Category Archives: Playgroups

Playgroups are for playing, and community

by Krista

We love mondays in our house. Mondays mean playgroup in the park day. Our park is Kingsmere park, in the neighbourhood of Glabar park.  It is one of the reasons why we bought our house, before we even had children.  It has all the bits you need – sand, a play structure, swings, a wading pool, lots of room to run around, big trees for shade, and benches for mom and dad when we get a minute to sit.  The community playgroup makes it all that much more perfect.

Most weeks we arrive at the park a little after 10:00 am.  There are a good number of wee ones and their moms or dads by that time, usually at the swings or in the sandy/playstructure area.  Most of the children in the group are under the age of four, but that changes in the summer and the older children come as well.  The parents tend to gather in little groups in the shade when not joining in the fun.  We talk over coffee about the week that has passed, the new things our little ones are up to, about the struggles we face, and life in general.  This was especially important when my little people were much younger and I NEEDED to talk to adults, about adult things.  Now I can offer that to the newest moms and dads in the group.

The older children tend to roam farther as the morning progresses, so the parents break up in small groups that follow. They don’t often follow their own children, just the children that seem to need help at the time.  It’s great that I can help out another parent and push their child on the swing, knowing that someone else pitches in with my children and plays with them on the slides.

Snack time is a free for all, with all the little monkeys dipping in to each other’s snacks.  I know that it is safe for my peanut allergic son, as there are several moms who have allergies in their own homes, and we all look out for each other.  My guys love it, as they often find the snacks of others to be tastier than their own.  Even if we offer the same!! As an added bonus, it teaches them to share, and they love to do it.

Playgroup is free, and open to anyone, not just those living in our neighbourhood.  We meet as early in the spring as weather permits, and keep going until the snow flies.  We have met a local gym in previous winters, but when that is not available, we try to meet at people’s houses. This isn’t as successful, and makes us appreciate the times in the park all that much more.  For more information, or to get added to the mailing list, see the Community Alliance’s website.

We are always sad when our friends start to drift home for lunch, but we know that we will see them the following monday, if not on one of our other visits to the park in the course of the week.

I think that the best part of the playgroup is that you get to know your neighbours, and build relationships in the community.  We are meeting the families that live in all corners of our community, regularly enough that we really know who they are. We are all building friendships that will hopefully last for a long time, as our children grow together.

Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 3 year old son, Woo, and 1.5 year old daughter Goose.  You can find her on twitter @kgraydonald

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Charlemagne Child Care Services Play Group

by Sara

Tucked away at the side of St. Peter’s Catholic High School in Orleans is one of our favourite drop-in play groups.  Charlemagne Child Care Services houses Charlemagne Nursery School and the Charlemagne Preschool Resource Centre.  Located at 750 Charlemagne Blvd, the drop-in play group, which is a satellite Early Years Centre , is open 5 mornings (9 to 11:30 am) and 2 afternoons (Monday & Wednesday, 1 to 3:30 pm) a week.  Tuesday and Thursday mornings are reserved for caregivers.

The bright sunny space is one of my favourite places to take the boys.  We like it so much that we’ve been regular visitors since 2007, when my oldest was only a year old.  The centre is set-up much like a nursery school or kindergarten classroom.  There are well-defined activity centres throughout the large room, including an art table, two sensory play areas, a dramatic play centre (kitchen, dolls, dress-up clothes), a play dough table, fine motor activities (puzzles, blocks), an infant area, as well as a small climbing structure and ride-on toys.  There’s even a separate room, with a half-door, for children over the age of three.  Within the Kinder-room there are more sophisticated arts and crafts supplies, a reading corner, as well as ‘big kid’ toys, like Rescue Heroes and doll houses.

Because we visit the center at least once a week, I really appreciate the variety of toys, arts and crafts, and sensory activities.  Each activity area is usually centred around a theme, for example, during the Month of May we made Mother’s Day cards, created tissue paper flowers, and used spring stickers and paint markers to make colourful pictures.  The sensory areas are even theme-based: in the fall the kids searched for animals in a big tub of leaves and at Easter they hunted for eggs in Easter basket grass.

The resource centre staff, Sheryl and Catherine, are welcoming and go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and part of the group.  There’s a good mixture of regular visitors and occasional drop-ins, which makes this play-group a great place to meet moms who have kids of all ages.

