What is the difference between a Playgroup and Activity class?

5 Differences between Playgroups and Activity classes

There are lots of activities to do with children these days, especially if you live or look after children in the NappyVille (Clapham, Balham) area. 

One key thing to know before you go looking or attend any of these activities are what makes them different and therefore why there is such a large difference in the amount you pay for each. 

Going to classes and playgroups (especially during the school holidays) is a really good way to spend time with the children. It gets you out of the house and out playing with resources and toys you may not have access to at home. It allows children to play with others a similar age to them and can even be a great way to burn some pent up energy and avoid cabin fever.

What makes playgroups and activity classes so different? And why is there such a big difference in the price you pay.

  1. Playgroups are cheaper than activity classes; Generally playgroups are community projects usually run in church halls. Members of the community each help by volunteering some time each week to help set up the room and donating some snacks. You can expect to pay between £1-£3 per child in a playgroup. An activity class is a lead session run by someone representing a business, each session is structured and usually follows a progressive theme. For an activity class you can expect to pay anything between £7.50-£15 per child per session. 

  2. Playgroups are free play; You can arrive at any time during the session and over see your child playing freely with the toys and activities provided. There are usually snacks and songs at the end. Activity classes are lead sessions where a member of staff runs the session based on a curriculum. Parents/carers join in with the session encouraging their child to participate. There are no snacks during activity classes

  3. Location/ venues; Where as playgroups run from churches and community halls, activity classes are nearly always run from private halls (or some church and community halls but have to pay the full rent rate) that come at a higher hire cost to the company renting them out. That will be part of the reason that they are so much more expensive.

  4. Staff; Usually playgroups have some member of the community, a mother or someone representing the church, these people volunteer and do not require payment. Activity classes are businesses and will pay their staff for their time.

  5. Content; During a playgroup session the toys may vary slightly from week to week, although they have a tendency to be broken or not have complete sets and batteries. This is because they are usually donated and played with by lots of different children. Activity classes are go go go from start to finish. There will be different subjects each session, you must arrive on time and although you must stay with your child you don't have to entertain them because that is what the teacher does. Any good class will limit spaces so that there are enough toys/instruments for every child to have one each. 

Over all playgroup or activity class, it is a great way for both children and adults to get out of the house and socialise with others. It teaches children to share, wait their turn and to better understand other peoples feelings. It depends what style you prefer and what your budget is. Both usually only run during school term time. Other options are Library's, Children's Centers, Soft play's and Playgrounds.

Casey Downie-Campbell

Sensory Land, London

Sensory Land is an activity class for young children under the age of 8 years old living in South West London. Pilot classes to be launched in July 2016, watch this space for more information.