Safe Playgroup Environments and Venues
Staying Safe at Playgroup
Ideally a playgroup should be a safe, inclusive and welcoming place that supports the health and wellbeing of all adults and children attending. Safety at playgroup is important and there are lots of things that playgroups can do to help everyone stay safe. In an ideal world, a safe and supportive playgroup environment is stimulating, visually appealing, provides opportunities and challenges to learn and grow, and is a relaxed, friendly, supportive and caring place for families to gather and interact together. What this looks and feels like will vary from group to group. Sometimes, for lots of reasons, things don’t always work out this way and it’s ok if you don’t manage to get all these things happening all the time. Here we provide some ideas about how to create a safe playgroup environment and some easy things to do to achieve this.
Every parent and caregiver attending playgroup must be responsible for the welfare and safety of their own children but there is also a collective responsibility of the whole group to ensure everyone can play safely. Playgroups need to keep a balance between being safe and providing challenging and stimulating experiences for children.
To support health and safety at playgroup, you can:
- Provide age and developmentally appropriate equipment
- Have regular safety checks and minimise risk by ensuring the safety of buildings, grounds, equipment and furniture, and the safe storage and use of dangerous products.
- Encourage healthy, nutritious food
- Make decisions together about health and safety issues and review them regularly
- Put together a health and safety policy or guidelines and display them (This can be very simple and consist of signs to remind members to close doors and lock gates etc.)
- Make sure new members are made aware of the health and safety guidelines and policies
- Identify and control potential hazards and risks
A playgroup health and safety checklist is available for you to download and use here.
Choosing a Safe Playgroup Space
All playgroups need an appropriate space to meet and play. Playgroups meet in parks, homes, community centres, schools and other settings across Western Australia. For some groups finding a suitable and affordable venue can be a challenge. In smaller or rapidly growing communities there can be limited choice of venues but with a little thought and problem-solving, compromises can be made. Individuals and groups can contact the local council and Playgroup WA for advice about available and appropriate venues in the local community.
A playgroup venue wish list could look something like this:
- Inside and outside facilities
- A safe environment both inside and outside
- Play equipment outdoors (play areas would ideally be designed to optimize opportunities for natural play, discovery, and quiet play)
- Toilets inside the facility with a change room/area for babies. Toilets that cater for children as well as adults
- Kitchen facilities that can be blocked off from the play area and accessible from all play areas/rooms
- Secure storage space for toys and equipment (e.g. chairs and tables, trikes etc.)
- Enclosed outdoor play space
- Sand pits/digging areas ideally with covers
- Shade available outdoors
- Adequate parking facilities
- Easy access for parents/caregivers with young children and strollers/prams
- Disability access and inclusive facilities
A more detailed venue checklist is available here.
Each playgroup needs to work out how many children and adults it can reasonably and safely accommodate in playgroup sessions. Consider the size of the venue, ages of the children and number of families with more than one child attending. If playgroup numbers are getting too large to be safe, consider:
- Starting a new playgroup session
- Making a wait list, or
- Referring families to other local playgroups.
Toys and equipment
Kidsafe WA has information and resources for playgroups including downloadable fact sheets on a range of relevant safety issues such as safe access and inclusion, Australian Standards for playgrounds and playground safety, cubby houses, impact areas, loose parts and moveable play equipment and safety information for sandpits, swings and slides.
The building and outdoor area where the playgroup meets should be regularly checked for safety. For example, is there sufficient room for the swing to move and are there soft and well- maintained landing areas under equipment? If the playgroup uses equipment provided by the owners of the premises, it is the organising group's responsibility to notify the owner in writing if equipment is unsafe or in need of repair. Unsafe equipment should not be used until it has been repaired or replaced.
Playgroups should organise a regular toy clean-up and busy bee to ensure hygiene and safety is maintained, such as at the end of every term or as needed. This is a great opportunity to give everything a good clean out, dispose of broken, damaged, or unused items and check the playgroup inventory.
- Launder soft toys, play mats and dress-ups. Make sure they are completely dry before storing to prevent mould.
- Wash and disinfect toys and equipment using warm, soapy water or other safe disinfectant.
- Empty cupboards and shelves, wipe surfaces, remove or replace broken or out of date items.
- Discuss regular maintenance and upkeep of the facility with the venue owner.
Other information that may be helpful
Venues and Checklists
Websites and Resources