Organising playgroup sessions
This section provides information to help you organise the day-to-day running of playgroup sessions. These tasks are focused on the things that will help keep sessions safe, enjoyable and organised. There are tips for sharing the load, communicating with members and for structuring sessions.
Information about the broader management of organising groups or committees can be found in Committee and Management Structure.
What tasks or processes need to be considered?
Tasks associated with organising playgroup sessions can include:
- Collecting and returning the key before and after playgroup sessions
- Collecting fees from families
- Preparation and clean-up of food for children and adults
- Developing a routine or timetable for session activities
- Setting up and packing away at the end of sessions
- Cleaning toys and equipment
- Organising specific activities within the session
- Welcoming new families
- Communicating information to playgroup families.
Delegating and sharing tasks
Once the group or session has identified what needs to get done to make playgroup sessions work well, you can plan how to delegate jobs among the families. How this is done will depend on each playgroup. Just remember to keep it as simple and effective as possible and that there is no right or wrong way.
The more work is shared around, the more skills the group will have to draw on. Sharing the load can build a sense of ownership and empowerment as everyone develops and uses their skills to help make playgroup session work well.
A collective approach goes a long way to preventing:
- Families feeling overburdened
- Families feeling disconnected
- Barriers to others developing the skills or interest to take over the management of the playgroup and playgroup sessions.
Effective workload sharing helps nurture happy, harmonious playgroups. It can help ensure that:
- Tasks are shared fairly and don’t become a source of tension
- Everyone has knowledge of the tasks involved in running playgroup sessions
- Workloads and expectations on individuals are not unreasonable or overwhelming
- Playgroup is a place where everyone supports each other and helps out.
Strategies for sharing tasks
To help make it easier for people to get involved in organising and running playgroup sessions, discuss what is expected of families to ensure these are shared and understood by everyone.
Many small playgroups and playgroup sessions find that they don’t need specific systems or processes and things happen without the need for lots of discussion or organisation. If this is what happens in your session, that’s great. Other playgroups and sessions may find that they need something a bit more formal to ensure that everything that needs to be done gets done with the work shared fairly across the members. Some strategies used by playgroup include:
Ask for volunteers
It may seem like a basic starting point but often groups don’t ask for help. Asking for volunteers is a great place to start. Ask everybody to tell the group what skills they have, what they are good at or like doing, and what they think they can manage and then look at how the jobs can be matched to the people. Sometimes people are unaware that the workload is hard to manage by one or two people and are only too happy to take some of the load once they know.
Rosters can be a helpful way of getting everyone involved and sharing tasks. Perhaps draw up a calendar planner that lists all playgroup sessions for the term with the names of families and their duties for each day. Copies may be given to each family so they can keep track and arrange swaps if they are unable to attend on their roster day.
Tasks such as opening, setting up, preparing children’s and adults’ snacks, clearing away equipment, sweeping and vacuuming the room and taking home the washing can be included.
Considerations when setting up a roster:
- Who is responsible for drawing up and distributing the roster?
- What is the arrangement for someone who cannot attend?
- Where and how the roster should be displayed or distributed.
- Reviewing the roster at the end of each term to make sure it is working.
- If some activities are done in a very particular way, such as painting, setting up morning tea or putting away equipment, roster new families with someone who has done the task before.
- The idea of rosters and the expectation that certain tasks will be carried out at certain times may be new to some people. They may need a gentle prompt from the session leader or welcoming person about taking their turn.
Some playgroup sessions have different ways of sharing the work including:
- Job Cards where everyone selects a task via a “lucky dip” process
- Choosing tasks on arrival each week
Setting up and packing away
Few playgroups have the luxury of a purpose-built room. For most playgroups, play experiences, toys and equipment need to be set up and packed away within the playgroup time. Some routines and considerations playgroups have found effective:
- Each member takes a turn in setting up and choosing what to put out.
- Shelves and containers are well labelled to help with setting up and packing away.
- Depending on the venue and the type of activities the playgroup is planning it may help to have designated areas for different types of activities e.g. a wet area for painting and messy play or a quiet corner for reading.
- Some groups involve children in both setting up and packing away. It may slow down the process but the responsibility and ownership of the playgroup by the children is important.
- Setting up and packing away is rostered.
