All playgroups have parents or caregivers attend with their young children (ranging in age from 0 to 5 years).
There are two main types of playgroup models: community playgroups and supported playgroups.
Community playgroups are the most common type of playgroup and the type most people think of when they are looking to join a playgroup. These are run by participants (families) attending the playgroup.
Supported playgroups are run by organisations and have one or more facilitators running the sessions.
Many of the benefits of playgroup apply whether it is a community or supported playgroup, such as:
- Social interaction for children and adults
- Reduced social isolation
- Child development
- Peer support
- Adult-child engagement/interaction
- Child and parent wellbeing
- Increased parenting confidence, knowledge and skills
- School readiness
The following details the definition of each model, who these are for, and the benefits of each model of playgroup.
Definition of community playgroups
Community playgroups are established and operated by local families.
- The participants (families) are the decision makers.
- The members manage, organise and run the playgroup and sessions.
- Playgroup costs are funded by members, who may pay fees to cover these costs.
- While community playgroups can choose to appoint a volunteer or paid facilitator, many choose to run the playgroup sessions without a facilitator, instead adopting a shared routine of play and socialising.
Who are community playgroups for?
- Community playgroups are as diverse as the communities they are in, including people from all backgrounds, capabilities and vulnerabilities.
- Community playgroups can be universal or targeted.
- Universal – for anyone with children aged 0-5 years and their parents or caregivers.
- Targeted – for a specific interest group, such as babies, dads, Montessori, intergenerational, school-based, transition to school (3 year old), or a particular cultural group, age group or specific need or interest.
Benefits and outcomes of community playgroups
In addition to the general benefits of playgroup for families, specific benefits of parent-led, community playgroups include:
- Builds bonding and bridging social capital (this refers to the relationships formed that benefit the community. Bonding social capital describes connections made among those from a similar demographic and bridging social capital describes connections made between diverse social groups)
- Existing connections deepened (bonding), New connections (bridging)are established.
- Groups formed community members ranging from very diverse (bridging social capital) to specific commonalities (bonding social capital).
- Large community playgroups may be incorporated and have long-term leases with local venues. This provides the following benefits:
- They have the flexibility to add and remove sessions according to community demand.
- They have sustainability, with many having decades of operation without external funding.
- May have long-term positive relationship with venue owner, such as local council, church or school.
- Builds community capacity
- Community based sustainability beyond direct funding.
- Local volunteering, civic participation and leadership.
- Sustainable community resource over extended period.
- Transferability of skills.
- Connected communities.
- Playgroup goals can evolve with the community, with members determining:
- People and venue/equipment
- Focus on social and emotional
- Focus on learning
- Free play versus activities
- Generally low cost (though cost is determined by venue availability and venue cost structures do vary).
Definition of supported playgroups
Supported playgroups are managed by organisations and delivered by facilitators.
- Organisation manages the playgroup.
- The funding body or organisation determines the purpose of the playgroup.
- Organisation provides the facilitator (who could be employed or volunteer) and other resources (such as venue).
- There could be one or more facilitators.
- May have external funding.
- Generally, costs covered by funding but may have fees to attend.
- May have limited life if linked to external funding.
- Some supported playgroups include additional family support activities. These are generally for families with high or complex needs. These playgroups:
- Usually have 2+ facilitators with specific skills or experience
- May have more than one session/week
- Playgroup is part of broader family support program.
- Generally, has other activities that provide support to families outside playgroup sessions
- All costs covered through funding
Who are supported playgroups for?
- Supported playgroups are diverse and can be universal (for all families) or targeted to specific groups.
- Supported playgroups can be for families with low to medium needs or for families with high or complex needs.
- The funding structure for supported playgroups can vary, ranging from families paying fees to attend, through to funded programs which are free to attend and which can be universal or specifically targeting families with complex needs.
- The specific need/purpose for the supported playgroup is usually determined by the organisation/funding body.
- Supported playgroups can have a specific focus and purpose, such as:
- For specific communities/families to reduce social isolation or other disadvantage
- For families that experience barriers to community participation.
- For families in a specific geographic area.
- Transition to school (3 year old/pre-kindy) playgroups – generally for children in the year before they start kindy. Playgroup sessions may be more structured with a focus on school readiness. Parents attend and may assist with routine tasks
- Mobile Playgroups – move between different communities providing playgroup sessions for socially isolated or disadvantaged families or communities. Mobile playgroups are able to offer playgroup in different settings where venues and/or facilitators are not available.
- May have explicit parent/caregiver focus such as mental health support, parenting skills etc.
Benefits and outcomes of supported playgroups
In addition to the general benefits of playgroup, specific benefits of supported playgroups include:
- Playgroups are designed according to the needs of specific cohorts with features such as multiple facilitators or specialists with skills such as mental health, parenting, disability.
- Increased access to services and collaboration with other service providers.
- Increased community participation for families who may not have otherwise participated.
- Families or group may transition to parent-led playgroup/s.
Playgroup WA supported playgroups
Playgroup WA runs supported playgroups, including a multicultural playgroup in Ellenbrook, PlayConnect playgroups for children with autism or developmental delays, and Aboriginal Playgroups in a variety of regional WA communities. Read more here.
The Playgroup Types page in this section includes an overview of community and supported playgroups, and the richness of the playgroup sector.