Where are all those other families with kids who speak your language? Stop wondering and start a language playgroup! Help families like yours meet and get to know each other!
D o you assume that a language playgroup is just for the kids? Think again! Parents are finding that they are having as much fun meeting other adults who speak their language and share their cultural memories. So, what are you waiting for? Take the leap!
Starting a language playgroup is easier than you think!
Not a social butterfly? Not the craftiest in the bunch? Don’t worry. You can do the organizational legwork and then let others share by getting people involved and setting up activities. The whole fun of a language playgroup is working together to make magic happen.
Start out by figuring out what you hope to achieve from a language playgroup: Are you looking for friends for your child who speak the same minority language? Are you looking for other parents with young children for discussion and support? Perhaps you would like your child to hear stories and learn songs from other parents or a playgroup leader? It is important you understand your goals before setting out. This will provide you with the motivation and courage to take the first step.
Decide where you would like to meet: Many playgroups meet in the homes of participating parents while others meet in free community centers or library rooms. The benefit of meeting in homes is that toys are already available (make sure the host puts away any special or fragile toys!) while meeting in other places usually means you need to bring your own. Meeting in a home also provides that additional “homey” comfort that a meeting room lacks.
Decide on the structure: Do you like playgroups that are more free-flowing and lack specific structure? Or do you like to know which activities will be happening and when? Since you will be the one starting the playgroup, it is important to decide this ahead of time so that you will have an answer when other parents ask.
- A structured playgroup means that someone must plan the playgroup activities and then either lead these activities or find someone else who will.
- A non-structured playgroup is often more conducive to meeting other parents and for kids to have a chance to play with one another. However, your children may end up speaking the community language together in the end if there isn’t any formal structure for at least part of the time.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Once you have decided these basics, it is time to let people know what you have organized. Contact your local community centers, libraries, and schools as well as parent magazines and the local newspapers. Find out who is willing to help you get out the word for free and then send them the information.
The best way to help people learn about your playgroup is to start an internet group, such as a Yahoo Group (groups.yahoo.com). People can participate in your playgroup’s private forum, upload documents, add information to the calendar and more. It is free and an easy way to let people know where to find you without having to share any personal contact information before you get to know one another.
There will be many people who join your group only to come once and then never come again. This is to be expected so don’t take it personally. Many people realize that either they simply have too much going on in their lives to add another playgroup or it just doesn’t work for them.
You will most likely receive requests to join from others in the community who do not speak your language. They are probably interested in free language exposure for their children. It is your choice how to deal with this situation but remember that the whole point of your language playgroup is for you and your children to have a chance to speak your language and be exposed to others who share your culture. If you allow others to join who don’t speak your language, you are defeating the whole purpose of your group. One way to deal with this right from the beginning is to let everyone know that members must have a least one parent who speaks the language fluently. And you can even ask that members make their request to join your group in the target language.
A language playgroup can be one of the most important things you do to keep language alive in your family. You will be establishing friendships for yourself and your children which will help you and them through difficult times along your multilingual journey. Everyone needs to have someone to talk with from time to time about frustrations and difficulties as well as successes and triumphs! Multilingual families are no exception. By having the support of a language playgroup before your children start school, your children will reap the benefits of already having friendships with other multilingual children. These friendships may stay with your children for the rest of their lives. So, take the leap and make some magic happen!