CfC FP ObjectiveEarly learning and care 
Supporting families and parents 
Healthy young families 
Delivered toVulnerable parents with children from birth to 4 years old                                      
Delivered byTrained professionals and early childhood workers 
Delivery settingCommunity-based 
Program developerParenting Research Centre (PRC) 

About the program

smalltalk is a service enhancement that can be embedded within community-based supported playgroups. Designed for participating parents experiencing vulnerable circumstances with children aged 12 months to 4 years. smalltalk aims to enhance the quality and quantity of parental communication and interaction with their children, provide a stimulating environment, enhance parental self-care, strengthen parent confidence and build parental connectedness to their community. 

Program structure

smalltalk is delivered as part of a 10-week playgroup program for parents of children aged 12 to 48 months.

Core elements of the content include: 

  • quality everyday interactions
  • stimulating environments
  • parental selfcare
  • parenting confidence
  • community and services connectedness.

smalltalk was originally developed and trialled for use in maternal child health services and supported playgroups. However, key elements are applicable to many early learning settings. Contact the PRC for more information. 

Facilitator training

Training comprises an online component followed by a 2-day active skills-based workshop. 

PRC offers consultation, training, and implementation support to any agency interested in incorporating this program into their service delivery suite. 

Find out more about the prerequisite training component.


Training is provided free of charge to Victorian Government funded supported playgroup providers.

Other supported playgroup providers across Australia can access training through PRC. Pricing is determined at-cost depending on location and needs. For information about pricing, contact the Parenting Research Centre directly.

Evaluation and effectiveness

A cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted which compared the program and to the program plus a home visiting component (smalltalk plus) with 2,228 participants across 20 sites. This was compared to a control of a standard playgroup. Process evaluation was included, which addressed the consistency of implementation across sites. Surveys/scales, facilitator ratings and observation data was collected. Efficacy of the program was examined by comparing parent-reported and observational (direct assessment) outcomes from pre to post and from pre to follow-up for participant in the three variants of the study. Findings indicated that compared to participants in the standard playgroup, smalltalk participants showed significantly greater improvements in parent-child interactions and the home learning environment, particularly where they also received the home visiting component (smalltalk plus). 


Hackworth, N.J., Nicholson, J.M, Mathews, J., Berthelsen, D., Cann, W., Westrupp, E.M., Hamilton, V., et al. (2013). Early Home Learning Study: Overview and outcomes. Final Report to the Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Melbourne: Parenting Research Centre. 

Hackworth, N.J., Berthelsen, D., Matthews, J., Westrupp, E.M., Cann, W., Ukoumunne, O.C., et al (2017). Impact of a brief intervention to enhance parenting and the home learning environment for children aged 6-36 months: A cluster randomised controlled trial. Prevention Science, DOI: 10.1007/s11121-017-0753-9.