with the kids all day. If she's your friend, then spend time with her. But if this is how you talk about your friends, then I'm scared to see what you say about your enemies. Be Nice.
I don't really understand the problem. A friend wants to come and hang out with her baby and the rest of you in the group. Keeping such a rigid structure seems, ironically enough, to detract from the usual bonds of friendship, which don't measure things like age. I don't see why the friend can't come without her toddler; does she interrupt or disrupt the activities of the group? Sounds as if you really don't like her all that much. inclusion works better
Well... do what you want to do. But I'll tell you this. We are raising my child to be INCLUSIVE in life, rather than exclusive. In all sorts of cultures, all through the world, people just ... get together with friends and people they know, you know? The entire playgroup thing is a bit fascistic sometimes. Is there something about being around this person that bothers you? If so, go ahead and exclude her, but for heaven's sake, don't exclude her and ALSO call her a friend! Northern Californian women are absolutely bizarre. We're all raised to be so ''sweet'' that it takes some of us (like me) years to figure out what the heck we want!

If you're feeling bullied, imho you want to exclude this woman and are mad that she's calling you on it! Maybe, just maybe you don't really like her much and maybe it's a relief to be away from her! If this is the case, then continue on. But work hard to be honest with yourself from now on about your feelings. Even if you don't come across as a ''nice person'' you'll end up much happier in life! older, not so ''nice'' but a great person


Hi - she is wrong to bully you. It sounds like she feels left out and wants to be included. Since she has children the same age as yours, she still has valuable input for you. What's the harm in her attending? Her baby shouldn't interfere with the other kids. Let her play!
I think you should ask the other play group moms. Having the second child is even more isolating than the first, so I kind of relate to that mom. But, she may not realize that she'll be dealing with an infant that doesn't move around while you guys all chase toddlers around. I think you have a responsiblity to the moms in your new playgroup. ask them what they think. Let your friend know that it isn't solely your decision. If you're friends with this woman, maybe they'll like having her around too. Was she one of the unreliable ones or was she reliable? I dont' think you have to be rigid in any situation, but also, if you are feeling bullied, you might have to tell her up front as well. i hate playgroup politics
i say let her join in. does it really matter that her other child is younger or older than the toddlers? she might be able to add something to the group, or learn something. if she's a friend what's the big deal. i think it's great for all kids to be around other kids older or younger. we had a toddler over for dinner with my six & eight year old. of course she wasn't into the stuff they were into but they all had a great time. come one come all
You consider this woman a friend yet you're not being a good friend to her. She needs support -- whether it's to just get out of the house with her younger child and hang with people she is comfortable with -- or perhaps to discuss issues related to her child that used to be in your playgroup. I see your point but you are being exclusionary, the exact thing we try to teach our kids not to be. Be a friend to her and not a mean mommy -- there are enough of them out there. Try to view it from her side. Working Mom of Three
Playgroups are beneficial not only for the child, but also for the parent. They allow parents to connect, to share interesting conversation about their kids, their spouses, interesting books and movies, etc. This mom probably misses the time she spent with you, as she obviously considers you a friend, too. Do the two of you get together in other social settings, or is this the only time she really gets to see you? Is her new baby totally disruptive? Does she butt into conversations or command too much attention? Will it truly be detrimental to the group if she is included? Miss our old playgroup, too
Hi -- I don't often post, but your post inspired me to respond and ask you to look at this from your friend's position. I too am part of a wonderful playgroup, and I thought it might disband once the kids were off to school, etc. However, it didn't, and this is in large part due to the fact that we moms had become friends and wanted to spend time with eachother regardless of the kids. Being the mom of an only, I would have been very hurt if I was made to feel unwelcome when others in the group got together with their younger children. Now, I sometimes join the moms with their toddlers and babies, and they love having an extra parent there to help out. Also, many of our activities are now focused on us moms getting together without any kids, and it's great! Of course, you are free to form any sort of playgroup you like, but if you really do consider this person a friend and enjoy her company, why not let her join you, regardless of her child's age? Happy Playgroup Member
I understand the ''toddler required'' rule you mention, this being a toddler playgroup, but... maybe you're missing the big picture. Over time, aren't friendships more important then when exactly people have their babies? You say you and she and your children are friends. This is priceless. My kids are older and over time, the variety of ages in families we're close to makes things more fun and I can't count the number of times we adults all got together for this or that regardless of which kids could or couldn't or didn't want to come. When they get older, the kids don't necesarily align by age but more by personality chemistry. And when they all leave, you're left with these incredible old friends.

