By Playgroup NSW, Playgroup NSW Inc.
When talking about the benefits of playgroup, Karen van Woudenberg, Playgroup NSW Deputy CEO highlights that, “Playgroups allow parents to introduce their children to a range of activities they may not do at home. It’s also a safe way for parents to allow their children to engage socially with other people and try new things. Parents can broaden their social network, meeting other parents with children in the same age group.”
Here, Karen picked the top five benefits.
1. Allowing children to develop social skills at their own pace
Your baby may be a social butterfly or the type that prefers to play on their own - and that is perfectly fine. Each child has their own approach towards developing their social skills. Karen explains that, “Playgroup is really about following the lead of the child.” It allows children to develop their social skills at their own pace, and this usually occurs between the ages of one to three.
From ages three to five children begin to truly interact with others their age, and experience what happens when they do. This is also the time when social boundaries are learned - a very important lesson for adulthood.
2. Building a child’s emotional confidence
The real work begins at home, as the best thing for developing children is to have great relationships with their family members. This gives the child a sense of attachment and stability, whether we are talking about developing relationships with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or other carers.
A major benefit of playgroup is that children come assisted by their parents or other carers. From an emotional point of view, this strengthens the relationship between the child and their carer, because it creates a shared experience.
At the same time, the child meets new people at playgroup, which allows for a safe test of separation from their carer. This is an important trait for building confidence in children, encouraging them to be independent from an early age.
3. Encouraging physical activity
Moulding playdough, running, jumping, singing, twirling and more! Your child can get very active when at playgroup. Don’t worry if they’re not the physical activity kind. The range of activities on offer at each playgroup varies.
“Some playgroups have lots of really great outdoor space,” explains Karen, “while others are more indoor, so children get the opportunity to try a variety of activities. They can develop their fine motor skills through puzzles, craft and playing with toys.”
4. Supporting children’s imagination and creativity
The key strategy for developing creative thinking in children is allowing them to play in an unstructured way. At playgroup children can play dress-ups or develop play scenarios with dolls, DUPLO and other toys.
“We know that children develop 80% of their brain in the first three years of life,” says Karen, “so we want to give them the space to get the brain firing.”
Creative thinking is of key importance to the next generation, as they will need this skill to be successful in their personal and professional lives.
5. Learning through role-play
Role play is a simple way for kids to engage with the world; this is why you may see your child fixing cars like Daddy, teaching the plush toys a new geography lesson, or administering them their “much needed” medication.
Role play develops children’s imaginations and puts them in real-life situations where they need to solve problems and think of solutions. Playgroup is the perfect place to bring more characters into a child’s expansive world.
“We know that working through experiences with role-play has very strong benefits,” says Karen. “It allows children to make sense of situations, understand what is happening around them and what these experiences mean for them.”
Karen hopes parents will encourage their children to practice role-playing, as, “it is important for children to be active learners and thinkers right from the start.”
Find out more about Playgroup NSW Inc. at www.playgroupnsw.org.au