A small child is holding a doll and feeding it a block, while her friend pretends to stir something in a bucket beside her. Another child is zooming a car along the carpet, while his mum sits nearby chatting to another parent. This is just one scene that may play out at any community playgroup held weekly all around Australia.
It’s easy to undervalue or dismiss the important work that is happening when children ‘play with dolls or cars’. However, when young children are playing with simple toys, talking to their friends and digging in the sandpit – they are developing the skills they need to be ready for life.
We know that engaging in play improves children’s ‘‘verbalization, vocabulary, language comprehension, attention span, imagination, concentration, impulse control, curiosity, problem-solving strategies, cooperation, empathy, and group participation’’ (Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990, p. 51). That is a long list of valuable skills! These benefits don’t disappear as children start school, but go on to have positive impacts throughout their whole life, as they continue to build on these essential foundations.
Aside from supporting early childhood development, attending playgroup helps strengthen the relationship between parents, caregivers, grandparents and the children in their lives. Learning together through play supports and encourages responsive and emotionally available parenting skills. In the early years, secure, nurturing, predictable and loving attachments with caregivers supports a stable foundation for emotional wellbeing into adulthood.
We all know that we are better parents when our needs are being met too. When caregivers are supported, children thrive. Playgroup provides parents with a support network and an opportunity to take a break and recharge the batteries, making parenting at home a little bit easier.
At playgroup, participating adults share the parenting load. There are empathetic and understanding people who know and share the same challenges and joys of parenting. Primary caregivers who attend playgroup with their children report reduced social isolation, improved parenting skills and self-confidence, increased knowledge of relevant community services, and a greater awareness of their child’s needs.
When we are looking at ways of giving our children the best start in life, connecting with your local playgroup community is a great place to start. Effective play opportunities are simple, there is no need for a strict schedule or to have checklists and complicated activities prepared. Child-led play allows children to learn and discover in their own way, and at a level that is developmentally appropriate for them.
It takes a village to raise a child. So, while most playgroups are temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we welcome you to participate in Playgroup at Home. Join us online where you can connect with your local playgroup community and share play and parenting ideas from the comfort and safety of home. Together, we can give children the best start to live.
Discover your village and start creating memories at home. Visit your state or territory playgroup community on facebook: