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Socializing Your Preschooler

By Renee Mosiman, M.A. and Mike Mosiman

The Smarter Preschooler!Playgroups provide socialization and age-appropriate play for young children and consist of two or more children with parental supervision. The children are typically similar ages, although the presence of children of various ages can also be beneficial.

A playgroup usually meets once a week at a park or a member’s house or may meet for a planned activity such as a trip to the zoo or museum. The group provides a youngster with a consistent set of children so he or she is comfortable enough to learn, trust, share, and grow together.

Researchers have found that parents who take a more active role in arranging their child’s peer relations had youngsters who were better socially adjusted. For boys in particular, those who had parents that were more involved in choosing their child’s companions had “greater peer acceptance and lower levels of peer rejection in school.”

Pediatricians recommend starting your youngster in a playgroup between the ages of two and a half to three, which is when children move from parallel play, where they play independently in a group setting, to cooperative play, when children play together. During cooperative play, there is more interaction between the kids; they learn social skills such as
sharing and working together to accomplish a task.

In a playgroup, the benefits of parental supervision are twofold. First, a young child feels more comfortable playing and exploring with mom or dad nearby. Secondly, a parent provides an immediate disciplinary figure to resolve disputes and thus shape a child’s social behavior. As children become older, they need less immediate supervision, because they have
developed social skills and are able to work out problems on their own.

Playgroups provide an opportunity for children to learn from one another. With children of various ages not only do the younger children learn from the older boys and girls, but the level of play increases for the younger children when they play with older kids. At the same time, the older children benefit from the mixed ages. They build confidence in their
abilities and improve social skills by playing with younger playmates.

Some parents believe that preschool is the best environment for children to learn early social skills. This is not the case. In reality, children have little time for unstructured play in preschool. Furthermore, the ratio of adults to
children in a preschool setting will likely be about ten to one. On the other hand, in a play group there will be nearly a one to one ratio (depending if parents have multiple children). This allows parents to properly guide the
interaction between the youngsters.

To start a playgroup, begin with the people you interact with regularly: friends, neighbors, people at the park, classes, or library. Churches, homeowner associations, and recreation centers within your neighborhood provide an opportunity to create playgroups by advertising with a flyer or ad.

Contact mother’s organizations, such as the MOMS Club at, that have playgroups already established.

Homeschooling groups with Park Days are also a good source for social interaction. For a directory of homeschool organizations in every state with links to local support groups visit

A quick search online or in your local parenting magazines can also help you find other playgroups in your area.

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