“Anyone can cook,” says French chef Gusteau in Disney’s 2007 Ratatouille. This encouragement from Remy the rat’s role model is exactly what he needs to make his dream of becoming a chef happen.
Likewise, in the Carrollton Early Childhood PTA, anyone can host—a playdate, that is! You don’t have to be a committee member, chair, or board member to host a playdate for your playgroup. In fact, that’s the beauty of CECPTA: every member is invited to take a turn hosting. You choose when and where we meet; your playgroup buds bring the party.
CECPTA always has a lot going on, with many large events for the whole organization. Playgroups offer the opportunity to connect with a smaller group of kids the same age as yours who are going through the same milestones. It can feel daunting to jump into a new social circle or try leading for the first time. But you can do it! Get ready for it to be great.
Leah’s First Playdate: Getting My Toes Wet
The first playdate I ever attended was one that I hosted. (You don’t have to do that. You can go a few times to meet people first!) I had joined CECPTA at the suggestion of a stranger at the library when I was newly pregnant with my second baby and very lonely, having just moved to Carrollton—where we knew no one—with my husband and 17-month-old daughter. Nauseated most of the time, I missed all the playdates for the first three months I was a member. But my playgroup coordinator had invited me in her welcome email to sign up to host, so I took the plunge.
Apprehensive, I chose to host a playdate when I knew my mom would be visiting from out of state so she could be my right-hand woman. Is that embarrassing to admit? Well, that morning at the splash park, it felt completely natural meeting other moms from our playgroup and chatting with my playgroup coordinator. (Although I did invite non-CECPTA friends several more times for my own comfort, and some of them ended up joining!)
As I began to see the community developing among us, I started planning my weekly schedule around times that our playgroup would gather. I met others who were expecting their second or third child, too, and we commiserated about the joys of pregnancy and worried together about what another newborn would bring to our lives. Then, everyone’s babies started coming, and we complained about how real sibling rivalry and potty-training regression could be. It was so refreshing to find companionship in the challenges of parenthood. Weekly playdates are the fresh soil where these friendships grow.
What to Expect at a Playdate: Un-Fancy Fun!
When you attend or host your first playdate, things will turn out better than you expect. Lauren Reynolds, now a Red Playgroup Coordinator, told me only one other family showed up to the first playdate she ever hosted. Still, “We had a blast!” Lauren said. Rachel Hodge said that only two families came to her first time hosting, and now Rachel is a Green Playgroup Coordinator! Rest assured, regardless of the number of people who come to your playdate, it will be fun.
Simple playdates are the best. Jennifer McKee, a Purple Playgroup coordinator, said, “My first playdate to host was at a park. The kids know what to do—PLAY—and the grownups can chit-chat.” Any excuse to connect with other families is worth it; the place doesn’t matter.
You can be sure that you will make memories. Sarah Hess, a Green Playgroup Coordinator, remembered hosting a water fight between two playgroups: “I transported two bins of pre-filled water balloons to the park. There was so much water in my trunk from it sloshing around. . . . All the kids brought squirt guns or other water toys and the whole thing lasted maybe 45 minutes, but it worked.”
With our playgroups, my kids and I have visited dozens of playgrounds, gone for stroller walks in sunshine and rain, celebrated birthdays at splash parks, invaded mall play areas and indoor church playgrounds, and swarmed the library for story time. It has been amazing to find all of these mostly-free, kid-friendly places around town. Blue Playgroup Coordinator Jenn Morales listed off a few places she enjoys: “Parks when the weather is nice; when the babies are tiny, hosting at home is nice; play areas when the kiddos are just learning to crawl and walk.”
Since the pandemic has shifted the ways we have gotten together, many have added virtual playdates to their week. I’ve been able to keep in touch via Marco Polo and Facebook with some playgroup mamas. My kids wrote to pen pals and got excited when letters came for them, too. We jumped at the chance to join creative Zoom meetings with story-times, clay-modeling, talent shows, and silly songs. Hosting a virtual playdate is still an option for everyone!
Seasonal Playgroup Parties
You can also look forward to celebrating holidays with your playgroup. Your coordinators would love it if you raised your hand to help plan a holiday party. In fact, we are planning Halloween playgroup parties as we speak. Send your coordinator a message if you want to help!
Jennifer McKee said, “My favorite playdates are the holiday parties. I love the excitement that kids have around the parties. I love the different traditions of each holiday, and it’s awesome when a service element can be incorporated. For example, at the last Valentine’s party we made valentines for a nursing facility.”
For St. Patrick’s Day, Heather Mincieli, President of CECPTA, remembered, “We dressed in something green and I provided green ‘flags,’ which were pieces of green tissue paper from Christmas presents. We did a ‘parade’: one of us played bagpipe music on our phone and led the kids, the kids lined up and we walked around the perimeter of the park maybe twice. The kids waved and the moms waved back. We cheered and took pictures. St. Patrick’s Day Parade Playgroup in the books. Doesn’t have to be complicated.”
We need YOUR help to dream up fun playdate ideas like Friends-giving Day, Holiday gift exchanges, Easter Egg Hunts, you get the picture.
Like Remy the rat in Ratatouille, at first it may seem intimidating to volunteer to plan a playdate. But I must confess, that once you try it, you will probably love the convenience of choosing the time and place that work for you. Your coordinator may even have to restrain you from taking all the slots!
Hosting a playdate is one way to give back to the incredible organization that CECPTA is. I hope all of you will enjoy attending and hosting playdates this year. See you at next week’s playdate!
About the Author
Leah married Greg, her best friend, five years ago, and they have a 3-year-old daughter, Zoe, in Blue group and a 1-year-old son, Russell, in Red group. Leah taught elementary school before becoming a full-time mom. In her free time, Leah loves to read—especially historical fiction—and run, although it’s more of a slow jog at this point. She is the Member Connections board member, and she enjoys overseeing seven committees: Playgroups, Events, Educational Socials, Parents’ Night Out, Sunshine Meals, and Hospitality and Nursery for General Meetings. She’d love an extra hand to help out, so send her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.