Principles for high quality playgroups: Examples from research and practice

CFCA Practitioner Resource – September 2017

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 (e.g., low cost, adequately resourced), and located in regular and consistent venues that are easily accessed.

Playgroup is a safe environment that is accessible to families who wish to attend. High-quality playgroups follow child-safe practices and provide a culturally, physically and emotionally safe space for carers and children to come together to play and connect.

Definitions of these types of safety are:

  • A child safe organisation is one which "takes deliberate steps to protect children from physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and cultural abuse, and neglect" (CCYP, 2015, p. 9).
  • A culturally safe organisation is one which has the ability to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures (see Principle 7 for further detail; DEEWR, 2009)
  • A physically safe environment "will allow children to play safely and will enable staff to supervise and interact with them. Risks can be minimised by ensuring the safety of buildings, grounds, equipment and furniture, and the safe storage and use of dangerous products" (National Childcare Accreditation Council, 2006, p.2).
  • An emotionally (or psychologically) safe environment is one in which carers and children feel safe to take interpersonal risks (such as trying out new experiences and ideas), without being inhibited by the fear of experiencing embarrassment, ridicule or shame (Wanless, 2016).

High-quality playgroups are warm and welcoming spaces that are inclusive. Inclusive practice in an early childhood education setting occurs when decisions around activities are made in a thoughtful and informed manner and in partnership with families and other professionals (Owens, 2012). The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia describes quality learning environments as those which are "vibrant and flexible spaces that are responsive to the interests and abilities of each child. They cater for different learning capacities and learning styles and invite children and families to contribute ideas, interests and questions" (DEEWR, 2009, p.15). This description is reflective of inclusive practice (Owens, 2012).

Playgroups are easily accessed and adequately resourced so that families can access them at low or no cost (depending on playgroup type). Practitioners we spoke to made several suggestions regarding accessibility, such as suggesting supported playgroups being run for geographically isolated or culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families should be available to all families in these groups (rather than having their referral linked to the holding of a health care card, for instance). Also, for playgroups to be easily accessed, they should be held in a suitable venue (e.g., a kindergarten or community hall) that are either in walking distance of families' homes or public transport (where available), with indoor and outdoor play spaces that are appropriate and safe for small children.