Ask yourself, What negative effect can her being there have? You'll still accomplish your goals of camaraderie for yourself and your children, even more so by encouraging more unconditional friendship. How would you feel if it were you being excluded? I say forgive her hurt reaction and hope she forgives you too. Anon


I am a mom to a 10 month old and belong to a playgroup. As a new stay at home mom, I have often times felt very isolated. I enjoy attending my weekly playgroup b/c I get to watch my baby have fun with other babies and I get to bond with other moms. There have been times when my baby has been sick and we stay home but I wish that I was still there. I look forward to seeing the babies as well as the moms each week. I consider them friends (although not good friends). My point is, I think you are being insensitive. I obviously don't know either of you so I am trying not to judge. However, it seems strange that she would be offended that you have started a new group and it seems strange that you would make such a childish ''rule''. Good Luck! Anon
I don't see why you would want to or need to limit the play group in this way...especially if she has a baby she's bringing and a toddler she probably would love to talk about...and is seeking her own companionship as well as her babies. I would be bothered by your ''rules'' too if I was her... I think we can be a little more open than that with these 'play groups.' We are modeling for our kids here, and inclusion of those who have different situations, needs, etc. is a good thing. just my two cents
Are you friends with this woman or not? Do you remember what it's like to be a the mother of a new baby and need to get out of the house and talk to other adults? Are your friendships with others now that you're a mother based *only* and *soley* on your liked-aged children, g-d forbid there be any other connection between two or more adults in your social circle? Forgive me for sounding harsh, but I can't get my brain around this. It sounds like you have hurt feelings about the playgroup disbanding and are lashing out at her. I can't imagine saying to a friend that I didn't want to see her unless she had her kid in tow. Even if I had mine. Even in a playgroup situation. Maybe you're doing her a favor. Perplexed
If she brings her toddler, how does that make fewer children for your child to play with? The other children will be there anyway. And what's wrong with toddlers playing with babies, or with someone a bit older? Geez. So much for ''it takes a village''. God forbid kids learn to play with children of a different ages and abilities. If you're feeling bullied it sounds ego-related, like your control is being challenged. Not having her and her infant come doesn't make any logical sense. I'm not sure why she's insisting, as I wouldn't want to hang out with a mom with your attitude anyway. Kids are kids
What ever happened to a group of moms hanging out together with a gaggle of kids - all different ages? The moms were together because they were *friends* and the kids were exposed to older and younger alike? Why do you have to have only kids the same age together? We are just overcompartementalizing our lives to our detriment. My baby hangs out with toddlers because I like the moms. The toddlers love the baby, the baby LOVES the toddlers. Why not? My oldest hangs out with kids of all ages too. He gets to learn things from the older kids and be the teacher/caregive to the younger. Try it, it's not so bad. Still perplexed
sorry, but I don't see a problem with your friend attending sans toddler. you said you go for adult company as well and kid company and even if she doesn't have her kid with her, she's till a mom and can relate to mom/toddler issues. Friends are hard to find and keep - cherish them! anon
I wasn't going to respond at first but then I heard about something similar with some friends (not around here) and thought I would write in.

I don't see the big deal with letting your friend over. Her toddler is at school, but that doesn't mean she can't relate to the parent conversation or just enjoy being with other mom friends. To her, you are excluding her just because her toddler isn't in tow and in my opinion that is fairly petty.

I started a fairly large play group that that now covers newborns to six year olds, but I could never imagine *not* inviting someone just because their kid doesn't meet the age requirement. Isn't this all about friendship and making connections?

Invite her over, play nice and maybe your new group will find some new friendships with this woman, whether she has her toddler with her or not. everyone in the sandbox


It sounds like you believe your reasons for not including your ''friend'' in your new playgroup, but in her place I'd be incensed too. It sounds like you actually want to ditch her, but without any hard feelings. If the situation were more as you described it, you could invite her to come and let her decide whether its worth her time or not to attend without her toddler.

I think that you need to look at your motives more closely and decide whether or not you really want to continue the friendship enough to stop controlling it. Been there and Embarrassed


It's too bad that your aquaintance hasn't been able to maintain a friendly and non- pressured attitude towards you as she requests to join the new group. However, if she is pressing that hard to join your new playgroup, perhaps it is because she is feeling isolated and lonely. How can it hurt to let her come to the new playgroup without her toddler, just so that SHE can get some adult companionship? Anonymous
i think mixed age playgroups are fine, in fact better, than same age ones. toddlers of the same age are often very territorial with one another, and at best play alongside one another. but kids 1-2 years apart WILL play together: the older kids take the lead and invent games, and the younger kids are remarkably accepting of the older kids' authority. it's more natural, the way village and extended family life always was. the playdates i dread are two 20mo's in one's house: it's just a nonstop fight, the ''owner'' won't share the toys and feels threatened, the visitor feels rejected, the mom's are too busy settling differences to visit.

i think it's the mom's who want to have the same age kids together, so they can share what's currently going on, get/give advice. your friend obviously feels excluded, and you are maintaining that there is a good reason for it, but is it really such a problem if her toddler isn't in attendance? she still lives with a toddler, and would have experiences to share. are you excluding her because she has a different philosophy in choosing to have her toddler in preschool, and you feel a rift because yours isn't?

i think you should include her, unless you really DID want to exclude her on the basis of other interpersonal issues (?you feel she's too pushy, dominating...). you call her an aquaintance in one breath, a friend in another. if you want to continue a relationship, or your kids' friendship, you should include her. besides, soon enough this group will start creating siblings too, and are you going to kick them out when they have that new baby? then their big kids might go to preschool too... and poof, there goes this new playgroup. there's value in longevity of friendship: if the playgroups break down every year, you aren't really friends, just collegues working on a project. signed:mixed groups and old friends are great.


