Playing for keeps
PLAYGROUPS are positive for both parents and kids, offering fun, friends and a helping hand, a new study shows.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Family Studies examined existing research on playgroups from 2000 to 2015, and found multiple benefits.
They conclude playgroups offer a positive social experience for parents, help them make new friends and enable them to learn more about car- ing for their kids. “Social benefits often extended outside of the supported playgroup — in one study 68 per cent of families had contact with other playgroup families outside of the playgroup session,” lead author Joanne Commerford said.
“Parenting skills developed within the playgroup led parents to becoming more confident in caring for their young.”
Children also benefited from going to playgroups, with researchers finding they had become more actively involved in play and confidence the more they started attending.
A few of the studies showed barriers to attendance, including worries about children’s behaviour, transport difficulties, the ability to relate to other parents and health issues.
Ms Commerford also revealed disadvantaged families “were least likely to attend but most likely to benefit”. The studies researchers examined also showed supported playgroups can be entry points that connect families to social support services such as health professionals and maternal health nurses.
Sinead Halliday, public relations officer for Playgroups Victoria, said around 1780 active playgroups were registered with her organisation, which has 8289 members.
However, there are many more that spring up organically, she said.
“Playgroups leave an indelible mark on families, especially during trying times. The concept seems simple, but the relationships and connections that form within a playgroup intricately link and bond people of all ages,” she said.
Ms Halliday said participants said they would be “very lonely without playgroup”.
Angelica, Jessie, Sonny and Posy buddy up at Bubba Fresh Playgroup, Port Melbourne. Picture: DAVID SMITH