Supported playgroups for parents and children

Supported playgroups for parents and children

The evidence for their benefits

Joanne Commerford and Elly Robinson

CFCA Paper No. 40 — May 2016
Diverse group of babies playing.

Key messages

Supported playgroups are run by a paid, qualified facilitator, and target parents who may require additional support to participate in a playgroup.

The role of the facilitator is critical to the success of supported playgroups.

There are varying supported playgroup models in operation and no single set of guidelines or practice principles, making them difficult to research and leading to a lack of cohesion in their implementation.

Research into playgroups is very limited; however, the limited evidence suggests that supported playgroups may improve parents' social supports and increase parents' ability to care for young children. Supported playgroups may also improve children's sociability and create new opportunities for them to learn.

Supported playgroups have potential to be soft entry points linking families to formal supports when needed and to deliver key messages promoting child health.

Further research is needed to help transition parents out of supported playgroups, as current research indicates this is a problematic area for facilitators.

Supported playgroups are playgroups run by a paid facilitator that aim to support families with particular vulnerabilities or needs. Supported playgroups focus on supporting the development and wellbeing of both parents and children. Many also aim to help parents and children to transition to community (i.e., self-managed, unsupported) playgroups.

This paper defines the types of supported playgroups and varying models of implementation in operation in Australia, and assesses the evaluation evidence for their benefits to parents and children. It considers supported playgroup as a soft entry point to other services, and looks to research and evaluation studies that identify important components of supported playgroups.

Authors and Acknowledgements

Joanne Commerford is a Research Officer with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange and Elly Robinson is Executive Manager - Practice Evidence and Engagement at the Australian Institute of Family studies.

The authors wish to acknowledge the following people for their valuable feedback and input into the paper: Di Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY); Lisa Hillan, Programs Director at the Healing Foundation; Karen Bevan, Chief Executive Officer of Playgroup NSW; and Kerrell Bourne, Manager, Family and Community Programs at the Family Action Centre.

Cover image: © istock/Christopher Futcher

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 40
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, May 2016.
22 pp.
Suggested citation:

Commerford, J., & Robinson, E. (2016). Supported playgroups for parents and children: The evidence for their benefits (CFCA Paper No. 40). Melbourne: Child Family Community Australia information exchange, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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