Playgroups + National Playgroup Week 2020

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  Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Playgroups + National Playgroup Week 2020

Library Home  >  General Information on Child CareParenting & Family LifeArts, Crafts & Activity Ideas
  Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2020
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Playgroup is a fantastic way for mums, dads, grandparents, nannies and other caregivers to meet up for a couple of hours each week with their baby, toddler or preschooler. 

For youngsters, there’s lots of fun to be had interacting, playing and exploring with other children. 

There are opportunities to get moving, get messy and get acquainted with toys, materials and equipment they might not have at home. And while littlies are learning through play, playgroup enables grown-ups to meet new people and share experiences in a relaxed environment.  

Playgroup is an informal and inexpensive way to promote your child’s early development and make connections in your local area. There are more than 7,500 community playgroups around Australia, as well as intergenerational, autism-appropriate and mixed-ability playgroups, so let’s see what these different sessions offer families.  

1. Community playgroups

As the name suggests, community playgroups bring members of the community together in a friendly and flexible way. 

Parents, caregivers and young children usually meet weekly, for up to two hours per session, and these playgroups are held in safe environments, like community halls, centres, parks or even the homes of playgroup families.

Community playgroups are run by volunteers and there’s a small fee payable each week to cover things like hall hire, morning tea and art materials. 

Once you’ve attended a couple of sessions, you’ll need to become a member of your state or territory playgroup organisation. This gives you access to playgroup, insurance while you’re there, resources (e.g. handbooks and activities) and member benefits (e.g. discounts and comps). Membership is about $40 for the year and sometimes it’s free (e.g. if you’re in NSW or have a child under the age of one in Qld).

Community playgroups are open to everyone, and if they suit your family, there are playgroups for particular language and cultural groups, for grandparents, for families living in remote areas and for specific ages, such as babies. 

Whichever community playgroup you choose, these sessions are a great way for parents and caregivers to meet up while all your children develop skills and have fun. There’s no pressure to go every week, but many families wouldn’t miss it! 

2. Ageless Play playgroups

Ageless Play intergenerational playgroups are an increasingly popular way to bring juniors and seniors together for mutual benefit. 

They take a similar approach to community playgroups, with children learning through play, but instead of being held in halls, parks and so on, these playgroups partner with aged care services, retirement villages and seniors’ groups to bring young and old together.

Ageless Play playgroups are a great way for under fives to form bonds with older people, especially if their own grandparents don’t live nearby, and genuine intergenerational connections can be made. As one mum says, ‘It’s pretty amazing that a four-year-old can have a best friend who’s 95-years-old!’ 

These sessions help to reduce feelings of isolation and boredom in older people, giving them something to look forward to each week, and they combat ageism in local communities. 

Parents say they learn lots from the older people as well, and if you’re interested in joining an Ageless Play session, click here (noting that COVID-19 has impacted sessions).

3. PlayConnect playgroups

PlayConnect playgroups are for zero to six-year-olds who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or autism-like characteristics (affecting their communication, behaviour or social skills).  

Children don’t need to have been formally diagnosed to attend, and PlayConnect playgroups are government-funded, so they’re free to attend. 

These playgroups usually meet weekly for two hours, and they offer flexible, play-based learning opportunities tailored to the needs of children with ASD (e.g. by offering structured routines, small groups, visual aids and interest-based activities). 

A PlayConnect Facilitator runs each playgroup, but families have a say in how the sessions are run, and these playgroups are a valuable way to meet others who are caring for children with ASD, share knowledge and experiences, and connect with early intervention programs.

To find a PlayConnect playgroup, call your state or territory playgroup association on 1800 171 882 (free call). 


4. PALS Inclusive playgroups

‘PALS' stands for ‘Play and Learn Supported’ and, thanks to funding from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, PALS playgroups are starting in early 2021 and being developed over the next three years.

These mixed-ability playgroups will welcome families of children aged zero to five, both with and without disabilities; and will run just like community playgroups, but in partnership with existing community groups.

At a PALS playgroup, a facilitator will work with families to create regular community activities for children (and their parents and carers), with a focus on play-based activities that support youngsters’ cultural identity, creative arts, sport and recreation.

Children will get opportunities to build social skills and abilities, and PALS playgroups encourage families to connect, build awareness and be supported by targeted community programs.

To learn more about PALS playgroups, click here, and on a related note, the PlayTogether Project supports community playgroups to be more inclusive for children and families, and especially those with additional needs.

There are tips for inclusive play here, and if you’re in South Australia, the community PlayTogether Playgroups unite all families to support disability awareness and inclusivity.

5. Playgroup at Home

Playgroup at Home is a national playgroup initiative which allows families to share ideas, get support and follow positive daily routines via members-only Facebook communities.

This virtual approach to playgroup arose because of COVID-19, and it has proven popular since then. The state and territory-specific Facebook groups connect thousands of families with one another and with playgroup leaders, and these groups provide members with a chance to share ideas for art and craft, imaginative play, physical play, sensory play, literacy and numeracy.

There are regular story time sessions, live-streamed shows by children’s entertainers, and parents can get professional advice to help them look after youngsters’ emotional wellbeing, too.

Each Playgroup at Home group has rules in place to keep the online experience safe, welcoming and private; and there are also some live, interactive playgroup sessions via Zoom (including for babies and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder).

To see what’s on offer from your state or territory playgroup organisation, follow these links:

6. Other playgroup programs

There might also be a playgroup program that’s specific to your state or territory, such as ACT Playgroups’ Paint & Play drop-in playgroup.

To see what’s happening locally, it’s best to check out your playgroup organisation’s website or social media.

Keep an eye out, too, for National Playgroup Week, which provides annual opportunities for families to dive into special events and embrace all that playgroup has to offer.

The theme for 2020 was ‘Ready for Life Through Playgroup,’ and you can keep-up-to-date with the next Week by jumping on the Playgroup Australia website or contacting your playgroup organisation.

What are MyTime peer support groups?

Although MyTime isn’t a type of playgroup, these peer support groups for parents and carers of children with a disability, developmental delay, or chronic medical condition are also important to mention.

There are MyTime groups all around Australia, and these groups give parents and carers the opportunity to build social networks and share experiences with other parents and carers of disabled children (aged zero to 18).

Trained facilitators lead the MyTime groups and help parents and carers to access information and services; and there are 'play helpers' on hand to engage pre-school aged children.


Further reading

The far-reaching benefits of local playgroups

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 26 November 2020

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