I’ve always had playgroups that run from 9:30 to 1:30. Part of the reason, in the beginning, was I could drop my daughter, Sara, off at school, come back and have the playgroup, then pick her up later. Another, enduringly important reason, is and was, so parents could actually get something done before returning to pick their child up.
Knowing parents who were raised in other countries also informed my decision. Kids are in the care of others from a very early age. Over time I felt brief separations, as long as they’re consistent in some way, are very beneficial to the child and to their parents. And not because “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but attachments outside of the family open up an important sense of community, of other ideas and ways of approaching familiar situations.
As for my part, running the playgroup for four hours is a perfect amount of time to move through the morning in an unrushed (sometimes quiet!) way. There is time for them to take off their shoes, put them away and hang up their coats. There is time to have an ice pop at the kitchen table, and/or go out into the room and choose something to do. There is time to do a lot of different things, if that’s what occurs to them. There is time to resolve conflicts. Then there is washing hands, alphabetically, for lunch, having lunch then doing a project afterward. There is time to wind down, put everything back in its place and sit down as a group to read stories, then say goodbye for the day.