Between 9 and 10 each morning the children engage in free play and then join Sheryl for circle and story time.  Sheryl has a great repertoire of stories, songs, felt stories, and finger puppets to capture everyone’s attention.  Even the busy toddlers who have trouble sitting still (ahem, monkey).   Bring a (nut-free) snack to refuel after circle time.  While the kids are all eating its a good time to talk to other moms and childcare providers or check-out toys from the toy lending library.  There are three large binders to peruse that have toys appropriate for ages 0 to 5.  We frequently borrow large ride-on toys, which are a hit with both boys but too big to keep in the house on a regular basis.  The centre also has a great resource library with hand-outs on a wide variety of health and parenting topics, books, and videos.

The centre closes for the summer on Friday June 11th and re-opens on September 13th, 2010.  Make sure to check-it out before the summer hiatus: I’ll be the one following the almost 2 year old whirling dervish from activity to activity.

Sara is mom to a 4-year-old firefighter and 2-year-old monkey.  You can find her at her blog, My Points of View

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Gardening with children at the Children’s Garden

by Brie

Last summer the kids and I started attending a weekly playgroup at the Children’s Garden in Old Ottawa East. Located at the corner of Main Street and Clegg, the Children’s Garden has transformed Robert Legget Park from an unused green space to a wonder of plants and vegetables.

For a black thumb like me it was the perfect chance to expose the kids to gardening without actually having to do it myself. This is what I call a win-win situation.

Now that the weather is warming up, the boy and I have started attending the playgroup again. Every Thursday morning from 10am to 11am parents and kids gather at the garden to play, do crafts, take part in a circle time, eat snacks and, well, garden.

The playgroup is free, but the volunteer coordinator does as for a small donation to cover the cost of the craft supplies and the snack that is provided.

So far the only plants growing are the garlic, but that should change soon. The Children’s Garden has a team of volunteers that plant and weed throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Last summer there was an impressive number of vegetables growing. My then three-year old girl would always head straight for the tomato plants as soon as we arrived and would happily sit and eat them off the vine. Luckily, that was exactly what they are there for.

The Children’s Garden is open to everyone, just like any other public park. It would be the perfect place for a family picnic or even a birthday party. Besides the weekly Thursday playgroups, the Children’s Garden often hosts special parties, like the fairy party the girl attended last August. You can subscribe to their email updates to be informed of any upcoming activities.

Brie is the mom of a 3.5 year old daughter “the girl” and eighteen month old son “the boy”. You can read her blog at Capital Mom.

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Playgroups and more in Old Ottawa East

by Brie

The husband was a stay-at-home dad for a year between my return to work when the girl was one and my maternity leave with the boy. I remember asking him what he was going to do with her all day. Having a toddler to look after is a lot busier than staying at home with a baby!  I even looked for and found a few playgroups close by and presented him with the options.

He said he didn’t need them. He said he would sign up for a playgroup on one day and then the rest of the time they would just hang out.

That didn’t last long.

Playgroups soon became their favorite activity. It was a way for the girl to play with other kids her age and for the husband to talk to other people his age. They started going to various playgroups every day of the week. His favorite, and mine too once I started maternity leave with the boy, was at the Old Town Hall at 61 Main street.

The playgroup starts with free play for the kids. There are lots of toys and a small play structure. A table is set up for crafts and another for kids to sit and eat their snacks at. Circle time has them sitting quietly signing and then marching around the room signing. At the end of the playgroup the ride on cars come out. The girl was always waiting at the door as they were wheeled into the room.

The playgroup is open to kids from zero to five and is running on Mondays and Wednesday during the Spring session. Instead of offering a playgroup on Fridays this session they have introduced a new program called Parent Playtime.  Childcare is provided for kids aged 19 months to five years while the parents work on projects of their own, like scrapbooking, writing or knitting. I have registered the boy for this five-week session from  May 21 – June 18 and I am looking forward to it!

The Community Activities Group for Old Ottawa East runs programs for kids and adults out of the Old Town Hall. They have some great classes for older kids, like martial arts, robot building and soccer. I am most interested by the  Parent’s Night Out they have introduced. Parents can register their kids age 5 to 13 for a games/ movie night on April 30th or June 4th and then go out for a night on their own. If only my kids were old enough!

