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 lists

The following lists give suggestions for basic equipment in each area of play. Refer to your local Ministry of Education Early Childhood Advisor for more information.

Family and dramatic play

  • dough
  • a range of utensils, e.g. rolling pins, shape cutters, garlic press, pots and pans, durable plastic cutlery and scales

Dough can also be used with natural materials or collage items for creative play.

Family play
  • small table and chairs
  • tea set
  • stove
  • sink or bowl for dishes
  • dolls, dolls bed, bedding
  • prams, pushchairs
  • ironing board, iron, brooms
  • telephones, cash register
Dramatic play
  • dress up clothes, e.g. doctor, police, fire-fighter, animal suits and other unisex costumes, ballet costumes, overalls, hard hats, cultural costumes and fabrics
  • accessories such as hats, scarves, belts, bags, shoes
  • mirror (safety glass or filmed, fixed to wall)
  • accessories for shop, office, medical play etc

See under books/language/music for ideas for music and dance.

Provision for infants and toddlers
  • soft toys and dolls
  • small prams and pushchairs (well-balanced so do not tip easily)
  • baskets for carrying things

Exploratory play

  • magnets and a collection of items to test for magnetism
  • magnifying glasses
  • bug catchers or insect viewers
  • scales, prisms
  • collection of natural materials to classify and investigate e.g. shells, leaves, stones, feathers, bark
  • Sets of high quality plastic creatures e.g. domestic animals, dinosaurs, sea creatures
  • circuit board or collection of electrical components
  • provision for growing indoor plants, seeds, bulbs, etc
  • a ‘feely box’ of assorted items for children to experiment with
  • materials for mixing (e.g. oil and water)
  • science books

Live animals (insects, frogs, spiders, etc) should be observed with care and returned to their natural environment as soon as possible.

  • water trough or plastic bowls
  • sieves, funnels, boats, measuring beakers, jugs
  • pumps and waterwheels
  • plastic tubing, bottles, sponges
  • items for floating and sinking (wood, stone, cork, shells, etc)
  • bubble-making shapes and mix

Equipment from other areas can also be used with water e.g. dolls and dolls clothes for washing, brushes for painting with water, tea set for washing.

Provision for infants and toddlers
  • a collection of different textured items for children to touch, taste and feel. Ensure items are non-poisonous and larger than a ping-pong ball to avoid choking.
  • use fabrics of different textures (lace, hessian, fur, linen) to make balls, rugs etc for babies to play with
  • provide a SHALLOW bowl of water and items for babies to splash and play with.

Constructive play

  • multiple unit blocks (plain wooden blocks cut to specific sizes)
  • smaller blocks (could have smaller coloured blocks or Duplo)
  • small and large cars, trucks and trailers
  • plastic animals and people
  • road signs (could be homemade)
  • pieces of wood, card, fabric
Provision for infants and toddlers
  • wooden or plastic hammer board
Sand - outdoors
  • sandpit and cover
  • shade in summer
  • tap/hose for water
  • a selection of buckets, spades, shovels, rakes
  • scoops, funnels, sieves
  • trucks, diggers, graders, etc
  • PVC pipes and guttering, planks of untreated wood
  • natural materials, e.g. rocks, tree trunks, leaves, shells, flax
  • driftwood, small planks
Sand - indoors
  • tarpaulin for the floor
  • trough for sand and / or water
  • dune sand (this can be purchased by the sack from hardware shops and stored in a bucket).
  • equipment to fill, pour and sieve, e.g. bottle funnels, cups, water / sand wheels, spoons and small spades
  • dustpan and brush
  • large cardboard or wooden boxes
  • old curtains, bedspreads
  • cable reels, tree stumps
  • steering wheels, tyres
  • planks of wood
  • a sturdy workbench at child’s waist height
  • vices attached to ends of bench (left hand and right hand) or G clamps
  • trolley or shelves for storage of wood, tools and accessories
  • soft untreated wood in a variety of shapes and sizes
  • hammers – light weight, adult sized
  • variety of nails, magnet to pick up nails
  • saw, small – ensure it is sharp
  • good quality hand drill and bit, screws, screwdriver
  • pliers (to hold nails with)
  • sandpaper and block
  • ruler and carpenter’s pencil
  • accessories, e.g. bottle tops, pieces of leather, fabric, card, vinyl, PVA glue, paint, rubber bands, cotton reels, natural materials

NB: It is important to use real, well maintained, adult tools that work properly when children use them.

This activity is more suitable for older children and should always be closely supervised.

