The far-reaching benefits of local playgroups
The far-reaching benefits of local playgroups
National Playgroup Week runs from 24 to 30 March, and is a great excuse to celebrate the thousands of playgroups operating around Australia.
Providing fun experiences and fulfilling opportunities, playgroup isn't just a family-friendly experience, it's family-enriching; so, let's explore this wonderful community offering.
What exactly is playgroup?
In short, playgroup is an informal session where parents, grandparents, care-givers and children (aged zero to five) spend time together each week.
Instead of dropping off youngsters for a couple of hours, grown-ups stay at playgroup to focus on interacting and playing with children, as well as spending time with other care-givers.
In operational terms, playgroups are established and run by parents and care-givers in their local neighbourhood, with the support of State and Territory playgroup organisations that help with venues, insurance and play ideas.
Location-wise, playgroups meet in community and neighbourhood centres, health clinics, women's centres, preschools and kindies, church halls, parks or playgrounds; and many playgroups offer both indoor and outdoor areas to give children the best of both worlds.
Overall, playgroups provide babies, toddlers and preschoolers with fun and relaxed opportunities to play, socialise, learn and grow. The good news is families and communities benefit too.
What are some common playgroup activities?
Play is a big part of the playgroup experience. This means that, depending on their age and interests, children often engage in:
- Singing, dancing and music
- Imaginative play, e.g. play kitchens or vets
- Outdoor and free play, e.g. obstacle courses, water and sand play
- Art and craft, e.g. painting, pasting and play dough
- Puzzles and games
- Excursions or life skill activities, like cooking
There are opportunities for both independent play and group play, children get to enjoy 'special' time with Mum or Dad (e.g. while older siblings are at school), and youngsters can access toys or materials they may not have at home (such as the ever-popular parachute!).
How do children benefit from attending playgroup?
Young children learn through play, and the good news is that while they're pushing toy prams, chasing bubbles and squishing paint, little ones are also developing in important ways.
According to the 2012 Australian Early Development Census, playgroups benefit a child's development across all of these key areas:
And, specifically, playgroup offers young children the chance to:
- Be part of new experiences, i.e. they're given opportunities to think, plan, do and discover;
- Develop and build their motor skills;
- Hone their social skills, i.e. they learn to share, cooperate and follow simple routines;
- Interact with grown-ups and other children in a safe, enriching environment;
- Learn more about the world around them;
- Prepare developmentally for school; and
- Have fun!
What benefits do playgroups offer families?
While children are busy learning through play and having a great ol' time, adults also reap the rewards of attending playgroup.
In particular, playgroup gives parents an opportunity to:
- Recognise their role as children's first educators, as they play, bond and cooperate with their children
- Meet local families and make friends with people at a similar life stage
- Relax and chat in a welcoming environment, whether this means getting out of the house for a couple of hours or taking time out from a hectic schedule
- Share ideas and experiences, e.g. both the highs and lows of parenting
- Develop personally, e.g. by running the playgroup and connecting with the community
Whether you're a mum, dad, granny, grandad or employed child-carer, playgroup is a low-cost and highly beneficial way to play, share, connect and grow with the little ones in your life.
To find a playgroup in your area, click here. If you're interested in starting a new playgroup, then contact your local playgroup member organisation and they'll set you on the path to playgroup success.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 30 December 2019
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