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Why do parents want their children to attend playgroup at such a young age .Why can't they just enjoy them at home.I find that my 'rising threes'are just developing social play but the younger ones are only at the stage of parallell play anyway.

My eldest child who is now 31 went to a playgroup at the age of 3.9yrs settled in easily went to school at 5.3 yrs.The week before he went to school I showed him how to write his own name.He learnt to read within weeks.My daughter was the same although she had taught herself to read by recognising numbers and signs before she went to school.They have done very well for themselves .We didn't have a lot of money spare but on the 3 days they were not at pre-school we used to walk in the woods go swimming visit parks go on bus rides.They used to have friends to stay or they would stay at their houses.Is there really any benefit for early entry into playgroup or school even.


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Bubblejack, that is a really interesting question, and for me the answer is, it depends.

Some years ago I did a piece of reserach for my M.Ed looking at different types of provision for under5s which included a mum who was determied that her child would not attend school until they were 5. Her provision for her children was outstanding so Im sure she made the right decision for her situation.

Unfortunately, not everybody is like that. I work with parents who are very isolated (eg asylum seekers and people newly arrived from overseas). In many cases they never went to school themselves (especially the mums). They have little understanding of the idea of going for walk or taking the children to the library (many do not speak english and do not read). For them, the playgroup, or nursery is a lifeline. The children need that stimulation because they are not getting it at home. The parents need to see their children playing with other children. They need to mix with each other as parents. So in this case, yes, there is a benefit from starting early.

I know myself when I was a young mum and very isolated, I needed the time when my daughter was at playgroup. I felt that I was a better mum because I had that time away from her. As an only child, I felt that she needed to play with other children, not just 'mum' all the time.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin. If provision is inappropriate, that can have long lasting impact on children. Working in many schools over the years, I have seen so much pressure for schools to take children at rising 3 to keep the numbers up, and also to provide a very formal curriculum, with so much paperwork. Thanfully I dont work in a plce like that now, but you can see from the number of posts on here, that lots of people do. Another piece orf research I did for my MEd was beginning to show that a poor teacher was worse than no teacher for the lasting impact they have on children. So from that point of view, they perhaps dont benefit.

So, you have to weigh up each situation in terms of pros and cons.


What do others think on this one?

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Don't you think a lot is down to pressures that parents put on each other? I have resisted the call to admit children any younger than 2 years and 9 months, even though it would mean we would be full virtually from September 1st. I don't think many of them are ready and should be in their home environment. But parents say things like, my friend's child started down the road at 21/2 and they have settled well. I think they feel their child must be missing out if they start later. If I could afford to I wouldn't let them start until they are 3, and sometimes even then some are not ready.

But I also agree with Mundia. There are certain situations where children need to be in a pre-school for a multitude of reasons. And what we also have to remember is that not all parents can relate to their child in the way that perhaps we would. I stayed at home with both of my children, now aged 23 and 21, and only started work, very part time two mornings a week, when my youngest had nearly finished at the pre-school I now run. We used to do loads of things, go to the library story times, toddler group, we baked and had friends round. It was so busy and they got a lot from it. In fact my daughter didn't go to playgroup. And of course that was frowned upon, but is another story!! But I know that parents these days don't do the things we did with our children. And that is modern society. Everything is for convenience and quickness.

Now, I am not saying this is the right way to live but it is how it is and I think we have to accept that. I think the best thing we can do is support parents and help them to make informed decisions about when their child should start etc.


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Yes we certainly are a godsend to the nation when will anyone begin to realise this. Most of my parents are really gratefull. This is very satisfying for us together with working with the children and I wouldn't change it .

The onus is on us to resolve many of our modern social issues and because we care about children we do it.