The Community Activities Group in Old Ottawa East is located at 61 Main Street. Registration for playgroup is required and costs $35 for one day per week per child; siblings over 12 months of age are $20 per child. Siblings under 12 months of age are not required to register and are free. Parent Playtime runs for five Fridays from May 21 to June 18 and costs $20 per child. Parents’ Night Out is on April 30 or June 4 from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m and costs $12 for the first child and $7 for siblings.

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Playing at playgroup: one mom’s favorite Orleans playgroup

by Tiana

My favorite playgroup is held at Divine Infant School in Orleans.  There are four locations that offer the same program but I have only visited this one.

What I love about it is that it is very family like.  There is a good mix of regulars and a ‘rotating cast’ of visitors.  When I was home on maternity leave I went there nearly every day.  There are other groups closer to my home, but they have policies that limit the number of visitors per week and they were also not quite as awesome as this one.  When we started going to playgroups my son was very shy and he would cling to me the entire time, but he felt totally at ease the very first time we went to this one.

This group is a little more low-key than some of the more rambunctious playgroups I’ve been to. There is a set schedule which generally goes; free play – snack time (healthy snack provided!!! total bonus) – independent book time – circle time – free play/music – lunch (bring your own) – free play/music.  About twice a week independent book time is replaced by Gym Day and everyone goes into the gym for running games, ball play, parachute time and other games.

While I was taking my son there, I had the opportunity to observe a couple of home daycare providers care for the children in their charge and to build a rapport with them.  I was planning on going back to work and had a lot of anxiety about the large daycare centre we had gotten into using the City’s child car waiting list.  Thankfully, the woman whom I felt was the best fit with my son, and whose kids already were friends with my son, was able to become his daycare provider. 

Even though I’m back at work, my son still goes to this playgroup a couple of times a week and he tells me about his friends that he made back when I used to go with him and also about the new friends he’s making along the way.  Sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk I wish I could be back there hanging out with him and that group of parents.  It’s such a comfortable and welcoming environment.

Tiana is the mother of a very vocal 22 month old Bobby Hurricane. She also blogs at Sassy Red Head.

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Gymboree Play and Music – Playgyms

by Vicky

If you are looking for a place where your kids can burn off some energy on a rainy day, you must check out a Gymboree Play & Music. They offer developmental classes for kids ages 0-6 years, but they also have lots of drop in sessions for free play, and it’s nearly impossible not to have a good time here.

Kids can play on many different structures, slides, rocking horses, bounce on huge inflatable tubes and balls, shoot some basket balls, hide in nooks and crannies, or under parachutes and in tunnels. The boldly coloured equipment is rearranged every two weeks, so it’s always different. There are baskets of bean bags, balls, bells and other toys to play with too. Upbeat and lively music is always kept on. Basically it’s a juiced up indoor playground that’s better than any trip to the candy store. The equipment, toys and bathrooms are also cleaned and sanitized nightly. The only thing missing is a coffee bar for parents, but with a Tim Hortons around the corner you could always bring a coffee with you.

K at Gymboree

I have to say, I’m slightly biased because I used to work at Gymboree. But I’ve met many friends and their kids there for playdates and it’s been pretty unanimous that the kids love it and are sufficiently worn out by the time we leave. It’s well worth the $8! If you join Gymboree, you can attend as many Play gyms as you want as part of the $40 membership.

I would say that the Playgyms are ideal for children 10 months – 5 years. You don’t need to worry if they aren’t walking yet, because most of the equipment is padded and is really great for developing gross motor skills. Joel was a late walker, so the bumpy ramps and slides were great for helping him build up strength in his legs and also confidence. By the time Joel turned 3, he had pretty much exhausted all that Gymboree had to offer, but that was partially due to the fact that I worked there and he got to enjoy playing several times a week, on top of his weekly class.

Joel at Gymboree

The schedule changes seasonally, so you should check it out often. If you are looking for a little more structure, you can always sign up for a free 45 minute class. When you do check out a Playgym, make sure you ask for a Gymbo stamp on your way out the door!

Kiernan at Gymboree 2

Gymboree is located in Orleans, but it’s not easily visible from Innes Road (I missed it the first time I tried to go). It’s tucked in behind Stereo Plus.

And here’s a tip – once your kids have experienced Gymboree, you won’t be able to drive by it without them insisting that you go in and play!

Vicky is mom to a 3.5 year old boy Joel and nine month old girl Mieka. She also blogs at Some kind of Wondermom.

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