Play Groups

The first five years of your child’s life is a time of major development, as they learn and grow in their social and emotional, physical, language, reasoning, wellbeing, and other skills. Your relationship with your child, more than anything, will shape the way they develop. And the more experiences you offer, the more opportunities they will have to explore and engage in ways that will improve their readiness for school and life. Community resources like playgroups can offer your child social experiences focused on mental and physical interaction and movement that will help develop essential skills.

Finding a Group

A quality playgroup will include a flexible structure with a focus on various types of play: social, object, movement, imaginative, and storytelling. Each type of play is intentionally introduced to create a rich learning experience.

Check with your local Great Start Collaborative to find playgroups scheduled in the five county area: Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau. If you live in another community just outside the five counties, you still have access to a Great Start Network coordinator, who can offer support and connect your family with resources.


“There is no replacement for face to face interaction,” proclaims Missy Carson Smith, Great Start Parent Liaison. This statement holds true as a long-standing playgroup benefit. A quality playgroup will create social connections for both the child and their parent/caregiver and provide opportunities for learning and fun.

Through a quality playgroup experience, children learn social cues and how to work as a team through group movement. They can also practice and learn what safe and healthy relationships look and feel like through interaction and modeling behavior.

Both children and parents can learn through observing how other children and their parents/caregivers communicate. Seeing things from a different perspective, meeting new people and getting out into the community with others can be a healthy and helpful for both the child and the parent/caregiver. Playgroups can help children learn how to adjust their own emotions as well as the emotions of others.

Parents/caregivers can expect a supportive environment. Possibly one of the greatest playgroup benefits is mutual support and the culture of parents helping other parents, which has a long-term positive impact on communication among caregivers and their children.