Mundia, you have confirmed what my daughter feels about her childs school.She would have preferred to delay entry untill she was a rising 5.when she approached the school this was not an option unless she relinguished the right to send her there in the future even though she lives only5 minutes away from this school.The class had a teacher last September but by Christmas she left.When her child went in Reception this September did have a teacher but unfortunately has been off sick and will be for quite a while.My granddaughter has lived only for the school holidays and week-ends which I find very sad.Do children get turned off so quickly now.In all her out of school activities she is tuned in and alert.At school she seems totally disinterested.On speaking with the teacher she was told that her child together with 13 others were not as good as the others

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Hi bubblejack


You know I run a playgroup, and I totally agree with you. At our playgroup in the past the entry age was 3, this then lowered to 2 yrs and 9 months, then it slipped down to 2 yrs and 6 months and now because of falling numbers our committee were encouraged, by care commission and MAP (our local help group) to take 2 yrs and 3 months. We were actually advised that we should take the kids from 2 years. My staff and I were not keen to take children from 2 yrs as we just feel it is too young, they are still babies and should be with Mum for a little bit longer. However, at the risk of closing because of falling numbers we compromised and took kids from 2 yrs and 3 months.


We find that even a lowering of 3 months has increased the work involved for us as the children are just that bit less independent e.g. at 3 most of our children were potty trained and staff did not change nappies now hardly any are potty trained and we have had to employ another member of staff to accomodate for the time involved in nappy changing. We have had to dramatically adjust our activities to accomodate the age and stage of the children, 6 months at this stage as we all know makes a huge difference in their development. At the time I agreed to the lowering the age on the grounds that my staff and I had the right to discuss with a parent if we felt that the child was too young or just not ready to leave their parent/carer yet. This has been a good get out clause for us as some of our new starts have been just too young, to the point that parents are saying they are crying at the thought of being left. Parents are happy with this arrangement as they say that they do not feel pressured into having to make their child stay.



I don't mind the extra work and the kids are adorable, the other upside for us is that they stay with us longer (9 months instead of 6) this gives us the opportunity to really get to know them but personally I think they might be better with Mum for a bit longer. I know I had mine with me right up to 3 (then school nursery) and I loved it, it is a really precious time for a Mum and you don't realise that until they are at school and it has gone.


Hope that was helpful, you were to me. Cheers


Marathon. :oxD

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hi all


about 2 years ago we dropped our age limit from 2 1/2 to 2 because children were leaveing to move up to nursery at 3 and we were struggling for numbers parents didnt want to send their children to a group for only 6 months,


we had to make alot of adjustments to cater for the younger age and change activities we where very unsure if it would work but felt it was our only option. but we have been plesently surprised we found that children have settled better starting at 2 than 2 1/2


we have questioned whether there is a development stage for children being left I mean the 2 year olds are happy to be left and themajority of 3+ are happy to be left but those in the middle aged 2 and 1/2 are very unpredictable


I know development wise at two the children are still very curious and this helps to settle them but by 2 1/2 they have become alot more insecure about their relationships and start playing up to "test mum" all children go through that phase and if the child starts playgroup at the same time as their "test mum" phase it can be hard work


another point we noticed was children that settled happily at two still went through the crying dont want to be left at some point between 2 1/2 and 3


Day nurseries may shed some light on how well younger children settle

I dont think children should be "taught" when the go to playgroup at the age of 2 I think that the sole purpose of children attending playgroups before the age of 3 should be to develop social skills and expand their play experiences getting the child use to being left this is an important skill in its own right and not time is allocated in the foundation stage for the child that takes the first term to settle.


I agreed with the point that a bad teacher is worse than no teacher at all


our sessions are 4 mornings a week and there are a few children over the years who have attended our playgroup in the mornings and then gone on to nursery school in the after noons. I have noticed when the children then go up to reception that after a week at school the children who attended two settings in affect full time soon became bored and didnt like school as much as those who only went to playgroup part time so I would question that it is quality not quantity when it comes to choosing how much preschool experience a child has.

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Hi Alison


This is exactly where we come from. I totally believe that at playgroup the emphasis should mainly be on developing social and emotional skills. I also agree that the younger the child is the easier it is for them to settle, I think when they approach 2 and a half they start to feel more insecure and are aware of the concept of strangers. I don't think playgroups come under the heading of "childcare" therefore I feel it is important to define what our role is, hence all my ramblings in my research question.


You sound like you run the same kind of group as we do. It is fab to read your comments.




