Everybody I know loves toddler groups. I am unconvinced. I can definitely see the pros and they probably are one of the few places I can vaguely have a conversation with another mum and drink a cup of coffee without having to constantly follow my toddler around. Soft play and the park are all good and well but my daughter is still at age where close supervision is necessary to avoid her running in front of a swing or falling down the steps at soft play. I recently thought we’d finally got to the stage where she could play unaccompanied in the soft play. This was a mistake. She went in alone but then started shouting ‘mummy’ whenever she wanted to go down the slide. This resulted in me having to crawl through the soft play to ‘help’ (basically just watch) her go down the slide.
The theory is that at toddler groups she can just play with the toys whilst I chat. Sometimes this works brilliantly but it definitely depends on the group. I have been to groups where I’ve barely seen my daughter the whole time and I’ve held entire uninterupted conversations with real life grown ups! I’ve had a cup of tea and a biscuit and I haven’t had to break up any toddler fights. Toddler groups are supposed to be a great place to bond with other mums and I have met some lovely people at groups and ended up being invited to lunch after the group with people I barely know. I find that groups with a good structured craft activity seem to work well as it gives the children another focus and something a little bit different to do. One group we go to always has really nice craft activities such as this cute little hedgehog and it’s nice when the children can get on and do it themselves.
Another thing that seems to work well is a circle time in the middle of the group. My favourite group has a circle time with singing and then a drink/snack about half way through. I’m always a fan of a singing session. What can be cuter than watching a group of little people doing the actions to sleeping bunnies.
So that concludes many of the reasons I do love toddler groups. However, these are not always the realities of my morning at a toddler group. The realities and the reasons for my love hate relationship are as follows.
- My conversation is constantly interrupted because my child is in a feud with another child over a toy. In mid conversation I hear a loud wail. Every parent looks round hoping it is not their child either wailing or causing the wailing . When it is your child you have to go over and intervene, inwardly praying that your child will surrender the toy and not cause any more drama.
- My conversation can also be interrupted because my child is attacking another or is being attacked. Toddlers take their property very seriously! We came home from a toddler group this morning with 2 scratches on my daughter’s face.
- If you go alone, it is not guaranteed that anyone will talk to you. I remember going to a new toddler group, fortunately with a friend and feeling so unwelcome. Some groups seem to be very wary of newcomers. The person who ‘greeted’ us gave us a grilling about how we found out about the group as though it were a secret society. I cannot pretend I am Mrs Friendly and I am pretty rubbish at talking to new people but I really really really appreciate it when people do make the effort.
- Like soft play, toddler groups are germ factories. I am not particularly conscious of germs but seeing my daughter put something in her mouth that was just in someone else’s does make me cringe a little. I found this particularly stressful in music groups when they would pass out instruments that were not cleaned in-between sessions and were passed from one little mouth to another.
- You are definitely not guaranteed a good cup of coffee. I am a self confessed hot drink snob. I honestly cannot understand how people think instant coffee is coffee. It’s not. It should be banned. Mums need coffee. Toddler groups should have proper coffee. I’d be more than happy to pay for it!
- I totally get that people want their children to do messy craft activities out of their own houses. However, whenever there has been paint or even felt tips at a toddler group there has been some sort of minor disaster. For example, a few weeks ago my favourite toddler group had a painting activity. They were well prepared and had little overalls for the children to wear. During the activity we managed to keep pretty clean (note that this was activity I needed to sit with her for, therefore negating my reason for going to toddler groups) but after the activity had been cleaned away, my daughter managed to find the table all the pictures were drying on and somehow ended up with green hair. We also left a toddler group this morning with felt tip pen all over my daughters trousers because a random toddler decided to draw on her legs! Oh the joys!
Having said all that, it is a love hate relationship. Toddler groups are nice free or very cheap place to go where you can hopefully have a relatively stress free morning.
For anyone local to Bournemouth here are a couple of groups I really like.
My absolute favourite toddler group. This is the one I have mentioned a few times throughout this post. They have lots of really good toys, great craft activities and a lovely circle time. People are really friendly.
One for a good coffee. This is a great new group. Sadly it runs at the same time as the other group I like but I do alternate. The best thing about this group is they have good coffee and really good snacks. They also have a little bouncy castle!