Play and Learn Supported (PALS) playgroups are an innovative Australian model, bringing together all families – whatever their abilities – for shared activities, fun and learning.
PALS playgroups are welcoming environments for all children, including those with disability and additional needs.
It’s all about learning together, creating communities that support us all.
At PALS, families identify shared interests and embark on a program of activities with ‘mainstream’ cultural, arts, sporting or recreational organisations. At every step, they are supported by a trained playgroup facilitator. Dance classes? Gymnastics? Yoga or art? It’s all possible at PALS.
An external evaluation of the PALS program identified a range of benefits, including:
- For children with disabilities and their families: new opportunities to connect with others in the community, increasing children’s skills
- For families of children without disabilities: greater understanding of disability and inclusion
- For community organisations: greater skills in providing inclusive practices and referrals to other appropriate services.
What are families saying about PALS?
‘It’s such a high energy, happy environment that you can’t help but want to go there.’
‘It’s been wonderful … this is actually an inclusive play group. And so, I didn’t have to feel like I was being judged or being worried about being judged.’
‘I think it was really good that we were able to go to a playgroup that did have kids with disabilities. I think it was a bit of, like, a learning experience for both of us.’
‘It’s really important that the other children in the playgroup understand that not everyone’s the same. And to see people with individual differences is really important … that they’re part of our society.’
Find a PALS Playgroup
PALS playgroups operate in every state and territory (except Western Australia). Contact your State or Territory Playgroup Organisation to find out if there’s a PALS playgroup near you.
If PALS isn’t operating near you, that’s OK! Our organisations can help you find a playgroup that will meet your family’s needs.
How do I make my playgroup more inclusive?
We want all playgroups to be welcoming places for all children and families!
Do you attend a community playgroup? Would you like to more about how to include children with disability and their families? We’ve got you covered.
The PlayTogether program provides information, training and support to build inclusion. Through PlayTogether, our expert staff provide advice, training and support to playgroup leaders and participants in how to include all children and families, especially those with disability and additional needs.
The PALS and PlayTogether programs are supported by the Australian Government, under the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) program administered by the Department of Social Services.