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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Bubblejack


just re-reading some of the posts and in skimming through I read your first post slightly wrong rather ammusingly I had visions of you settling your 31 year old into playgroup and thought 31? thats leaving things a bit late! :D

Im reading it at the wrong time if day


any way the reason for the reply... when you sent your child to playgroup was it the only pre-school provision you chose before school? or the only kind available?


often I find parents are sending their children to 3 different environments



LEA Nursery


often in that order and often continuing with the one and adding the next ie toddlers one session then two or three playgroup session and then five nursery sessions I find this a little over the top for the poor child dragged from one group to another


when I was little there where no toddler groups or school nurseries simply playgroups and the age limits where higher than they are today.


I find alot of the mums who bring their children to us at the age of 2 are wanting a break to do the house work or in my own case sleep!!!!


I read a recent article in a magasine of which I cannt remember suggested that its better for the child to spend time in a stimulating playgroup than to sit around the house infront of the TV. in that aspect the quality of care for the 2 year old may be better spending part of the time in playgroup


I found I benifited from having a period of time to myself and once I was able to take my children to playgroup I started to feel like an adult again.

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A good discussion and such a difficult one to have a set opinion on as everyones needs are different, both childrens and Parents. I have one child and was a very old Mum(so they told me, I didnt feel it!) Being an early years person, I loved my days with him and we did lots of things. He was very much a Mummy's boy and was quite clingy. Much though I didnt really want to, I decided that he needed to mix with other children and he started at pre school 3 morning a week when he was about 3 yrs old. I had to stay for a good long time but eventually, he settled. I think I was more upset leaving him but knew it was best for him. This gave him a year to get used to others and know some children before he started school.

I think the other factor is quality provision.

We have free places in the morning and we provide day care in the afternoon. This allows Mums who need to, to work. We are finding that people want places too, to help their child get ready for school so we are always full and have a waiting list. Our Mums know they are very welcome to come in at any time, or phone if they have a question. I wouldnt hestiate to tell a Mum if I thought their child was not ready for every day or afternoons. We have a policy for settling children in that very much works with the Mum and suits her needs as well. :o


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Hello Alison,

Sorry it was hard to understand my message it was a bit ambiguous. I am always trying to do too much at once. I should probably be thinking of retiring but as the years go by I seem to be getting even more enthuisiastic than I was 25 yrs ago. No young children to look after only 3 grandchildren to try out all my ideas on.

I too have a few children attending different care establishments. Different staff different rules I don't know how these children are supposed to cope with this but they do.

The options I had regarding pre-school provision 27yrs ago were playgroup or nursery. Children did not attend school untill they were 5 at least. My son was a rising 4 when he started playschool where he stayed for 18months untill he went to school at 5.4yrs. All our neighbours had children the same age so there was always other children to play with. I enjoyed their childhood at home with them I was always making things with them which is probably why I enjoy being at pre-school.

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  • 4 months later...
Guest valletta

hi all,


have read all the entries and in our case in our pre school we have also reduced the age to 2 now... thus having to chase these litle mites around the hall to see if they have filled there pull-ups... yes!! DONT LAUGH, this is what the pre schools have become a nappy changing service.


the staff did not want to take the children so young and even would not have considerd there own children attending at that age - we have children that wont sit for stories, sit for milk and bisuits, circle time etc etrc etc so the session becomes more and more stressful - all the staff feel this


I blame the government for entry into schools at 4yrs - we use to have a healthy waiting list now because of the entry at 4yrs have to bring in the two year olds - this has been the end for some pre schools which were brillent in there heyday!! these younger children should be at home with there mums, they are tired, full of tantrums, not dry and most of all cannot share or comunicate. mnd you the mums are lining up to place them in preschools at this age, I have often sat with a two year old sobbing its heart out asking for mummy - when speaking to mummy at the end of the session... where was mummy - out shopping... I rest my case!!

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Hi Valletta


i totally agree with you...friday afternoons are a nightmare..all the little ones are tired, wont sit for more than two minutes at a time and by the end of the session all my staff had had enough.

