Certification criteria for playgroups

Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link) defines a playgroup as a group that meets on a regular basis to facilitate children's play and in respect of which—

  1. no child attends for more than 4 hours on any day; and
  2. more than half the children attending on any occasion have a parent or caregiver present in the same play area at the same time; and
  3. the total number of children attending on any occasion is not greater than 4 times the number of parents and caregivers present in the same play area at the same time.

Playgroups include Puna Kōhungahunga, cultural playgroups and community language playgroups.

Playgroups are certificated in accordance with the Education and Training Act 2020 under the Education (Playgroups) Regulations 2008(external link), which prescribe minimum standards that each certificated playgroup must meet. Certification criteria are used to assess how playgroups meet the minimum standards required by the regulations.

For each criterion there is guidance to help playgroups meet the required standards.

The publication of the criteria on its own can be downloaded as a PDF [PDF, 1.1 MB] and printed.

The certification criteria were last updated in September 2022.

Appendix 1 - Supporting the children on session

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      The parent’s role is that of a learning guide for their children. The best learning opportunities will be achieved when adults support children in following their own interests by:

      • joining them and sharing in their play;
      • using open-ended questions e.g. how, why, what do you think..?;
      • thinking aloud, when working on problems together adults can share their thoughts and show how they go about solving problems;
      • helping children develop their interests through play;
      • recognising and respecting the child’s key interests;
      • helping their child put their ideas into practice without taking over;
      • asking open-ended questions of the children when guiding their learning;
      • giving children positive feedback and showing real interest in their play;
      • adding interest to children’s play by participating with them, talking with them and contributing extra resources;
      • providing a wide range of equipment and resources to use in many different ways;
      • giving help to use resources correctly;
      • helping children make friends and socialise with other children and adults;
      • setting up the environment to reduce the potential of conflict;
      • using language that encourages discussion, thinking, negotiation and humour;
      • recognising that sometimes children will play and learn successfully by themselves and at other times adult contribution will be needed to extend the play;
      • enlist children’s help with decision making by giving them choices, e.g. ‘Shall we have playdough or clay today?’;
      • introducing chants, rhymes, songs or music if appropriate; and helping the children to develop the language of social interaction, negotiation and inquiry.

      Some playgroups use a newsletter or wall chart to encourage parents to follow these guidelines and take responsibility.

      In order to support children in this way, adults need to be present with their children in the various play areas and available to work with them. Parents know their children best, including their strengths and interests. Playgroup is an ideal place where parents’ useful home practices can be supported and where children can experience positive learning outcomes with each child learning in his or her own way and at their own pace. The programme offered must provide opportunities for infants, toddlers and young children to maximise learning.


  • Making sense of what is happening
    • Making sense of what is happening

      The group might want to think about how the children are progressing at playgroup. Group members might ask themselves some questions in relation to each child’s progress:

      • What is the child interested in now?
      • What are they learning now?
      • What is the child good at?
      • Are they struggling with anything?
      • How do we know this?
      • What can we do to help this child progress?

      The answers that come from exploring these questions will guide the way the group offer learning experiences and support the child’s play on session. Adults might ask the child about their learning:

      • What did you enjoy doing today?
      • How did you learn that?
      • What did you like about learning this?
      • Did you need help with anything?
      • What do you think you’d like to learn about next time?

      The adults might then balance this information from the child with what they see on session. It is very important that adults are interacting with children, noticing what activities the children are interested in and participating in their learning. The adults on session can then discuss how to extend play at the next session