Some playgroups, however, may prefer more informal sessions, so families can arrive and leave at any time within the allocated session time depending on varying nap times, for example. If this is the case perhaps make it clear to families that they are responsible for setting up and packing away the toys or activities they use.
Once you have a system in place it needs to be communicated to all families and reviewed to ensure it is still the best way to get the job done. Smaller groups often manage to get everything done without formal systems in place, but others may need to have some form of system to ensure that things get done.
Keeping everybody informed and involved with decision making will build a sense of group ownership and a cooperative environment. It involves clear messages and good listening skills.
It is important to keep lines of communication open and take the time to allow the group to talk about planning and activities. This will help people feel valued and included.
Communication is more complicated but also more important the larger your playgroup is. Communication in large multi-session playgroups requires different processes and strategies to small one session groups but with modern communication options this doesn’t have to be a major issue. The following are some strategies your playgroup may like to consider when planning lines of communication:
- Group emails, chat groups and Facebook to have virtual conversations.
- Regular electronic updates or newsletters to members.
- Keep families informed through a noticeboard or communications book at the playgroup venue.
- Chatting with session members at morning tea or other similar times.
It is a good idea to organise times during the year to attend to housekeeping tasks to help keep the playgroup clean and organised. How often and when you do this is up to each playgroup to decide what will work best. The following are some ideas about things that might need attending to:
- Clean out the playgroup cupboards – throw away broken and unwanted items
- Update the equipment inventory
- Wash paint smocks, dress-ups and other items as appropriate
- Clean and/or disinfect toys and equipment
- Top up supplies
- Make a list of items that need to be purchased
Multi-session playgroups enjoy many benefits including:
- Administration and management tasks are done centrally by one committee or organising group.
- More choice can be provided.
- Costs of running the playgroup can be spread over more families.
- More negotiating power with local government and building owners.
- More families to take on leadership roles and to share the load.
How do multi-session playgroups work?
Ideally each session should be free to function according to its needs, values and wishes but in keeping with the overall philosophy of the playgroup. It is important to ensure that decision making and communication remains open and includes everyone.
When a playgroup operates more than one session it is useful to consider the following:
- Having a representative from each session on the committee/organising group.
- Putting procedures in place for collecting money - for example have a fee collector in each session or an enrolment contact who collects fees when new families join.
- Appointing a session leader to co-ordinate activities such as welcoming new families, arranging rosters and circulating information to the session members.
- Deciding how fundraising, cleaning, maintenance, busy bees and other joint activities can best be managed.
- Creating a session leader chat group or using notice boards to ensure all sessions have access to relevant information, newsletters, notices etc.
- Making sure that committee/ organising group decision, information and announcements are communicated to all sessions.
As playgroups grow and attract new members, you may like to consider offering additional sessions. New sessions might be required when:
- The existing session has become too large
- There are sufficient families on a waiting list
- There is a need for a choice of days or times
- New families joining such as a group of families who already know each other and wish to start their own session
- There is an interest in establishing special interest sessions for groups such as babies, dads, families from different cultural or language backgrounds, LGBTQI or grandparents.
When establishing a new session, try and ensure the families are given all the information they need. They will also need to know about the practical aspects of being part of your playgroup including any policies and procedures.
It can be helpful to organise for an existing playgroup member to attend the first session to help families to settle in and organise themselves. Having a nominated session leader or representative for the new session is also a great way of making sure that everything that needs to happen does. For more information about welcoming new families to your playgroup click here.
A good way to do this is to develop a simple induction pack or check list so that everyone knows what information new sessions require.
Some things you may want to consider include in your induction pack are:
- A welcome letter
- Details on the organising group or committee and people to contact if they have questions
- Housekeeping duties
- Committee meeting schedule, if applicable
- Guidelines on reporting issues such as broken toys and venue concerns
- The policies and procedures of the playgroup or information on where to access them
- Information about Playgroup WA membership services including e-News, the website address and other family communications could be included as well as details on how to contact Playgroup WA if they need support and where they can find the Playgroup WA Resource Kit online.
If your playgroup is a member of Playgroup WA, make sure you update new session and new family details either via the portal or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome Letter Template - three samples are available under the heading Welcome on our Templates, Information and Checklists page