Start a Playgroup with Little or No Money
by Carren W. Joye
Parents are always seeking activities to do with their children, and many parents often join or start a playgroup. If you want to start a playgroup, but you do not want to spend much money, here's a graduated step plan to help you out. Start at the beginning, and add the steps that you can.
With No Money
You can start your own playgroup without spending a penny! First, make a few preliminary decisions about the kind of group that you and your child would like. Consider such issues as frequency and location of meetings, necessity of membership dues, and the age-range of the children. Also, spend some time thinking about what you would like for the group to do, such as meeting for a social playtime or participating in structured activities. The materials for some of these activities may cost money, so consider them carefully.Second, you need to find other parents who want the same things from a playgroup as you do. This means getting the word out about your playgroup!
- Advertise in the community calendar of your local newspaper. Most newspapers will allow an ad in the calendar section for free.
- Introduce yourself to other parents you see with their children at the park or fast food restaurants.
- Invite your friends who are at-home moms with small children.
- Get friends, spouses and business associates to pass the word around.
- Add your playgroup to the online directories, such as OnlinePlaygroup.com.
Rather than starting a neighborhood playgroup, you may want to consider going through the ministry of your church. Contact your church to see if they will finance a playgroup for church members and the community at large as a ministry to stay-at-home moms and their children. With the financial backing of the church, you can volunteer your services as the playgroup coordinator.
For About $5
In addition to all the "free" suggestions mentioned above, invest about $5 and market your playgroup to other parents who may be interested in joining.
Place posters in area businesses where parents with children are likely to see them, such as libraries, pediatrician's offices and parks. Compare prices for using copy machines at various locations, then print one master copy of your flyer on your computer, and make the necessary copies. If your spouse can use the copier at work for free, that's even better! You only need about 10 to 20 copies to start.
For About $10
After you have tried the above methods and if you have about $5 more to spend, use it on getting the word out about your playgroup.
Distribute about 50 flyers in neighborhoods that seem to have a large number of families with children. To save on flyers, don't canvass the entire neighborhood. Be very selective - put flyers at houses with toys in the yard, a minivan in the driveway, or a carseat in the car. After two weeks, if you don't hear from enough interested parents, distribute another 50 flyers in neighborhoods a little further out. Continue this method until your playgroup has the number of members that you want.
Another way to get the word out to a large number of people is to send a photo release to your local newspaper. Take a photograph of your child playing at the park or doing a craft. Write a short paragraph describing the activity and giving information about this new playgroup. Be sure to include your name and phone number. Most local papers are eager for photographs and information about local residents, and they will be glad to print your photo and story.
For About $20
You can always join a local chapter of a national organization for parents, such as MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) or MOMS Club (Moms Offering Moms Support) or Mothers and More. Some other clubs for moms are based on the Internet. Although nearly all of these national and Internet-based organizations charge membership fees, they are nominal and they cover a variety of extra services and benefits, such as playgroups. If the one in your area doesn't, you may meet other mothers who would be interested in starting one with you. For contact information on national parents' organizations, go to OnlinePlaygroup.com.
If there is not a local chapter of a national organization in your hometown, you may be interested in starting your own chapter. Many of the national organizations provide start-up kits for that very purpose. However, the fees for starting a chapter may prove prohibitively expensive, so check into it first. Instead you may want to investigate some Internet-based organizations that provide playgroup start-up kits without requiring additional fees or yearly memberships. For example, OnlinePlaygroup.com has its own Playgroup Starter Kit.
Other Costs to Consider
The costs involved in a playgroup are generally found in the beginning when you are trying to advertise your group. Once your playgroup has started, the only cost involved is the money that the hostess spends on snacks, and that's something you can control. Here are some other money-saving considerations:
- Meet in a central location, such as a park or playground, so you won't have to worry about paying rent for facilities. During the winter months, meet in each other's homes.
- Members can bring their own snacks to save costs for the hostess. If the hostess provides refreshments, keep them to a minimum by serving cookies, chips and dip or even just beverages.
- If your playgroup provides crafts for the children, you may need a small membership fee to cover expenses, or the hostess could be responsible for the craft supplies each week, or each mom could be responsible for bringing the supplies for her child.
- For those on a tight budget, a simple social playgroup where the children play while the parents talk may work best.
It's all up to you. Make your playgroup fit your needs and your budget!
Carren W. Joye is the author of "A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups" (ISBN 0-595-14684-8).
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