The benefits of playgroups |®
PLAY: The benefits of playgroups
From the moment they are born, children start to use the language of play to understand the world, and through this play children do most of their learning. Play can be dress-ups, craft, climbing trees, or simply cuddling up with a game of peek-a-boo, but whatever form it takes, it is essential for healthy development.

Playgroups offer a wonderful place for children to play, in a safe and supportive space. But playgroups are about so much more than play alone. Getting involved in a playgroup has enormous benefits for children, especially those who haven't started in a daycare environment yet. And playgroups can help enormously with the transition into daycare when that time does come.

Social interaction

Playgroups offer a gradual introduction into social situations, with the safety net of a parent right by their side. Whether you have a shy toddler, or a baby who loves interaction, take their lead and let them engage with their peers and learn social boundaries. Even if they seem too young to engage in parallel play, which begins around 3 years old, playgroups offer the space for this interaction to begin, and where they can experience what happens when they do interact.

Become emotionally equipped

Giving them a sense of attachment and stability, the best thing for developing children is for them to have a good relationship with their primary caregivers.

Playgroups offer a chance for carer and child to experience things together, strengthening their bond. This environment also allows children to safely test out separation from their carer – going to do their own thing whilst the carer is still within easy reach.

This interaction builds independence and emotional confidence in a safe and supportive way, allowing children to be comfortable venturing into social situations outside the family home while knowing that you are nearby. These experiences help build resilience that will help them enormously when they step into a daycare or school environment and you aren't there.

Physical development

Playgroups often incorporate a huge range of activities into their program, with music, crafts and physical activities. Here young children can be exposed to a host of activities they might to do at home. As well as new experiences, these activities help to develop fine and gross motor skills – whether it's playdough, Kindergym, dress-ups, or simply investigating new sights and smells.

Nurture their imagination

Playgroups are a great place to inspire imaginative play, something that can often be a challenge to create at home. Most playgroups have a great collection of dress-ups, toys and willing play-partners to create imaginary worlds together. One week she might head off on a rocket, another week he might sail the seven seas. Imaginative play helps children understand the world and it is an important part of cognitive development.

Unstructured play and role-playing allows children to lead their own adventures promoting critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and independent thought. Through processing different outcomes and situations, imaginative play also fosters social development and creative ideas. Kids' brains do about 80% of their growth in the first three years of life, so often a lot of this development is done before they ever step foot in an educational or daycare environment.

Adult connections

And don't forget the benefits of playgroups for the parents! Connecting with other families can offer much-needed adult conversation, babysitting networks and for parents to become part of a community. Children who have a sense of belonging and connectedness feel safe and happier, and the same applies to adults. Playgroups enable you to meet other parents, make friendships and broaden your social network.
For more information on transitioning to education environments, check out Preparing your child for preschool and The transition from childcare to preschool.
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