Celebrating National Playgroup Week
Celebrating National Playgroup Week
26 March – 2 April is National Playgroup Week, a campaign to celebrate and raise awareness about this cornerstone of the local community. The role of a playgroup in the community is often taken for granted, but these weekly sessions provide essential connections for both parent and children that take them far beyond the simple realm of playtime.
What is a playgroup?
A playgroup is an informal play session, often held in a community centre, local park or school hall. Often run by parents, playgroups have operated across Australia for more than 40 years, and activities might include singing, music, outdoor play, arts and crafts, imaginative play and games. Open to all children, from babies through to preschoolers, everyone is welcome – mums, dads, carers, grandparents, and siblings.
Why are playgroups important for parents?
Offering a safe and inviting network of support, playgroups provide an opportunity for families to connect with other parents and carers in their local neighbourhood, giving a sense of belonging and strengthening local communities. These connections have a positive effect on mental health, and may reduce post-natal depression and feelings of isolation by providing reassurance to people that they are not alone in navigating their way through the trials of parenting.
Different from a mother's group, where you will only meet a handful of parents with children born within a few weeks of your own, a playgroup provides a bigger support network, allowing you to meet parents with a wider age range of children.
A study, co-authored by Dr Ian McShane from the Centre for Urban Research discovered that playgroups have enormous benefits for families.
"We know that playgroups have significant developmental benefits for children, yet we found after interviewing parents for this research that this only tells half the story of their value. They are especially valued by new mothers, many of whom indicated they had felt socially isolated prior to their child joining a playgroup," Dr McShane says.
Playgroup Queensland's CEO, Ian Coombe, agreed with the findings saying that new parents and carers risk becoming withdrawn from the community, often losing contact with friends without children.
"Life in general can become a constant psychological struggle for families of newborns. However, researchers found that playgroups act as 'sociological superglue' by encouraging life-long friendships between parents and carers, reducing the 'perfect parent' stigma and providing resources that encourage children to learn through play... readying them for kindergarten and school."
He explained that because playgroups offer an environment when the experiences and challenges of parenting can be openly shared and social support reciprocated, "The ability of playgroups to help counter isolation, create social connections and support networks for men and women during this challenging period should not be underestimated."
Providing space to just play
As well as the difficulties with maintaining social connections, many new parents struggle to find the time to just sit and 'play' with their children. The demands of the household often take priority, particularly if they have more than one child. Playgroups give parents a chance to take time out from the pressures of home – to leave the huge pile of laundry behind and focus on simply playing together.
This time spent playing together is a key component to building a strong parent–child relationship, which is essential to childhood development. Families are a child’s first educator, and parents are a child’s favourite toy! By the age of three, your child has developed the skills to become a lifelong learner, and they learn these skills from you.
And of course, there are many benefits of playgroups for kids too! Playgroups provide a nurturing environment for babies and preschoolers to learn through play, where they will:
- Develop social skills
- Learn about sharing
- Interact with other children and adults in a nurturing environment
- Enjoy play with parents
- Explore the world around them
- Try out new activities
There are thousands of playgroups across Australia, you can find your local playgroup at playgroupaustralia.org.au. If there isn't one already established in your local community there is a playgroup organisation in every state and territory, to assist you in setting up your own:
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Tuesday, 02 February 2021
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