Playgroups in Australia: building the evidence base

A group of smiling children sitting around a table

This suite of resources is intended to assist in the development of high-quality and consistent playgroups, and further build and strengthen the evidence base for the effectiveness of playgroups in meeting outcomes for families and children.

The resources are designed to provide flexible support and guidance to policy makers and those planning, delivering and coordinating playgroups. They provide an evidence-informed framework with which playgroups can be developed based on the local needs of the families attending and the communities they live in, and further allow a consistent evaluation approach where appropriate.  The resources are voluntary, not affiliated with any funding process and are not intended to replace existing frameworks or guiding documents, but rather to complement them. 

The Playgroup Principles

Core characteristics of high quality playgroups

The nine key principles underpinning high quality effective playgroups are listed below. Each principle outlines a core characteristic of playgroup, and is followed by action-oriented statements to inspire thought and discussion of how the principles can be implemented. 

  • Playgroups are about play
    Offer high-quality, fun, structured and unstructured play experiences for children and parents/carers and provide opportunities for play-based learning to support positive child development.
  • Playgroups are child-focused, child-inclusive and developmentally appropriate
    Understand and acknowledge children’s needs and individual perspectives and experiences. Support child development by providing developmentally appropriate activities in a supportive, collaborative environment, where carers participate and further develop skills in supporting children’s growth.
  • Playgroups are about connection
    Provide opportunities for carers to connect with other parents/carers, for families to connect with their local community, and for carers and children to connect with each other through play.
  • Playgroups are safe and welcoming
    Ensure that the playgroup provides a culturally, physically and emotionally safe and inclusive space that is child safe. Ensure that it is warm and welcoming, accessible, and located in regular and consistent venues that are easily accessed.
  • Playgroups are culturally safe
    Be adaptive to the needs of different cultural groups. Honour their cultural heritage and the needs of their children to be respected and supported in their culture.
  • Playgroups are flexible
    Be flexible, responsive and adaptive to the needs of parents/carers and children and the local community. Be dynamic and ready to change as the needs of families change. Be adaptive and able to focus on the specific needs of the group.
  • Playgroups are both strengths-based and strengthening
    Recognise and value the strengths, skills and knowledge of parents/carers while also offering a space to build on their strengths and capacities. Acknowledge the role of the parent/carer as the child’s first teacher. Build on parents/carers’ strengths and create opportunities for parents/carers to contribute. Be collaborative and co-design the group with families.
  • Playgroups have organisational level support and governance
    Support individual playgroups with an adequately resourced organisation that provides oversight and assistance.
  • Playgroups draw on skilled facilitators to engage families and link to local services1
    Utilise volunteer co-ordinators (for community playgroups) or paid staff with the qualifications, skills and/or qualities to build relationships and facilitate engagement between the families in the group. Playgroups are best supported by a facilitator (for supported playgroups) with local knowledge who can foster relationships and connectedness.

1 This principle applies to supported playgroups specifically, however, the engagement strategies outlined may be applicable to other playgroup models.

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