In a split second, peaceful play at the McKenzie Park sandbox turned into tug-of-war. Of course, my son Jax, is in the middle of the brawl – what two and half year old boy is going to ignore the temptation to seize someone else’s brand new shiny bulldozer toy?
When it seemed a toddler pileup was inevitable, I jumped into conflict resolution: “Jax, let’s try to find something to offer in exchange – maybe a dump truck to trade for some time with the bulldozer?”
After a few minutes of tense back and forth deal-making, we made an agreement. Everyone returned back to playing peacefully. With a sigh of relief, I gave the kids some space hoping that someday soon, my children will have the ability to share with others without needing my intervention. Well, as the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”
That’s one of the wonderful benefits of our mixed age playgroup – regular opportunities for the children to sharpen their social acumen while interacting with kids of varying ages and stages of development. In particular, it is a special opportunity for parents like me who have multiple children of different ages to find a social environment for all of their children at the same time with just the right amount of interest and surprise.
Andrea, a Los Altos mother to two boys, describes the charm of the mixed age environment precisely. “With ages always varying, each play date is unique and that keeps it fun and interesting,” she says.
In addition, there is always the refreshing opportunity for the grown-ups to have an exchange of ideas, neighborhood news and stimulating adult conversation. Nina finds the grown up exchanges useful. “It is great to get advice from those with older kids, as well as help out those with younger kids than my own,” she says.
Nina, a local mother of three energetic boys, started the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup in 2011 so that her oldest (and then only) son would have regular organized playdates to attend within walking distance of their Los Altos home. When Nina reached out for someone to take over the group coordinator role, I wasn’t immediately compelled. I was pregnant with my second child at the time and my first had just started walking – I knew that life for me was about to get busy, but I decided to go for it! I know now that I made the right decision. My children and I have met and made so many wonderful friends through the group.
The PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup membership consists of over a hundred moms and dads in the Bay Area. The group, formerly on Yahoo, now stays connected about playdates, local events and child rearing advice using Facebook’s group platform. Helen, a newcomer to the Bay Area describes the group platform. “I really like the new Facebook platform. I check Facebook on a daily basis and I find the UI very user friendly when it comes to organizing and accepting events and engaging with other members of the group,” she says.
There is also the occasional Mom’s Night Out, typically every other month, where the grown-ups can gather at a local restaurant after the kids are put to bed to have lighthearted discussions over a glass of wine. Lisa, a mother of two in Palo Alto, describes the advantage of having an occasional grown-up’s night out. “I like how there are opportunities to come together with our kids and without them. It’s refreshing to go out on a weeknight without a diaper bag,” she says.
These days, Jax will prepare a stash of toys prior to every playdate. The bag of toys grows larger week after week. I asked Jax the other day, “This is a large bag of toys – why do you choose to bring all of these toys?” Without skipping a beat, Jax responded, “I want to share them… with my friends!”
Maybe the day of sharing will come sooner than I had hoped!
Ginny Badros is the group coordinator for the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup. She left her occupation as an insurance geek to be the full time Chief Operating Officer of the Badros household. Her primary responsibilities include managing the expectations of some hard-to-please customers – 3 year old Jax and 1 ½ year old AJ. You can often spot Ginny, Jax, and AJ enjoying a stroll to the Los Altos Library or watching Little League baseball at the Hillview Community Center.
For more information about the PAMP North Los Altos Playgroup and play dates, contact Ginny.