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.

C1 Curriculum consistent

  • Criteria
    • Criteria

      Curriculum criterion 1

      A range of learning opportunities and experiences for children are planned for and provided that:

      • are consistent with any prescribed curriculum framework that applies, and
      • are reviewed by the group and amended as necessary at least every 12 months.

      Documentation required

      You will need to provide a plan outlining the variety of learning experiences and play opportunities the playgroup will provide. Examples of planning documentation can be found in Appendix 3.


      This criteria makes sure what happens at playgroup is in line with the early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki. Reviewing experiences and opportunities is a way of doing this.

      A documented plan provides playgroups with information about the learning experiences and opportunities available to children during sessions. It is a starting point for playgroups to make sure they are providing a variety of experiences for children to choose from and support children’s particular learning interests. Documented plans will also provide information to help playgroups regularly review what is happening in sessions at least once every 12 months.

      This criteria recognises that:

      • activities, opportunities, events and experiences provided at playgroup are ways through which children’s learning and development occurs
      • learning experiences include those that are thoughtfully planned as well as those that grow out of a child’s interest or a particular situation
      • providing a range and variety of opportunities allows children to revisit familiar experiences and learning and engage with new or unfamiliar ones
      • the relationships and the environment that children experience have a direct impact on their learning and development. Adults who are involved in children’s learning are part of this.

  • Guidance
    • Guidance

      Any examples in the guidance are provided as a starting point to show how services can meet (or exceed) the requirement. Services may choose to use other approaches better suited to their needs as long as they comply with the criteria.

      Curriculum framework

      The curriculum framework is based on Te Whāriki, which is Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum document. The vision in Te Whāriki is for all children “to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging, and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society”. This vision is the foundation for the opportunities, activities, events, experiences and interactions that occur in early childhood settings, including playgroups.

      Te Whāriki provides the structure for everything that happens in a playgroup including the way in which it happens. The early childhood curriculum framework consists of the four principles - Ngā Kaupapa Whakahaere and five strands - Ngā Taumata Whakhirahira of Te Whāriki. The framework describes in broad terms what is seen as important learning for children as well as the kinds of environments in which this learning can occur.

      Having your playgroup education programme consistent with the curriculum framework means the principles and strands of Te Whāriki can be seen in what is provided, how it is provided, the way adults and children engage with each other and with the experiences, activities, events and routines that happen at playgroup.

      The principles of Te Whāriki

      Your playgroup curriculum will be based on the four principles of Te Whāriki. The four principles are: Empowerment/Whakamana; Holistic Development/Kotahitanga; Family and Community/Whānau Tangata; Relationships/Ngā Hononga.

      • Empowerment / Whakamana – in this principle children are empowered to learn and grow by encouraging and allowing them to make choices and take responsibility for their own learning.
      • Holistic Development / Kotahitanga – this principle recognises that all learning is interwoven and occurs within the context of experiences that are relevant and meaningful to children’s everyday lives.
      • Family and Community / Whānau Tangata – this principle recognises that children live and grow as members of families and communities and these groups influence their early learning experiences. Family and local community values and aspirations are incorporated into playgroup sessions by respecting differing viewpoints and fostering family and community involvement.
      • Relationships / Ngā Hononga – this principle recognises that children learn through interacting with the people, places and things in their environments. Playgroups can help with this by providing a wide and interesting array of people, places and things for children to interact with.

      The five strands of Te Whāriki

      The five strands of Te Whāriki, Well-being/Mana Atua, Belonging/Mana Whenua, Contribution/Mana Tangata Communication/Mana Reo and Exploration/Mana Aotūroa, give more direction to the experiences children have in a playgroup environment.

      They are the five key areas of learning and development in early childhood education. A curriculum that focuses on these five areas gives children the opportunity to experience environments where:

      • Well-being / Mana Atua – they are physically and emotionally safe and they learn about keeping themselves and others physically and emotionally safe and well.
      • Belonging / Mana Whenua – they and their families feel that they belong and they learn the routines, customs, regular events and accepted behaviours that are associated with being a member of a community or group.
      • Contribution / Mana Tangata – everyone is treated fairly and contributions are valued and they learn about valuing themselves and working with and alongside others.
      • Communication / Mana Reo – using language and a range of other communication tools (such as books, art, dance, drama, mathematics, movement, music) from children’s own cultures, from New Zealand’s Māori heritage and from other cultures is promoted and valued and they learn about communicating and being creative and expressive in a range of different ways.
      • Exploration / Mana Aotūroa – they can actively explore, try new skills and experiences, and practice using familiar skills, knowledge and attitudes to help them make sense of their world and how things work. They gain confidence in their own bodies and themselves as learners, thinkers, explorers, problem-solvers, dancers, singers, builders, friends, carers and much more.