How Multilingual Families Can Start a Language Playgroup!

by Corey · 10 comments

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!

By Corey Heller

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.


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 (  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!

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 14, 12 and 10, in German and English.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thea June 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm

The playgroup concept can also be expanded to older kids. Plan a book club, princess tea party group, traditional holiday planners, crafters, soccer team, ski club, game night, etc. Find what interests you and your children and then invite others to join you…with the caveat that the activities are held in the target language.


2 Barbara June 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Besides from speaking another language at home, the start of a playgroup was definitely one of the most important elements of our bilingual life. We started with three families that knew each other and added more families that we met (sometimes on the neighborhood playground). Now, after about 5 years, we have a core of 3-4 families who meet regularly plus another 5-6 families who join occasionally.
Our playgroup is pretty informal. We meet on a regular basis in one of our homes, let the kids play and have some German cake (very important!). We try to incorporate German songs and singing games, especially around the holidays, but most of the time the kids just play and the parents talk. This has grown into friendships and support for all of us, for the kids, and for the adults. By now, a big part of our social life outside our family is German, too (we live in the US), so our kids have a lot of exposure to German from other people. Other kids are of course always great teachers, though lately (since the older kids have started school), more English is creeping in.
I think it is also of great value for the kids to know other bilingual kids and not to be the only weirdo. The minority language is not just an “old-people language”, but something that a bigger group of people from different ages speak. And it helps to be exposed to other Germans who use other words or other dialects than the parents. And for the parents it is great to have the support group, whether it’s about general parenting, bilingual parenting or German commiserating. I can highly recommend playgroups!


3 Thea June 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

@Barbara – I totally agree with you! Several of the boys in our current bookclub (for boys 8-9) we met at the German saturday school playgroup when they were 2 years old. The parents made the commitment to further these friendships…through the years we’ve enjoyed playgroups, Saturday school, birthday parties, movie nights, game nights, park playdates, etc. As we meet other German speakers we invite them to join in, but there is definitely a core group of parents who really strive to give their kids the widest opportunity and are willing to make plans for larger groups.


4 Corey June 13, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I am so glad to read this about older kids, Thea! That core group of families really do have a special bond, don’t they? I still think fondly of everyone in the Seattle Kinderstube gatherings – we felt so fabulous as we found one another bit by bit and shared our joint dreams for our kids. That truly made all the difference for me (which is why I started the group anyway – because *I* needed it so very much)!


5 Corey June 13, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Everything you write is so, so true, Barbara, isn’t it? There is so much more to being a bilingual-bicultural child than just knowing a language. It is about wanting to fit in to some degree and the only way our kids can fit in is to be around others who are similar. I read a quote today from @IrinaJordan on Twitter: Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one’ – C.S.Lewis. That is just so dang true for me, and I’m sure for my kids as well. We need those people around where we can say, “Oh, I am so happy that I’m not the only one!”


6 CS August 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm is useful and international, if there aren’t quite enough members to get going and you want to recruit more people, someone is willing to pay for the startup costs, and members are willing to pitch in after that. 🙂


7 Corey August 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Thank you for this GREAT tip, CS! I haven’t used yet. I notice that it is very popular! I wonder if others have experiences using or want to recommend specific meetup groups? So glad to have these resource suggestions! Keep them coming!


8 Elba March 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm

this is EXACTLY what we did! I, along with a group of Spanish Bilingual Parents have formed this group in Queens, NY.
There are many more out there, depending on your location. We have an annual membership feel to cover the cost of maintaining the page and any additional funds are used towards our playdates/events/meetups.


9 Sarah @ Baby Bilingual May 3, 2011 at 6:44 am

I’ve recently done a post on founding a minority language storytime, which could meet your definition of a structured playgroup! If anyone’s interested, please check it out:


10 Alex March 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm

This is so very helpful! I am kid trying to cultivate a multilingual household , as my family is adopting three birth sisters from Columbia , and my future sisters only speak Spanish . My mother used to live in Germany, and our biracial heritage includes Germany. We bought Rosetta Stone programs in German and Spanish, and SOS French . But we couldn’t find a single playgroup! So we have decided to start our own, but we really didn’t know where to begin. (And most advice is geared towards the bilingual toddler family) Thank you so so so much.


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