Principles for high quality playgroups: Examples from research and practice

CFCA Practitioner Resource – September 2017

What are playgroups?

There are many types of playgroups offering play experiences to families across Australia. Playgroups are generally divided into two categories: self-managed, or “community”, playgroups, and “supported” playgroups (Commerford & Robinson, 2016). All playgroups intend to benefit children and their carers2 by providing developmentally appropriate play opportunities for children and opportunities for carers to develop social and support networks and peer support (FAHCSIA, 2011).

There is a great deal of variance in how playgroups are operated. A playgroup run in a park, for instance, may attract large numbers of families (e.g., around 50) and have multiple sessions per playgroup, while a playgroup in a small rural town may have a much smaller base of families attending.

Community playgroups aim to include all families and to provide opportunities for children to learn and develop through play (FaHCSIA, 2011). They are run and initiated by the carers attending them with the assistance of State or Territory Playgroup Organisations (Commerford & Robinson, 2016). Community playgroups provide opportunities for carers to connect socially and build support networks, and for children to socialise and learn through play and develop their social, emotional and physical skills (FaHCSIA, 2011).

Supported playgroups aim to support families with particular needs or vulnerabilities (such as socially isolated or disadvantaged families) who may not otherwise attend community playgroups. Supported playgroups are run by at least one paid facilitator and have a dual focus on supporting the development and wellbeing of children and their parents (Jackson, 2013) by creating an opportunity for carers to meet and share experiences, and for children to play, learn and socialise (Boddy & Cartmel, 2011; CCCH, 2011; Jackson, 2011, 2013). Supported playgroups aim to:

  • increase carers’ knowledge of child development and early childhood learning; „„
  • provide carers access to information and resources; „„
  • create opportunities to identify developmental needs;
  • and „„ provide referral to appropriate services (Jackson, 2013).

They may also be used as a platform to deliver programs and interventions (Commerford & Robinson, 2016).

2 Throughout the rest of the document the term “carers” is used to denote all adults attending playgroup, including, but not limited to, parents, grandparents and foster carers.