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 3 - Planning

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Planning and providing for a range of learning experiences and opportunities

      For playgroups, the educational programme is made up of all the things that are happening for children while they are attending playgroup. This will include:

      • how the environment is set up
      • what equipment is provided
      • all the experiences, activities, events and routines that happen
      • interactions that occur between all the people in the group.

      Playgroups that are meeting the curriculum requirement will plan for and provide:

      • a warm, safe, secure, predictable, interesting and stimulating environment
      • a range of equipment and resources that invite exploration, stimulate thinking, include the familiar and the unfamiliar, and reflect the dual cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand
      • warm caring relationships, prompt responses to children’s needs, and interactions and responses that build positive relationships with people, places and things, draw on children’s interests and capabilities and encourage children to try things out and revisit experiences
      • a variety of play opportunities to encourage learning
      • opportunities for children to make decisions.

      Each playgroup will do things in ways that best suit the values, beliefs and interests of their own children, families, and the resources available in the setting and local community.


  • Strategy
    • Strategy

      What you provide, what you do and how you do it

      The play materials and experiences that are available in the playgroup provide ways in which the ideas in the principles and strands of Te Whāriki can occur. For instance children's health and well-being can be promoted through the rituals and routines associated with food; children can learn about their own and other cultures through interacting with a range of culturally diverse dolls, musical instruments, books and pictures; they can develop understandings about concepts such as size, shape and volume by experimenting with water and different sized containers.

      Some groups use the following types of play as a starting point to make sure they provide a variety of equipment, experiences and opportunities:

      • family and dramatic play - so children can act out and make sense of their everyday experiences (using equipment such as clothes and hats for dressing up, kitchen equipment such as stoves, pots, and dishes and props associated with familiar jobs such as doctors, fire service, supermarket, farming, cooking)
      • creative play - so children can express their ideas and feelings and experiment with a range of creative materials such as paint, playdough, music, collage to create new things (using equipment such as paints, paper, playdough, clay, glue and collage materials, musical instruments)
      • exploring language, literacy and communication - so children can become familiar with and expert at expressing their ideas and feelings and communicating with others in a variety of different ways (using equipment such as books, music, storytelling, writing and drawing tools)
      • physically active play - so children can develop strong and healthy bodies and know how to use them (using equipment such as large outdoor climbing equipment, ladders, boxes, swings, indoor mats, bean bags, large pieces of material, trolleys to push and pull, balls)
      • constructive play - so children can see how things fit together and learn about shapes and sizes (using equipment such as blocks, boxes, junk materials for large construction, carpentry )
      • exploratory play - so children can learn about how the environment and how things link together (using equipment such as water, sand, magnets, rulers, as well as equipment noted above)
      • manipulative play - so children can develop their fine motor skills (using equipment such as puzzles, threading, items to stack and sort).

      The way the experiences and opportunities associated with these types of play are made available to children, and they ways that adults interact and respond to children as they play should reflect the principles and strands of Te Whāriki.

      For instance, books read in a comfortable, light and quiet space can promote a healthy attitude to reading in a child. Having books available for children to choose means they are able to take control over when and what books they use and also means children can see words and pictures in print and realise that these ‘symbols’ have meaning and can be used to express ideas. Reading can help settle an unhappy child. The materials that are provided are only one way in which the principles and strands can happen.

      All children benefit from a programme that reflects the dual cultural heritage of Aotearoa New Zealand. This would include aspects of Māori language and culture.

      While the activities, resources, experiences, events and routines that occur, or are available during playgroup are important, the principles and strands of Te Whāriki come to life through the interactions, responses and relationships that occur between children and children, children and adults, and adults and adults during playgroup.

      Questions to help playgroups plan what happens and how they happen.

      At the end of each session (or at some other regular interval – e.g. each month)

      • What learning have I noticed? (What have particular children been practising, trying hard to master, trying for the first time, doing in different ways or with different materials?)
      • What has happened that has made me think/wonder about/want to know more about?
      • What do we want to carry forward? Try more of? Try in different ways? Build on?
      • Do we need to do some things differently?
      Documentation required

      Playgroups are required to document a plan outlining the learning experiences and play opportunities they will provide. A plan provides a starting point for playgroups. It provides a summary of the experiences and opportunities available to children during sessions.

      A plan will also help the playgroup to review their sessions - at least once every 12 months. Plans can take a number of forms and be documented in different ways.

      Some groups might choose to document what is happening at playgroup by writing about particular experiences, opportunities, activities or events that have captured children’s attention and interest during each session. A large blank sheet of paper displayed on a wall can work well – this can be added to each session so a growing picture emerges of what and how children are learning. Other groups might choose to record the same information in a daily diary. Photos with brief descriptions about what is happening are an easy way to document children’s learning and progress. They can also be displayed and provide opportunities for children to talk about what they did and what they learnt with others.

      The Kei Tua o te Pae exemplar resource booklets provide a rich array of examples of documentation of children’s learning.

      Some examples of planning documentation are available to download on the Overview tab

      1, 2, and 3 are examples of planning statements – they describe how the group will ensure that what is provided is consistent with the curriculum framework.

      4, 5, 6, and 7 are examples of templates or frameworks of varying degrees of detail and complexity for groups to record what experiences and opportunities have been/will be provided on a weekly, monthly or term basis.

      Whatever method you decide to use it is important to remember that you need to pay attention to how, where and when experiences and opportunities are provided and how children engage with them. You will also need to pay attention to the impact of those experiences on the children, and the ways in which adults have responded to and supported children’s learning.


  • Reviewing
    • Reviewing

      Reviewing the learning opportunities and experiences

      Playgroups are required to review the experiences and opportunities planned for and provided at playgroup at least every twelve months. Reviewing these will help you to make sure they are consistent with the curriculum framework.

      Reviewing the educational programme can be done in different ways and each playgroup will determine how best to do this for themselves. Many groups will find it useful to review what is being provided on a more regular basis than once a year. Talking at monthly meetings about what is or has been working well, and what you might want to do differently is a good starting point for regularly reflecting on how well your playgroup is working for its members.

      Your MOE advisor can provide you with advice about how to undertake a review. However you decide to undertake a review, the following big picture questions are important:

      • What do we want to know? (eg Do the environment and our interactions encourage children to actively explore? Are we protecting the health and well being of the youngest children in our playgroup?).
      • What are we doing now?
      • How satisfied are we with what is happening now?
      • What do we want to introduce, continue with, adapt or abandon?

      Start by reminding yourself about what it is you are trying to achieve (go back to Te Whāriki and your playgroup philosophy statement) and decide on an aspect that you want to review.

      Decide what information you need – and how you might go about getting it. Focus on the children – what are they interested in? What do they keep going back to? What do they spend a long time at? What do they concentrate on?

      Think about information you already have on hand that you can use such as documented plans, photos, daily diaries, meeting minutes.

      Gather the information, then make sense of the information you have gathered – what does it tell you about what is working well and what is not?

      Decide on what actions need to be taken, how they will happen and who will be involved.