Celebrating Playgroup Week

March 2021

Media Statement: Celebrating Playgroup Week – the importance of face-to-face social connection and play for families with young children

As we celebrate National Playgroup Week (22-28 March), Playgroup WA is highlighting the vital role playgroups have in the local community, focusing on the importance of social connections for families with young children.

This is even more important after the past year, with Covid safety and social distancing requirements. Playgroup venues have experienced reduced capacity and some families missed out on going to playgroup last year.

Playgroup WA CEO David Zarb said, “The impact of Covid-19 on families with young children, even in our lucky state, has been significant.”

Travel restrictions and financial disruption here and overseas resulted in many new parents missing out on expected support from extended family based overseas or interstate. People had financial stress through unemployment and there were changes to work rosters and other arrangements. Throughout these stresses, which continue for many families, parents of young children have remained the ‘the First responders’ trying to protect their children from the impact of the stress and maintain positive experiences and care.

Mr Zarb said, “From missing out on some of these social interactions last year, it has highlighted for families the importance of having support in their local community. Online interactions are simply not the same as meeting face-to-face. This is especially so for young children who depend on play and interaction with others to promote healthy development.”

“Our playgroup families join their local playgroup looking to make friends in the local community and have a regular place to go each week, bringing their child to play with other children, and with other toys and equipment,” Mr Zarb explained.

As we are seeing an important national conversation about the need to develop an early education and care system that provides quality, accessibility and affordability, we can also remind ourselves that family remains the biggest influence on children’s outcomes. Going to playgroup is one of the best things that a parent can do with their child.

Children and adults thrive when they have positive social networks to support them, and children need a variety of positive, social play experiences to support their development. Playgroup helps children develop social skills such as taking turns and playing with others. Social and emotional development is a critical and often underestimated ingredient of successful transition to school.

Research into Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data has shown that children who participate in playgroup are significantly less likely to be developmentally vulnerable in the early years of schooling, and these results were even better the longer the children attended playgroup.

Through analysis of Longitudinal Study of Australian Children by Telethon Kids, we also know that parents who attend playgroup report stronger social support networks than parents who did not participate in playgroup, even several years after their children have moved on to primary school. Social isolation amongst parents is associated with increased levels of stress and mental health concerns. Social connections matter for children and parents.

There are many types of playgroups and they are as diverse as the people in local communities who participate. Whether they are mostly mums, dads or grandparents or people wanting to foster a particular language or culture, there are playgroups for everyone as people share the journey of raising young children.

“The connections made at playgroup can be a real lifeline for parents navigating the world of babies and toddlers. They can share ideas and help each other out in the care of their children,” Mr Zarb said.

The impact of Covid-19 has meant that playgroups have suffered from reduced capacity with the 2 square metre rule applying to their venues, plus the increased need for social distancing, hygiene, mandatory contact registrations and cleaning. This has made it difficult for playgroups, run by volunteer parents, to operate and has added to their workload and running costs. Activities such as shared craft and shared food have changed, which has made it a different type of experience at playgroup.

“We are hoping that in the coming year things will continue to return to normal and families will enjoy all the benefits that playgroup provides,” Mr Zarb said.

About Playgroup WA

Playgroup WA is a community membership-based organisation run on a not-for-profit basis. Playgroup WA has been supporting, servicing and establishing playgroups throughout WA for nearly 50 years. Today, Playgroup WA is the peak body for almost 1000 community, parent-led playgroup sessions, as well as the growing, professional playgroup sector.

Playgroup WA’s role is to support parents and caregivers, communities and organisations interested in operating or working with playgroups to create positive experiences wherever they live and whatever their circumstances. Through playgroup, we build enduring local community capacity to support children and families.

Our playgroups are for children aged 0 to 5 years and their parents or caregivers, providing a place to regularly meet whilst forming supportive relationships and playing. We deliver a range of playgroup models throughout Western Australia, designed to enable playgroup participation for all families, and we work with other community agencies to develop their playgroup capacity.

Contact: Caroline Ince, Marketing Manager, Playgroup WA: Tel. 9228 8088, email: caroline.ince@playgroupwa.com.au