Joining a Spanish speaking playgroup is a great support for raising bilingual children. Soon after my first son was born, I joined my Spanish speaking playgroup, and through our participation, I have really seen the value in the Spanish development of both my sons. More than anything else, the group has also been a lot of fun for all of us.
The educational benefits to joining a playgroup were obvious for me. Having a group of friends that know Spanish has been great at motivating my sons to speak it, and it also maximizes their exposure to the language since they are surrounded by Spanish speaking adults and children. More than anything though, I cherish the friends that we have made. We’re friends that can have fun together and ones that can discuss the challenges and strategies for raising bilingual children. This group has also been an invaluable source of support. When my son was in the hospital, the other moms brought us meals and even offered to donate blood for his operation. Fortunately, everything turned out well, but this crisis showed me how truly blessed I am to have such wonderful friends in my life.
After the birth of my children, I was fortunate to be able to take a couple years off to be at home with the boys. For a variety of different reasons, I returned to work in September. Unfortunately, working meant that I was unable to attend the play dates with my moms’ group. Occasionally I would see the other moms on the weekend, or I’d get together with a friend, but it wasn’t the same. As time passed, I began to realize that there were other moms in the group with similar scheduling conflicts. I also found that some of the other moms were interested in having late afternoon activities for their children. Seeing that there was an interest, I started hosting events for our group, and even became an assistant organizer. Thanks to the afternoon and weekend activities, I am once again an active member of the group. Organizing and hosting events has been a lot of fun, and I have discovered that a little structure to the activities, and of course some food, makes them even more successful.
The following are some play date ideas that were big hits with the kids. They were a lot of fun, and I encourage you to try them with your own group.
Música, Maracas, y Macaroni
I love music and kids do too! The combination of music, maracas and macaroni is a recipe for success! I arranged a playlist that had the kids marching, jumping, dancing and singing to the music. To make all this activity even more fun, I gave the kids brightly colored maracas which they loved shaking as they danced. Since this was a late afternoon play date, I knew that the kids and mamis would start to get hungry. Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? It is easy to make and served with a little fruit, makes for a relatively healthy meal. The kids loved sitting around the table together, and I think the moms appreciated that they didn’t have to go home and make dinner.
Películas y Pizza en Pijamas
A movie with pizza is a great way to unwind at the end of the week. Put the kids in their pajamas, order pizza and let everyone relax. Choose a movie that has a Spanish soundtrack and let the kids, kick back and watch. Having the kids in their pajamas turns the get together into a pajama party with the added benefit of cutting down on the bed time routine after the show. Mamis get a chance to socialize while their children enjoy the movie. This activity is a winner for the kids and the moms.
Vamos a Montar en Bici o Patinar
I love to run, bike, roller blade and swim, and have found that many of the other mamis in my group do too. In the evenings or even on the weekends, it is fun to get a group together and take the kids for a ride. I have a seat for one of my sons to ride along with me on the bike, or sometimes I roller blade with them in our double stroller. I encourage the dads to go too, and we usually grab a bite to eat after going out for a spin. This is a great activity to enjoy some fresh air, spend time with friends, and exercise.
Fiestas para la Familia
Our group occasionally holds parties and picnics for the whole family on the weekends. Often a theme or holiday is used to make the festivities even more entertaining. At our Halloween party moms, dads, kids and babies wore costumes. There were crafts for the kids, holiday stories, and even a piñata. Picnics at a local park are also popular giving the kids a chance to play on the swings and slides or to kick around a ball. It doesn’t matter if dad doesn’t speak Spanish; it is just nice to give them a chance to meet the other dads. You will often be surprised by the friendships that develop. My husband, who speaks to our sons in German, was thrilled to meet two other dads who speak the same language with their own children. Involving the entire family in some activities is a great way to relax, bond, and enrich language skills.
Spanish playgroups are great for your kids and your whole family. With all of the demands put on our time, it may take some creativity to participate, but the rewards are well worth the effort.