Hushpuppy and I like to get out and about. Ever since she’s been mobile, she’s shown the spirit of an explorer. She’s a climber, always looking for new heights to conquer, she’s insatiably curious, and has a wellspring of energy. The park and our classes are great, but one of our best discoveries is the adventurous world of Playgroup.
Playgroups are gatherings in which babies and kids up to about school age can come to play with toys, crafts, and equipment in a community environment. Near where we live, most areas seem to have at least one Playgroup. They vary in size and how often they meet, and some even have a particular focus, like language or other specialty. They can take place in community halls, churches, or other public spaces and usually cost a few dollars or a small annual membership. When I first heard about Playgroups, I was a little confused, trying to figure out how to find one that was age appropriate for my child, but actually, the way that they are structured means that there are activities suitable for babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, and they all play together, or at least in the same space. There are volunteers or staff on site keeping things running, but parents are still required to fully supervise their kids.I often meet up with or run into mums I know from my mother’s group, and they’re nice places to catch up, albeit in fits and starts while chasing toddlers.
We are so lucky to have two pretty amazing Playgroups in our area, and Hushpuppy and I have become regular attendees. The first is the Crows Nest TAFE playgroup (Edit: Please see Comments Section for 2017 dates, time, pricing, and contact information).
It’s a magical place. It’s run by the students studying for degrees in daycare, so as part of their study, they set up play areas and observe how the children interact with them. They’re wonderfully creative and open to letting the kids play naturally.
On any given day at Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup, you’ll enter a huge fenced in yard full of kids. On one end, there are about half a dozen stations set up, which might include sensory play, books, a play post office or doll hospital, instruments, a “race track” full of tricycles, among others. There are two sandpits, which might have dinosaurs, or cars, or a pit of water (Hushpuppy’s favorite, so I’ve learned to always bring a change of clothes). On the other side of the yard is a large amount of playground equipment – jungle gyms, slides, swings, and an area that usually has softer play for smaller kids. If all that’s not enough, there’s an area for crafts, usually some painting and collage stations. And, finally, a big room inside with toys for smaller babies, a quiet library nook, a toy kitchen, blocks, puzzles, and trains. Hushpuppy usually wanders around from one activity to another, checking a lot of different things out, though when she gets to the kitchen or tea party, she usually sticks around for a long time.
Here’s a few of the things she’s gotten up to at Crows Nest TAFE Playgroup.
When Crows Nest is closed due to the students being on work assignment or break, we have a fantastic second option at the North Sydney Community Centre Explorers Playgroup. It runs Mon – Thurs 10 – 12:30 during school term. It’s $6 for under 18 months and $12 for over 18 months. My favorite thing about North Sydney Playgroup is that they sell coffee during the session, so I always try to bring a few extra dollars for that.
Like Crows Nest, they have an expansive fenced in yard. They don’t have nearly as many stations set up, but the kids never get bored. They have big blocks, painting, sandcastles, a playhouse, and a great jungle gym. Far and away Hushpuppy’s favorite thing is that they have bunches of Cozy Coupe cars and other ride on toys. Mostly she’s in it for the Cozy Coupes, though. She makes a beeline for an empty one as soon as we arrive and pushes herself around for ages (mostly backwards, she hasn’t worked out forward, yet). There are also three indoor rooms, one for smaller babies, one for imaginative play (doll hospital, house, etc, depending on the day), and another with a library corner and some blocks. During the session, the staff also offer singing and story time, though Hushpuppy hasn’t shown any interest in those, just yet. It has a very friendly feel to it, and it seems a bit more relaxed than Crows Nest, with more open space.
Cozy Coupes and more, here’s a few images of Hushpuppy’s adventures at North Sydney Playgroup.
In our weekly schedule I’ve set aside at least one day for Playgroup because I think it’s such a wonderful experience for her, and I have a blast watching her engage with so many new adventures. I know if she were enrolled in daycare, she’d be getting a lot of this type of play there, but staying at home with me, there’s only so much I can offer in terms of new experiences. I love that she has a place to try, feel, and work on new things, test her physical abilities, and be around other children. It’s wholesome, healthy and nurturing play, and as a bonus she’s always exhausted and ready for a great nap after. We both adore our Playgroup days.
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