Building Community with Playgroups

Angela McCaffery / West Custer County Library District

For a few years now the West Custer County Library has been hosting a playgroup.  The weekly playgroup is for children ages 0-5 and their caregivers.  The playgroup was originally started by a patron.  She asked if she could use the children’s area in the Library once a week as a space for families to meet up.  Her daughter is now in school and she has moved on to other endeavors, but several of our Library staff have young children, myself included, and attend and help facilitate the playgroup.

When the playgroup first started, the children and their caregivers met and hung out in our children’s section.  Our Library is pretty small and the playgroup soon became pretty popular.  In such a small space, even a gathering of 5 children can seem pretty wild.  We decided to move it to our Community Room where we hold events.  Now, caregivers no longer have to worry about how much noise the children are making, children running off and getting lost in the stacks, or running out the door into the street.  Patrons that are in the Library for other reasons aren’t bothered by the commotion that accompanies playgroup.

Facilitating a playgroup is very simple.  I usually take a small bin of books from our children’s section to the playgroup space, make coffee for the adults and put snacks and toys out for the children.  The coffee and snacks aren’t really necessary, but the coffee makes it feel more social for the adults.  Since there is room in the Youth Services budget for snacks, I like to be able to provide them.  You never know who is dealing with food insecurity and every little bit helps.  Also providing coffee and snacks takes a couple things off our caregivers’ load, which is helpful when getting little ones out the door for an engagement can be a challenge sometimes.

One of the best benefits of playgroups is the chance for social interaction for both caregivers and children.  Children get to practice or learn how to take turns, share, greet their peers and become familiar with people outside of their familial/daily circles.  Caregivers are able to share whatever they want!  It can get pretty personal.  It’s a great outlet for some caregivers who may not have many opportunities for social interaction and can also be a great place to gauge their child’s development or ask for advice about something that is going on with their child.  Playgroup offers a space to hear from peers who have had similar experiences with their child.  It’s a relief for caregivers to know they are not alone and their experiences are normal.  

For me, as a library staff member, attending every week is a way for me to meet new families and keep in touch with what other members of the community with young children see as needs for their children and families.  

I don’t know if I would have ever come up with the idea of hosting a playgroup at the Library and am so thankful to our patron who did.  It’s such a simple thing for the Library with no time needed for planning or organizing yet such an effective way of connecting to and serving our community.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position or opinion of the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy organization or the individual committee members.

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