Actually this seems pretty pointless and mean on your part. Will you be perfectly fine with it and not have your feelings hurt if someday people you know form a play group and don't ask you to be a part of it? What if one day your toddler is with a caregiver other than yourself for a day and you feel lonely, will YOU be welcome at this play group? What if you had a toddler AND a baby, would you be allowed to bring the baby? Is it really so odd that this woman might want to hang out with other moms she knows even though her older child is with another caregiver?

How about you have some compassion for a woman who is supposedly your friend? Maybe she misses her toddler and would love to play games with yours. Maybe she's overwhelmed with a new baby and needs some friendly support. Maybe she liked YOU and wants to be friends. You're not in high school anymore. Why set such weird cliquey limits to camaraderie? Laura


Is it really a big deal to let her come with just her baby? It seems like it might be nice to have an ''extra'' adult around without a toddler to worry about. If it really is just the fact that her toddler isn't with her, I think it would be nice to let her attend. If there are other issues (personality conficts) then that is a different story) I am sure with a new baby she would really enjoy the company and she just might feel more comfortable with some people she already knows vs. finding a new group. the more the merrier

Playgroups -- do they naturally ''fizzle'' out?

Dec 2006

My son and I have been going to a playgroup with the same members since he was about 4 months old -- now he's 3, and so are the rest of the kids. Lately, it seems fewer and fewer people show up. I'm disappointed because I kind of schedule my son's and my week around it. Like most of the others in the group, I now have a second child and am busier than ever. I'm the coordinator this month, and beginning to feel like a frustrated and pathetic ''cruise director'' who's trying to rally everyone to show up with email reminders that go unresponded to. It bums me out that my son's playmates aren't available much anymore. Is this a natural thing, once kids start preschool their moms just sort of drift apart? It's so much work for me to drag both of my kids to playgroup when only one or two other moms show up... am I expecting too much of others? It seems they like the group to be there when they need it on a drop-in basis, but they can sort of take it or leave it. Maybe I'm too loyal? baffled mom


Our playgroup has completely fizzled out. I keep in contact with a few of the women, but the group sort of died right around the time our kids were 4. We moved, we started different preschools with different schedules, etc. I was the first one to move away from the area and was gone fr 2 years, so it was hard readjusting at all when we came back, but did see people a few times. I think this must be what happens. I think it is normal to stay in contact with people who live close to you or who you have things in common other than your child's age. no longer in a playgroup
Playgroups do fizzle out or, you could look at it in a positive way, they change. My daughter's playgroup started when she was three months old and we aggressively recruited lots of new kids and moms (it actually started more as a moms group) and, at one point, had more than twenty moms on the list. People move, schedules change, we go back to work, and, yes, new siblings happen and folks get overwhelmed and schedules don't mesh. But, if you start out w/ a big group and add folks as you go along you can keep a playgroup going for a long time. Maybe you have to have a more flexible schedule for the playgroup. Maybe you will only be able to meet once a month (but that probably wont work and the group will fall off of the radar especially for the busy people).

My daughter turns six today and this is the year that most of the kids started kindergarten (some did so last year) and that pretty much killed our playgroup. It's very sad but no one has the time now. It's just amazing that we were able to meet for as long as we did and as regularly as we did even if it was sometimes just two or three moms and kids Molly G


My oldest just started preschool this fall, and yes, my experience has been that the playgroup has fizzled. I, too, put forth serious effort to try to keep it going, but there's only so much one person can do to rally a group of busy and disinterested moms. And I get the busy part, I have two kids, we have busy lives; but I still want a social outlet and friendships and I don't understand why it's so hard to find other people with the same desires. Especially, when the people in the group seem to like each other so much.

I've always had great friends in my life up to the point where I had children. And I have found being a SAHM to be incredibly isolating. More so, because our family is very traditional, with me at home full-time and dad at work, 60+ hours a week. A lot of people in the area seem to have flexible arrangements with both parents home part of the week. I honestly am the only person I know who doesn't have at least a part-time job outside the house and a spouse that is home at least some of the weekdays. I think my need for social interaction is greater than the other moms I know, and I just have more time that needs outlets.

I guess I don't have advice, but I can emphathize. I try really hard to focus on the good friendships I do have in my life, even if they are not with other stay-at-home- moms, or even other moms. It can be rough, and I don't feel like my social interactions are adequate or ideal, but I just try to be as genuine and friendly with everyone I know in the hopes that this will forge lasting connections where they are meant to be. Frustrated too


Boy do I hear you! I started a playgroup when the kids were all about 6 months old. Now, everyone is 3+ and I have to cancel most events because no one attends besides us. It is extremely frustrating, and rude, I think, to plan these events and have folks use it as a placeholder until something else comes along. I have single handedly planned every event since my groups inception and no one understands the time that alone takes. Our events use to be moments you planned your week around, and now folks don't care. I think now that the kids are older, people aren't as interested, which is a shame if you ask me fizzled and frustrated
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