You might think that finding a playgroup for your toddler is a no-brainer. But if you are new in town, or simply new to parenting, it can be trickier than you’d expect.
Since moving to Tawhero in Whanganui, I had to quickly find out what playgroups were available for my (then) 11 month old to go to, otherwise we would have both suffered from a serious case of cabin fever.
I don’t know if it’s just Whanganui, but it was NOT easy to find out what groups were out there. Most playgroups don’t have websites or even a Facebook page, which I find bewildering in this modern age where setting up some sort of social media page takes all of five minutes to do. Often it’s because a lot of playgroups are run by volunteers who may not have the time or skills to set one up. Or maybe it’s just because word of mouth has kept them in business for years so they don’t think they need to. But this is of no help to parents new to a neighbourhood. People, if you run or help with a playgroup that does not have any social media presence, for the love of God, please do something about it if you can. Do it for the new mamas out there who can’t wait to find you.
If the internet isn’t all that forthcoming here’s how to find a playgroup in your area.
- Get thee to a playground. Hell, just get out of the house and go for a walk. You are bound to run into other parents that you can pump for information.
- Get thee to your local visitors/information centre. The one here in Whanganui rocks. Most info centres should have playgroup information at their fingertips – although bear in mind that there is a chance that it might be out of date (as they rely on groups keeping them in the loop with regards to any changes of time, contact details etc).
- Read your local freebie newspaper. In Whanganui we have two excellent free community newspapers: The Whanganui Midweek and the Rivercity Press. Free papers tend to have higher readerships and lower advertising rates than mainstream newspapers, so many community groups will post advertisements in there instead.
- Subscribe to your local mainstream newspaper. Other than dressing my daughter for the day (I am so making the most of choosing cute outfits for her while she still lets me), my morning pleasure is reading the Whanganui Chronicle over breakfast, when I am not being interrupted by my toddler. Sometimes groups may advertise in there or may be a feature story.
- Join local Facebook groups. Prior to moving I joined a Facebook Group called Whanganui Mummies which has been a mine of information. I would never have found the newest playgroup that Sausage and I have started going to if someone hadn’t mentioned it on Facebook (again, this wonderful playgroup has no social media presence, like a Facebook page). I was looking to switch playgroups to something a little more low-key than our previous one (more on that in Part Two: How to choose a playgroup) and this one fit the bill nicely. And it’s within walking distance of our house. Brilliant. You don’t necessarily need to join a parent Facebook page. I’m also a member of several other local pages that keep me up to date with what’s happening around our city and most members wouldn’t mind answering a playgroup related question. Most people LOVE to be of help.
- Go to your local library. Mine even has a playgroup! Many libraries like ours have a reading/singing time (usually free) once or twice a week. Reading = fun times for your kid. What could be better? Libraries invariably have a community noticeboard and you might find playgroup fliers there too.
- Ask at your local Church/Community Hall/cultural group. The first playgroup I took Sausage to here was Mainly Music at St James Presbyterian Church in Whanganui East. I found out about it because we started attending the church (D is in the process of becoming a Minister). Most churches in New Zealand run some kind of playgroup, as do many ethnic community groups (e.g. Chinese language group).
- In New Zealand, ask your Plunket Nurse. They will be able to recommend groups in your area, and can put you into a PIN group too.