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Parenting: newborns to toddlers

No more paying for children’s playing for 10 Hong Kong mums running their own parenting group

Hand-in-Hand is bucking the trend of splashing out big cash for playgroups with a more organic, home-grown approach

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 November, 2016, 12:03pm

Ten local mothers are bucking the trend of enrolling toddlers in pay-to-play playgroups by forming a more organic community to nurture their children.

From reading groups to neighbourhood exhibitions showcasing art made from waste, a group of mums from Eastern district are sending a message that pay-to-play playgroups, which have become increasingly popular among new parents, should not be taken as the natural course for childrearing in a busy cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong.

The 10 mums, who first met earlier this year through community events, have formed a reading group named Hand-in-Hand which gathers once a week. Through their weekly meet-ups the mums discovered their children shared a common interest in handcrafts, which emboldened them to organise a two-week art exhibition at a community centre last month.

Florence Chan See-kar, one of the mums in the group, said: “Increasingly I have seen more new parents, who are busy with their schedules, simply pay to get their children taken care of.”

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Chan, a mother of a two year old, said although she sympathised with parents who worked long hours, the market had misled them into thinking pay-to-play playgroups were the best way to care for their children.

“Ten years ago, commercial playgroups were not even an option,” she said. But now the market provides such services in a wide variety of forms and parents flock to enrol children in groups that promise to equip them with native-level fluency in English.

She said groups started by parents themselves were “out of the mainstream” in today’s parenting world, and she wanted to inspire others to form their own reading groups for their children.

Their exhibition at their local community centre had been successful in attracting interest among local families, she added, and she had enjoyed meaningful conversations with other local mums about organising their own parenting groups.

“When we held our exhibition in October, some children in the community and their parents would just keep revisiting our gallery,” she said.

Ten years ago, commercial playgroups were not even an option
Florence Chan See-kar

At the exhibition, the 10 mums and their children put on display 10 pieces of artwork created from materials that would usually be thrown away for recycling such as used milk cartons and empty toilet paper rolls.

The art pieces were all related to the stories they told at their reading group. For example, one tale was about insects so one family created an artwork that comprised handcrafted miniature spiders, worms and butterflies.

Eva Chau, another mum in the group, said the members also tried to extend their storytelling into reality. “To make our story time even more fun and engaging, we extended it into physical activities like handcrafts, baking, painting and games,” she said. “It helps children visualise the stories in a more concrete way.”

Chau said she was grateful to the self-started parenting group.

“Looking back on one year ago, I was just another mum, looking for meaningful activities for my kid but with nowhere to begin, and now here I am.”