5 Free Outdoor Playgroups for Boston Babies and Toddlers

JCC Playground Meetup. Photo courtesy of JCC Greater Boston
JCC Playground Meetup. Photo courtesy of JCC Greater Boston

As soon as the weather turned warm, I couldn’t wait to get outside with my son. And while we love going to the park or playground by ourselves to swing or play with toys, it’s extra fun when a friend or two can join us. So when I started hearing about outdoor playgroups, an increasingly popular alternative to meet-ups in houses and rec centers, I knew we had to check them out. We’ve mostly been going to the Growing Center (see below) because we live in Somerville, but all of the groups look like really fun (not to mention no-cost) ways to soak up the sunshine and fresh air while meeting new friends.

1. Medford Family Network Traveling Playgroups in the Park—Medford
When: Spring, summer, and fall
Where: Playgrounds throughout Medford
Ages: Babies through preschoolers (for families who live or work in Medford)
Details: These loosely structured, drop-in playgroups take place at various parks throughout Medford, so you get to explore playgrounds beyond those in your neighborhood with other families who likely live nearby. Children from babies up through preschool-age engage in free play, art activities, circle time with stories, and songs.

The Growing Center Playgroup meets in one of Somerville's leafiest settings. Photo courtesy of Somerville Community Growing Center

2. Somerville Community Growing Center Playgroups—Somerville
When: Every Friday morning and two Tuesday afternoons per month in June, July, and August
Where: Somerville Community Growing Center
Ages: 0-5
Details: Run by volunteers (usually local moms and dads), the Community Growing Center Playgroups are an opportunity for children to play freely in the center's unique, nature-heavy, shady green space. There are blankets, toys, books and even tricycles available for anyone’s use, plus the kids can roam all over this urban oasis. These free, drop-in groups are open to any caregivers with small children.

3. Arlington Family Connection Tot Tuesdays and Playgroup at the Park—Arlington
When: Summer
Where: Arlington Boys & Girls Club and Hibbert Park
Ages: Toddlers
Details: The Arlington Family Connection has two opportunities for you to get outside and play with your little one and meet new friends. For five weeks this summer, the group is hosting Tot Tuesdays outdoors in partnership with the Arlington Boys & Girls Club. And on most Mondays from now through early August, the group is meeting at Hibbert Park for 90 minutes of playtime.

Explore nature and new friendships at Hike 'N' Seek. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Fells

4. Friends of the Fells Hike ‘N’ Seek—Stoneham (and surrounding towns in Middlesex Fells)
When: Spring, summer, and fall
Where: Middlesex Fells Reservation
Ages: 2-6
Details: While this last one isn’t strictly a playgroup, it’s a fun, free way to play with your little ones outside when the weather is nice. The Friends of the Fells host weekly toddler-paced hikes with a scavenger hunt element to keep the children engaged—think of it like a playgroup on the move. The location changes weekly, so check the related Babes in the Woods Facebook page for details.

5. JCC Greater Boston Playground Meetups—Multiple locations
When: Spring and summer
Where: Various playgrounds through the Greater Boston area
Ages: Varies from 0-4 to 0-6
Details: Wherever you live in the Greater Boston area, there’s likely a JCC Playground Meetup near you. Some locations have recurring events while others are one-time play sessions, but all are welcoming, fun, free programs. Check the JCC website for details like whether snacks are provided or whether you should pack a swimsuit (some are held at splash pads!).

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