We like so many others have to take them in at 2 1/2 to keep our numbers up, are frequently changing nappies now and its very stressful...especially when 3 new little ones who only started last week.. thier mums have all asked today when they can do more sessions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(not till sept i replied firmly)

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I always feel quite cross with people who talk about 'preparing their child' for nursery, school etc by sending them for extra sessions. They will have to go to school full time after the summer so I'm sending them full time now so they're ready for it. They will be doing 5 mornings a week at nursery so I want to send them 5 mornings now so they get used to it. They will go for 3 sessions to playgroup so I'll send them for 3 sessions to messy play. Why?????? :o Why can't these poor children 'get used to it' when they actually need to. I don't see the point in forcing them to attend settings for long periods if they're too little to cope with it. Where will it end? And the pressure on all parents to do the same is immense. "What, you don't actually send them anywhere? But they are 2 years old." We take 2 1/2 yr olds and I have had 2 girls start at playgroup recently, both of whom didn't settle at messy 2s and cried endlessly there but have been fine at playgroup. I would like to take all the credit for that (naturally!!) but I think it's more to do with the fact that they are now ready emotionally. They're still only babies at 2. xD

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I hope our experience is of use to some of you! Historically we have had afternoon sessions of 2 hours for the little ones and since the arrival of Vouchers and NEG the older ones attend each morning. Our afternoons are very informal and as many have said, now incorporate the youngest 2 year olds. We service a large village on the outskirts of a large town. In our village there are 3 pre-schools, one LEA nursery (AM;s only) and one daycare setting so as you can imagine we necessarily compete for the same children! What has set us apart, aside from the fact that we are a Christian Nursery, is the fact that we still have informal sessions just for the little ones. Yes, its hard to make ends meet given the higher ratios but we open 2 pms per week and the children have an absolute ball. There is a simple structure which they soon take on board and by the time they are 3 they are ready to move on to AM sessions where we deliver the curriculum. A good idea has been earmarking and advertising 5 of the pm sessions as 'family sessions' for those who are just 2. Parents/carers stay with the child until they are settled and we all have a thoroughly great time! The parent/carer then separates when the child is ready, the parent is confident in us caring for their child and we are all happy bunnies!!!

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having has some problems with rearranging the sessions to incorperate the younger children in the session and ensure the older children are not left out we are finding that starting children at the age of two is having some advantages


If we can persuade the mothers to only have two sessions a week I dont feel at two the children are being abandoned by starting playgroup this early, being a mother doesnt come naturally to all women and the parents do benifit from a small break, many parents dont keep in regular contact with their health visitors so we find we are often offering advisory support about potty training, and stuff like that. I dont mind offering support like this and I feel this period of time helps to build up a relationship with the parents.


more recently we registered to recieve NEG and the parents are now deciding to leave their children with us until they reach school age rather than take them to nursery. Having built good relationship for over 12 months (from the age of 2 -3 years) by the time the child begins being observed for their foundation stage records we already have an detailed profile and evidence of work. and detailed knowledge of the family background


at first when we dropped the age I thought "this is the begining of the end" and that is was the worst thing to do but now our group has an established routine working around the wide range of ages in the group and the relationships have developed with parents I can see there are many advantages


on the down side I would agree we are a nappy changing service for some, but we do ask parents to change their children at the start of a session so that they shouldnt need changing again during the 2 1/2 hour session which does help keep nappy changing to a minimum. pointing out to parents that while staff are occupied with one child changing nappies the rest of the group is one adult short which can spoil activities. 8 out of 10 parents respect this view.

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Some excellent advice from LJW and Alison. We shouldn't be forcing the very young children to fit in with a structure that was initially set up for the older children.


Valletta, I'm sure it would be a good idea in your setting to review what you offer the littlies that is causing you unwanted stress, and suggest changing a few things! :) How would that go down with your colleagues?


LJW's suggestions of far more informal, fun, hands-on activities, where they can keep moving are really what they need. If they are not ready for a group story-time, I would try to set up a "sharing books" time instead....maybe a nice blanket on the floor, a box of books, and a member of staff stationed there, ready to share books with the children. This gives them the idea that books are great!

Circle time may well not be suitable for large numbers of 2 year olds. Can you do circle time with the older ones, and gradually introduce the littlies, one at a time with an extra adult present, until they, too, are used to the circle time routine. You need a core group of willing circle time children first :o

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