I don't think any group of friends will every compare to the amazing tribe of women (and Lionel!) that I left back in Hawaii. Hickam AFB was our first duty station and what could have been an intense transition for a new Air Force family with a two week old baby was instead more like an extended vacation where we doubled the size of our extended family! Our Hawaiian friends have truly become a part of our "ohana" and will always have an open invitation in our home.
I think life in the military is especially conducive to bringing people together, but it is so, so important for everyone to find community in their own lives, especially moms with young children. This motherhood journey can be exhausting! I can't tell you how many times I've broken down over the big (or little!) things in life and one of my mom friends was able to pick me up with a bit of empathy and understanding. People need people, our kids included, how else will they learn those invaluable social skills!
It has always been a passion of mine to involve people. Perhaps it's from spending so much time on the "outside" of the social network throughout my awkward pre-teen years (and pretty much all of the years before that!), but I really enjoy helping people get connected and flourish within a community. One of the best ways I feel that I can do this online is to share the template for playgroup success that my friend Amanda and I developed back in Hawaii. We began having regular playdates with a few close friends and the group blossomed to well over a hundred active moms looking to get connected. If you're feeling the need for more social interaction in your life, maybe starting a local playgroup would interest you!
The Basic Structure
Our group was made up of three main components:
- Large group playdates
- Small group playdates (Satellite Groups)
- Fun "bonus" activities (Experience Groups, Mom's Night Out, Family Activities)
Our group started small with just a couple people and eventually added each of these components as the need arose. If you have a small group of friends who want to meet up regularly, that may be all you need! On the other hand, if your group has more people wanting to be a part of it than can be easily managed at one event, then you may find these recommendations useful.
Once our group had gotten so big that we couldn't accommodate everyone in one house, we decided to split off in to different Satellite Groups. We would all still meet together for a large group event each week, usually at a park, but once a week for anyone who was interested, we also offered these smaller groups for more intimate playdates. This group was where I found my second family, living life together with these women was truly the best part about our time in Hawaii.
Our Satellite Group focused on kids in the 0-5 age range, and we mothers loved doing all of the different educational Pinterest ideas. I think we've made every single gak/play doh/oobleck recipe that exists! Our group was a co-op, so each member would take turns hosting the weekly playdate. We would come up with an activity, ready all of the materials and snack and then direct the kids through it at the event. With 8+ moms in our group we only had to host every other month so it wasn't too stressful!
The third component of our group was all of the extra fun stuff thrown in throughout the week! Anyone could post a blurb about wanting to meet up at the pool that afternoon and several others would probably join in. In the evenings we had Mom's Night Out (MNO) where we could blow off steam and really get to know each other! Some people choose to be a part of our Experience groups, which were formed around a common interest. There was a craft group, a book club, a bunco group. All of these were optional and you could be involved with as many as you had time for!
The keys to success are having a dedicated team willing to step up and help organize events. No one can make it happen by themselves, nor should you want to, it's all about community for us mothers and for our children. When our kids see us working together to make something amazing happen, how can that not rub off on them!
Lastly, I wanted to share the documents we used to keep things organized, consider them a jumping off point for your own group and feel free to edit them as you see fit. If you have any questions, I'd love to help you get started!
- Firstly, if you're thinking about leading a group, this list of Duties of an Admin outlines what you can expect to contribute.
- Our Expectations document, this outlined what our members could expect of the group, and what we expected of them.
- Our Satellite Group doc outlined how those work and kept track of openings in each group.
- Our document How to Start a Satellite Group explains exactly how to go about doing that.
- Our Experience Group doc lays the foundation for starting and maintaining these fun bonus groups.
- The Satellite Group I was a part of used this document for our organizing our small group, Kula Huli's Expectations.
- Our Members Spreadsheet helped us keep track of everyone who was attending our events.
For more ideas on activities to do with kids in the 0-5 age range, check out my Pinterest board on Early Childhood Education & Play! Enjoy developing your own community and cultivating these rich experiences with your kids!