If the idea of walking into a room full of angry babies, exhausted mums and germ ridden toys fills you with dread then know that you are not alone.
The whole idea terrified me and I’ve performed stand up comedy.
Playgroups can be noisy, intimidating places and as the responsible adult it is generally considered unacceptable to burst into tears and throw yourself on the floor screaming if you decide you don’t really like it.
But playgroups are worth the effort. In time you will learn to love them, so much so that by the time July comes round you’ll be horrified at the thought of going cold turkey over the summer holidays.
We do at least 3 playgroups a week – as we have recently moved I don’t even have friends to gossip with. I have been to groups in London and Yorkshire and there are essentially no differences between the two (Yorkshire playgroups feature more songs about farm animals and tractors).
If you do decide you hate playgroup it’s always worth trying another to see if it suits you better: I once went to a playgroup where I was the oldest mum there.
By 20 years.
I go because my children love playgroups and I love my children.
I go because I see how much they learn being surrounded by other children.
I go because if I stayed at home with a 2 year old and a 1 year old every day I would look just like Granny Mummy Garraway by the end of the week.
Here are the 10 things you should know about playgroup.
1. There will be tea and coffee.
It will be awful.
It will also often be served in cups and saucers. Like an evil round of Total Wipeout sleep deprived adults are challenged to carry scalding hot drinks through a room packed with toy cars and manic children.
If you want good coffee go to Caffe Nero. Entertain your own children.
2. There will be toys.
Lots of them.
Take a moment to look around the room and marvel at all its hideous plastic glory. Thank the Lord that none of these toys are cluttering up your own home.
There will be one toy that will cause 98% of all trouble.
Every single child will want to play with this one toy. It will probably be a pram, a slide or a ride on car. This is the law of the playgroup: The more toys there are in a room the more children will be attracted to just one toy.
3. There will be germs.
You will catch colds, coughs, sneezes, tummy bugs, slap cheek, foot and mouth and anything else that is going.
The other option is isolating your child from all contact with other children and letting them catch everything when they start school. The decision is yours.
4. There will be painting or crafts.
Just as Grandma’s house is the ideal place for small children to bake, playgroup is the perfect spot for painting and crafts. Remember to admire whatever crappy effort your child produces and try not to be caught stuffing it in the bin outside the church door.
5. There will be one child sitting quietly doing puzzles.
This will not be your child.
I had hoped this role was allocated on some sort of rota and that one week it would be my daughter quietly amusing herself whilst others looked on in awe. I seem to have been left off the rota.
(If I had a child who sat quietly and entertained themselves I would not need playgroup I would be sitting at home watching This Morning, painting my toenails and writing a blog about what a piece of piss small children are to look after. )
6. There will be one single male.
He will look totally out of his depth.
His partner will either be heavily pregnant or have recently given birth. Basically the situation at home is so terrifying he has decided playgroup is the better option.
Women go to playgroup because they want to get out of the house, men are sent to playgroup by women who want to get them out of the house.
7. There will be well meaning volunteers.
They will either be brilliant with small children or totally ineffectual. Who cares? They have volunteered to spend a morning picking wooden bricks up off the floor that your children have thrown.They are wonderful, misguided people.
8. There will be snack.
To work out what type of snack simply look inside the cavity of any toy where you will find a handy guide in the form of a half eaten snack from last week.
9. There will be singing.
It will be awful.
A platoon of Gareth Malone’s could not make a playgroup singing session sound good.
You will sing Sleeping Bunnies. Twice. Despite the fact that it is a song with no discernible tune.
You will sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat and learn some dubious wildlife survival tips.
You will sing a sexist, outdated version of The Wheels On The Bus. (Altogether now: The Mummy’s on the bus read Gra – Zi – Ah.)
10. There will be tidying up.
It will be wonderful.
If tidying up at home involved throwing everything in a plastic box and hiding it in a cupboard my life would be improved immeasurably.
So there you are playgroup for beginners.