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.

Equipment guidelines

The Ministry of Education resource Learning Environments for Playgroups has information on planning appropriate play activities to support the learning of the children in your group. The following suggestions for equipment will help your group establish a broad-based play programme.

Choosing equipment

Toys and equipment selected for use in playgroups should be:

  • safe and durable (check for sharp edges, small parts that may break off, and non-toxic durable paint)
  • washable and hygienic
  • appropriate for the children’s ages and levels of development
  • of interest to the children in the group.

Some equipment, such as puzzles, will have specific uses, while some will be chosen for their flexibility of use, e.g. blocks that can be used to build roads, houses or form patterns. Children will also need equipment available to help them develop new skills or practice newly established ones, e.g. scissors, balls.

Children learn through all their senses, so select some play items that encourage the use of smell, touch, sound and vision.

How much equipment will you need?

Numbers of each item will depend on the size of your group. The list below gives suggested items but not recommended numbers, as this will be different for each group. Consider the age and the developmental stage of the children as well as the size of your group when buying equipment.


  • For children under 3 years, all equipment should meet the Product Safety Standards (Children's Toys) Regulations 2005(external link).
  • There should be no parts smaller than a ping-pong ball, no sharp or rough edges and no parts that are easily broken off.
  • Real electrical appliances, such as toasters, should not be used in children’s play.
  • Children should always be supervised at play, both indoors and outdoors, and especially where there are carpentry tools or water play.
  • All products and natural materials used with children should be non-toxic. Beware of poisonous plants and seeds. Small seeds, e.g. wheat, can also be dangerous if children put them up their noses.
  • Scissors should be child-sized and have rounded ends.
  • Polystyrene should not be used in playgroups. It can block airways and doesn’t show up in x-rays.
  • Fixed outdoor equipment should meet the requirements of current New Zealand Standards (contact Standards New Zealand for up to date information), have soft-fall surfacing installed beneath it and be checked and maintained regularly.
  • All playgroups require a first aid kit.


It is important that your valuable playgroup equipment is stored safely, especially if you are using a community building. A locked cupboard with shelving inside can be useful if no larger space is available, but must be attached to the wall for safety in earthquakes.

As your stock of outdoor equipment grows it could also be useful to purchase a lockable outdoor shed.

Named containers (e.g. labelled ‘sandpit toys’) such as cartons, boxes or plastic laundry baskets can be used for holding resources and to make packing and unpacking easier. Heavy items should not be stored on high shelves in case of an earthquake.


Items for children’s use are best displayed at children’s height for easy visibility and reach. Shelves or shallow boxes on castors can be useful for both storage and display. Books and puzzles can be displayed on sloping shelves at children’s height. Some flat display areas (e.g. low tables) will be needed for science and nature.

Work spaces

You will need some low tables and chairs for children to sit at while working at collage, etc. A carpet square is a versatile work area for reading, blocks, puzzles, etc.

Provision for infants and toddlers

Very young children need a safe, warm place (rug, carpet square or cushions) to play away from the main play area but where they can still see and be seen.

All equipment for infants and toddlers should be washable.

Younger children will be unable to wait for turns or to share equipment so it is realistic to provide several of each item, (e.g. spades in sandpit), if you have several toddlers in your group.

“Collected” equipment

Items (e.g. cartons, fabric, bottle tops) can be collected at home for use in collage and junk play, but be aware of safety. Many natural materials can be collected from beaches and other areas and be used in your group.

Other issues

Each playgroup should be equipped to provide a range of activities at each session.

Activities and equipment should reflect the cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand and the children in the group.

For more information about areas of play in a broad based programme, refer to Learning Environments for Playgroups.

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