Much like other posters, I'm looking for, "Would you keep going or not?" advice about a playgroup I've signed my 19-month-old son up to participate in. It's six weeks, two sessions per week, for the group we're signed up for (more on that later), hosted in our local elementary school. To keep it simple, I'm going to bullet point things, but feel free to ask for more info. :-) Sorry for the text-bomb...
My intent with signing up for the group was to expose my son to routines and directions (not necessarily that he follow them, but that he begins to see how things work in sequence), to improve his language skills, to meet other families, and to expose my son to more social opportunities. He's only 19 months, I'm not looking for some DaVinci-quality breakthrough, major academic work, or anything else that would qualify me as "that batty parent pushing her baby too hard."
-Takes time to warm up to people and things. With encouragement he's great, but he seems most comfortable in tiny groups.
-Sensitive; it's obvious even to complete strangers that he's very aware of other's actions and feelings.
-Docile. He's never shown a hint of aggression. His preferred method of protest is the "limp fish flop." Doesn't even tantrum.
My personal limitations:
-This is my first child, so I don't have a barometer for comparing his interactions or comparing children's programs. I don't know what I should expect.
-I was never in a play group or structured social activity until my parents plopped me in kindergarten, so I don't have any personal frame of reference. Not that I'd remember being that young, anyway - but my parents don't have any stories.
-My entire frame of reference for schooling comes from a private school background. I AM NOT BASHING ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS. I just don't know what's "typical" in terms of resources, staffing, and space, because my experiences with schools are skewed: tiny student ratios with epic amounts of cash to provide supplies and resources. I know it's not like that everywhere.
So that's us. Last night was our first group. I wanted to keep an open mind, but it was tough. A few things that stood out:
- No sign posted for what door to go in, or what room to go to. When I did find an employee, she wasn't sure where the group was being held, so I had to wander til I found a janitor who showed me where to go.
-Bathroom facilities were a mystery to the group instructor. I had to change my son's diaper, and she wasn't sure if the main bathroom would be unlocked. She eventually offered me a changing mat in the next room, but it had sticky stuff on it. There were no sinks or bathrooms in the rooms we were using.
-This playgroup is one of three that meets under the same program's umbrella. The other two playgroups are for older kids and for music. We aren't doing the other two playgroups. Everyone who was there last night is doing all three groups, meaning there were some 3, 4, and 5 year old kids bombing around with my little one. This group is specifically designed for kids 0-to-2 years. It felt like an odd mix of ages and stages.
-No encouragement for the families to mingle with each other. We didn't do an "introduce yourself and your kids" section, so everyone sort of stratified themselves. Also discouraging because the parents all appear to know each other from previous groups, so I felt pretty isolated. It wasn't mean-spirited, it was just a chilly reception.
-Limited interaction from the instructor. I explained my goals for my son, but she didn't seem interested. There were only seven or eight kids there last night, so it wasn't necessarily that she was overwhelmed.
-A bully with inattentive parents. One child, an older and larger boy, literally trotted around the room snatching toys from the kids, undoing whatever it was that they were trying to do, and shoving kids out of his way if they had something he wanted. Highlights included snatching toy cars from my son, pushing him out of a foot-pedal car, and trying to smush him in a door on a playhouse. I intervened; his parents did not.
-The appearance that the kids were supposed to be "policing" each other. I don't want my 19 month old learning conflict resolution from other 19 month olds. Kids need to see modeling and teaching moments from adults; no toddler comes equipped with an innate ability to reason through things like a grown up. I'm not explaining that point well, but I think it comes across. Kinda like "little kids can't teach other little kids how to do things, if they don't know how to do them effectively themselves."
It wasn't all lousy, though...
-Awesome sand table that my son LOVED playing in.
-A wide variety of toys and objects for him to manipulate.
-An amazing playstructure for him to climb and run on - last night was the first time my kiddo went down a slide on his own!
-A nice group closing. Three songs, sung while sitting in a circle on carpet squares. Simple, clean, routine, and I appreciated the music aspect.
-Encouragement to come back for the next group, which the instructor said would have more people in it. Mondays are evenings; Wednesdays are mornings.
-No pressure for my son to "complete" the closing circle. He's not familiar with that type of structure, so he mostly wanted to play with the climbing equipment and peek around to check out what the other group was doing.
-A no-pressure option to have my son evaluated for anything I think may be an issue developmentally (speech, hearing, vision, etc) I don't personally think there are any problems, but it's nice to know the support is there.
-Exposure to many different types of children. Even if I don't like the bully, my son is going to need to learn how to navigate those situations and ask for help.
Clearly, I need more time in the group to really feel it out...but based on the above, is there anything that sticks out to you parents who have BTDT? Any flags? Am I expecting too much for a toddler group? Any valid concerns you see that I should address?
Thanks for reading!