For some mums the idea of attending playgroup has about as much appeal as having a bikini wax.
But just like a bikini wax the anticipation is worse than the actual event.
I love playgroup.
The cut up fruit, the cake for the mums and nannies (and the occasional dad, come on we need more of you), the tiny little- person sized loos.
Sure the first time you go it can be a little daunting. Tracking down exactly where that community hall is, negotiating parking, trying to work out which entrance to use, begging your toddler not to have a tantrum the minute you get there. Then you bravely walk into a room filled with a group of parents, grandparents and nannies who know each other already and pounce upon the new recruit with oh-so-many-questions.
"Where do you live? Where will your kids go to school? Do you rent or own? How much did you pay for your house? Are you breastfeeding?"
I took all my three to various playgroups and while not each playgroup was an immediate fit I soon found a quiet local one run in the corner of a hall filled with down-to-earth parents (who didn't care about property prices) and carers and a rusty old piano one of the more talented mums used to bash out some tunes.
Ah the fun! The sandpit, the dinky ride ons with falling off handlebars, the two kids fighting in the corner about who knocked over whose block tower, the dress ups and home corner.
Did it get more fun than that? The ‘babies’ in their cots, the teeny-tiny cups and saucers, the toy oven and pretend fridge, the squished up boxes of miniature cereal with the label long worn off.
I still get the occasional one in with my four-year-old but life gets busy and sadly those days of bonding with other mums over a Lipton’s Tea and a slice of teacake are getting few and far between.
So as this week is National Playgroup Week so it’s an apt time to celebrate the playgroups that have helped shaped our kids.
Mia Freedman discusses how much you need to play with a baby. Post continues after video...
Karen Bevan, CEO of Playgroup NSW says that there are benefits of playgroup for all domains of child development.
“Physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive development and communication. They also benefit parents who need support networks and advice.”
A recent study showed that playgroup complemented the early education provided by daycare or preschool.
"[Early childhood educators] say they can really see kids who attended playgroup; they understand a lot of the social cues of being in a group ... Playgroup offers something for everyone at everyone's age and development stage" she told Fairfax Media.
Playgroups doesn’t just teach kids it taught me a few fundamental life lessons too:
1. There are never enough pink plastic Ikea plates to satisfy all the girls with colour preferences.
2. No craft project is complete without toilet rolls and egg containers.
3. Kids will listen to “The Very Hungry Caterpiller“ over and over again, but take out “Diary of a Wombat” and concentration spans will wane.
4. If it’s your turn to bring the milk, never, ever, ever forget or risk the wrath of a dozen caffeine desperate adults.
5. Some people just don’t like cleaning up and will amaze you each and every week with their excuse to leave before pack away time.
6. When the parachutes come out there will always be one kid who refuses bluntly to go underneath.
7. That same kid is usually dressed up in the same Batman or Spiderman costume each week that he refuses to return to the dress-up box.
8. One little boy will spend each week pushing around a pram from home corner every time without fail and if someone dares take it off him there will be trouble.
9. Quite often the nannies are the ones most attentive to their charges, while the mums and dads are the ones gossiping around the kitchen or catching up on Facebook on their phones.
10. Never volunteer to co-ordinate Christmas or Easter craft leave that to the crafty mums. Pick Valentines Day instead – decorating a big red heart is so much easier.
11. The first child who learns how to write will paint the word “Poo” on each and every painting they do.
12. While kids love a sandpit you will grow to hate sand as you find it not just in each and every crevice of your child, including their nappy - but right through your own house when you go home for days and even in your sheets in the wee hours of the morning.
13. You will learn to tell the difference between cinnamon teacake from a packet and those who make it from scratch on just one tiny bite. (But come on don’t judge us packet-people).
Having a baby is hard and lonely at times, playgroups are a great way for mums to get out. Be brave you might just learn something too.