Principles for high quality playgroups: Examples from research and practice

CFCA Practitioner Resource – September 2017

Playgroups are child-focused, child-inclusive and developmentally appropriate

Understand and acknowledge children's needs and individual perspectives and experiences. Support child development (cognitive, social and emotional) by providing developmentally appropriate activities in a supportive, collaborative environment, where carers participate and further develop skills in supporting children's growth.

High quality playgroups create environments where children's needs are supported. Child-focused and child-inclusive approaches place children's needs, safety and wellbeing at the centre of their practice, requiring organisations to:

  • acknowledge children's developmental needs across each stage of their development;
  • recognise that children have unique perspectives and experiences; and
  • provide appropriate opportunities for children to participate in decisions that affect them (Hunter & Price Robertson, 2014).

Early childhood is a vital period in children's learning and development (DEEWR, 2009). Playgroups can acknowledge children's learning and development needs through aligning their playgroup with the learning outcomes, principles and practices outlined in the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. The Framework outlines five key principles that underpin quality practice in early childhood education:

  • secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships;
  • working in partnerships with families;
  • having high expectations for children in their learning and equitable practice;
  • respect for diversity; and
  • ongoing learning and reflective practice for educators (DEEWR, 2009).

Playgroups can support child development by providing children with access to developmentally appropriate activities and facilities tailored to the interests of the group. High-quality playgroups provide a mixture of activities suited to the age and developmental needs of the children in the group, ranging from outdoor messy play to indoor mat-based activities and story/singing time. They create a collaborative environment that values children and carers by creating opportunities for children and carers to share their interests and preferences and tailoring activities to meet these.

Practitioners we spoke with suggested playgroups can work in partnership with families by encouraging carers to participate and contribute to the group if they feel comfortable doing so. For instance, if a carer attending a supported playgroup is encouraged and supported to collaborate with the facilitator in the choice of children's activities (e.g., by suggesting what themes or topics their child would be interested in) this may make the learning experience more meaningful for the child. Further, if the carer regularly helps to set up and engage children in activities, this may provide the carer with opportunities to further develop skills that can support their child's growth both inside and outside of the playgroup. This may also enhance the carers' feelings of belonging to and inclusion in the playgroup, and prepare the supported playgroup for transition to a parent-run community playgroup.