Q. I am planning to have a play group this year with 1-year-olds. Are there any guides or activity brochures for a group of this age?
A. Basically, you're having a play group that may play, but won't group. Dear lambs, they just take toys from each other, stand next to each other, sometimes push or babble to each other, but they won't be a group for another two years.
They still will like, and look forward to this gathering once or twice a week -- but not more, and not for more than two hours. Even this is rather long, but since mothers of 1-year-olds are constantly delayed, the play group will seldom start on time anyway.
The group also should be limited to four children so it doesn't get out of hand. If you had more, you would need another adult to help you.
As for activities, this is a great age for children to play in a basement sandbox. Or they can wash unbreakable dishes in a basin of tepid water on a low table. (Naturally, they will try to drink, so you won't add soap.)
They will like the space to sway to background music, to be twirled by you for a few minutes, a cuddly corner with beanbag chairs to climb on for a picture story: a very short picture story.
And they will like heaps of blocks -- both the wooden kind and the ones that look like bricks -- and little wagons and wheelbarrows, doll carriages and dolls. Even though you'll have one wheel toy and one doll for each child, there still will be squabbles, because to this child, a toy is an extension of himself.
As long as your expectations are not just low, but nonexistent, you and the children will have a good time and a busy one.
To keep your activities on a level with their abilities, here are five fine books: Your One Year Old by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg and Carol Chase Haber (Delacorte, $11.95); You & Your Toddler by Dr. Janine Levy (Pantheon, $6.95); Gymboree by Joan Barnes and Susan D. Astor, with Umberto Tosi (Dolphin, $9.95); Babies Need Books by Dorothy Butler (Atheneum, $10.95), and a step-by-step instruction book, Growing & Learning Through Play by Charles H. Wolfgang, Bea Mackender and Mary E. Wolfgang (Instructo/McGraw-Hill, $8.95), which tediously tells you why to follow their advice, but then gives the advice so simply and well that you won't mind doing it.
And may you feel as sanguine about the play group in May as you do now.
The Kids' Book of Divorce (Vintage Books, paperback, $3.95), edited by Eric Rofes and written by 20 children of divorced parents may be ordered from Random House, 400 Hahn Rd., Westminister, Md. 2ll57. Enclose an extra $1 for handling. The address for ordering was incorrect in the Sept. 23 Parents' Almanac column.