Besides exhausting their mothers, most children have pretty well exhausted the possibilities offered by their home environment by the time they are three to three-and-a-half. They want to see new faces, new toys and hear new versions of old tales. This is when a playgroup or pre-primary school (nursery school) can be of great benefit. Not only do they extend the learning that has been taking place at home, but they also provide all-important social development.

It is all very well if your child is way ahead in intellectual skills, but unless she is able to relate to people effectively, she will be sadly handicapped. Learning to mix with and match herself against others in the open market is essential for sound development.


If there are no suitable facilities in your area they can be organised by a group of mothers who want to give their children the opportunity to mix with others. Playgroups can be run along very informal lines by a group of mothers who arrange to supervise members’ children on different days, or one mother can do it every day. There are certain legal requirements for looking after more than six children at a time, so keep your group under that number unless you want to make it more formal and permanent which will mean registering it with the appropriate government department. If you want to organise an informal playgroup with all the mothers taking turns in looking after the children, you must decide on a schedule that suits the ages and routines of the children, keeping the following in mind:

The mothers should all live in one area because travelling is tiring for youngsters. If it takes you half-an-hour to deliver your child it could defeat the purpose.

The other mothers in the group should have more or less the same attitude to child rearing as you do, or it could be confusing and unsettling for the child.

Work out a duty roster carefully so that public holidays are taken into account, and discuss what arrangements will be made in the event of illness or special occasions, or you could have your friendships ruined.

Only saints and the senseless should consider including children who are not potty trained. This makes somewhere around two-and-a-half to three years a realistic age for attendance.

Depending on the child, attendance for a few hours two or three days a week is usually a happy medium at that age.

The mothers in charge should have sufficient play materials available, especially crayons, paper, building blocks, dressing-up clothes and, unless the period is for less than two hours, a garden or some other outdoor play area is essential.

A small amount can be contributed by each child every term to buy materials. This can be distributed among different homes if there is no fixed venue.

Each child can bring a piece of fruit which is put in a communal bowl and cut up and shared out at break’.

It takes stamina and determination to make this kind of system work, but if every mother is sufficiently motivated – even if it is only the lure of a few free mornings to herself when she is not on duty that keeps her going – it can be a successful arrangement.

The more formal playgroup system involves a venue such as a church hall that will accommodate the group on a regular basis. Playgroups of this nature are usually started by one or more mothers who do it because of their training in nursery school education or because they see a need for it and possibly want to make a little extra money. Before setting up contact the relevant authority (292) if you will be accommodating more than six children.

Insurance is vital and you should get expert advice on the subject. You may want to offer parents the option of taking part in a scheme which will cover medical costs if a child is injured on the premises. The cost per child is usually very low (around Rl a year) and it covers accidents, minor and major, that can happen.

The playgroup supervisor should take a course in first aid and have a well-equipped first aid kit on the premises.


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