Physically active play

  • movable equipment (e.g. planks, reels, boxes, ladders, tyres, tunnels )
  • swings
  • slide
  • hessian or old sheets for tunnels, houses
  • covered mattress for rolling and tumbling
  • space to run
  • balls in a range of sizes, ropes, hula hoops
  • trolleys, push and pull along toys, wheelbarrows

Any fixed outdoor equipment should meet current New Zealand safety standards 

Copies of safety standards can be purchased from Standards NZ(external link)

Provision for infants and toddlers
  • indoor/outdoor baby swing
  • soft balls
  • push and pull along toys
  • baby gym
  • textured rugs and cushions for infants to crawl over

Books and language

  • bookshelves or display case
  • chair or sofa where adults can sit with young children
  • carpet square or floor cushions
  • range of picture books to suit different ages, including:
  • story books
  • nursery rhymes/fairy stories
  • poetry/rhyme and finger plays
  • colours/numbers/shapes/size
  • science and nature
  • New Zealand stories
  • Maori stories
  • stories from other cultures
  • special topics, e.g. visit to hospital, new baby
  • books which reflect children’s day to day lives, e.g. farming
  • books which reflect children’s special interests, e.g. horses, dinosaurs
  • books which show males and females in non-traditional roles
  • puppets (displayed), wall friezes, pictures (at children’s height)
Provision for infants and toddlers
  • board, cloth and plastic books
  • picture books with simple text
  • mobiles

Music and movement

  • display board for instruments
  • tape deck and tapes
  • song books/charts
  • a selection of musical instruments, e.g. drums, bells, tambourines, shakers, maracas, clappers, cymbals, wood blocks
  • a selection of dancing accessories, e.g. scarves, bell wrist bands, streamers, poi
Provision for infants and toddlers 
  • rattles
  • squeaky toys 

Creative play

These activities can be done on easels, table tops or the floor.

  • aprons
  • drying rack or line and pegs
  • easels
  • paints (powder or liquid tempera & pallet)
  • plastic paint containers
  • brushes of different sizes, rollers, and other items for printing & painting
  • a selection of paper, cardboard and natural materials for painting on
  • formica squares, sheets of plastic or table tops for finger painting
  • paper of different size, texture, colour
  • crayons
  • plain and coloured pencils
  • chalk
  • felt tip pens
  • rulers

Purchase clay from Playcentre shops, quality toy shops or local potters association. Detail the sort you want e.g. white, red, brown, smooth or gritty.

  • bucket with lid for storage
  • hessian (to work clay on)
  • cutters (wire or fishing line)
  • sponges (to keep clay moist)
  • a selection of natural materials
  • glue (polycell and PVA), containers and brushes
  • variety of cardboard and paper
  • scissors and snips that cut properly, sellotape, string, stapler
  • variety of boxes, cartons and tubes
  • variety of materials e.g. wool, fabric, natural materials, old cards, egg cartons, crepe paper, cellophane, magazines, glitter, corks etc.
  • Messy play
  • use a trough, trays on a table or, if on the floor, use a tarpaulin.
  • ingredients to make play materials e.g. cornflour, luxflakes. Polycell paste
  • hand beaters, bowls, scrapers
  • buckets for handwashing
  • aprons
  • towels

Refer to Learning Environments for Playgroups for recipes.

Manipulative play

  • carpet square or table and chairs
  • a range of picture puzzles to suit different ages, from simple one piece puzzles with knobs to the more complex
  • geometric and serrated puzzles
  • form, fraction and shape boards
  • collection of items for sorting by type, colour, size (natural materials such as stones, leaves, shells are good)
  • items for matching e.g. socks, shells, stones, leaves
  • threading materials (ensure items for threading are too large to fit in a film canister - young children may choke on anything smaller)
  • posting and nesting boxes
  • games such as dominoes, picture lotto, patterning
  • screwing activities e.g. nuts and bolts, plastic jars and lids
  • interlocking block sets e.g. Duplo / Lego / Mega blocks
Provision for infants and toddlers
  • baby ‘activity boards’
  • cradle gym or hanging frame with interchangeable objects
  • stacking toys
  • Duplo / Primo
  • simple posting boxes
  • simple inset puzzles with knobs
  • rattles

Other equipment

In addition to children’s play equipment the group may need the following:

Kitchen equipment
  • adult cups, teaspoons etc
  • electric jug
  • containers for tea, coffee, milo, sugar
  • plastic children’s cups
  • tea towels (wash regularly)
  • cutlery, vegetable knife/peeler
  • container to store this equipment (named and mouse proof)
Cleaning items
  • broom
  • mop, bucket
  • cloths
  • cleaning agents (ensure stored safely out of children’s reach)
  • bowl for children’s handwashing (if needed)
  • hand towels (wash regularly)
Preparation equipment
  • large bowl for mixing dough, finger paint
  • saucepan or electric fry pan for cooked dough
  • spoons, spatula, egg-beater or whisk
  • storage containers for flour, cornflour etc.

Parent resources

Provide a range of books for parents on such topics as:

  • behaviour management
  • children’s development
  • parenting
  • health and safety
  • music and play ideas.

The Ministry of Education also has a range of pamphlets available for parents.

Further help

Contact your local Ministry of Education advisor for more information on any of the above areas.