Safe and supported play
We know from extensive research that providing very young children with opportunities to learn, grow and develop through safe and supported play is crucial in shaping a child’s cognitive, social and emotional health, and consequently their behaviour in adult life.
But supported playgroups don’t only benefit children. They can also provide parents who may be struggling with access to support in a friendly, non-judgemental environment.
Our Play2Learn program is the largest of our Early Childhood Care and Development programs in Australia and has been running for more than 30 years. We currently run more than 200 Play2Learn groups for children and parents living in remote and disadvantaged communities across Australia.
Save the Children's Play2Learn program
Approximately 10,000 children under six and their parents take part in our Play2Learn program every year. Run by our trained early childhood staff, the free playgroups help young children learn to play, socialise, establish routine and prepare for school.
In some communities, we offer Intensive Supported Play2Learn, which may include home visits and additional support for families who are facing some life challenges. During the weekly sessions, family support workers provide parents with advice and links to community services in a caring, safe environment.
Each session is carefully designed to ensure its relevance and appropriateness for children from a range of backgrounds, such as children who are culturally and linguistically diverse, newly arrived and refugee families, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“Play2Learn saved both of us.”
Laura and her five-year-old son David* live on an isolated property more than four hours west of Brisbane. Laura cares for her sick father and has to work night shifts to make ends meet. She recently had to withdraw David from daycare due to financial reasons but was desperate to make sure he still got every opportunity to grow and develop. When she came across a Play2Learn group in a nearby park, she knew it would be the perfect fit.
“To me, it was like saving my child, because it gave me that opportunity to help him without having that cost outlay,” she says. “It is a big benefit [for David]. It helps him with socialisation, with school, and with interacting with his peers as he gets older.”
Laura says the support from other parents in her group has been invaluable for her as well. “Play2Learn saved both of us, I think. Save the child and save the mother,” she laughs. “[At playgroup] you talk to other ladies and they have the same hassles that you think you’re struggling with by yourself. You talk to the other mums and they’re going through the same things.”
How we know we're making a difference
Research tells us that providing very young children with opportunities to learn, grow and develop through safe and supported play will positively impact the cognitive, social and emotional health of a child. They will learn better at school, have better relationships with family and friends and be more likely to reach their full potential in life.
So with more than 200 playgroups reaching children all over Australia, we know more children are getting a better start in life than they otherwise would, and their parents are accessing the services they need to overcome challenges and give their children the supportive environments they need.
Photos: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children
*Name has been changed