Establishing a certificated playgroup

'Establishing a certificated playgroup' has been developed to guide parents through the process of establishing a playgroup. It contains information to help you set up a quality playgroup in your community.

The Ministry of Education employs staff in its regional offices to work with parents establishing playgroups and assist them to work towards certification.

Their particular focus is on the set up, delivery and maintenance of quality early childhood education programmes for children.

Contact your local Ministry of Education office if you are interested in establishing a certificated playgroup.

Local Ministry of Education offices

How to get started

There are some things you will need to consider when setting up a new playgroup.

  • What to think about first
    • Contact your local Ministry of Education office to find out what other groups are currently operating in your area. You could also approach your local Citizens Advice Bureau, Plunket, Parents Centre or your ante-natal group for information. You could consider joining a group which is already operating.

      You will be asked by staff at your local Ministry of Education office to think about why you want to set up a playgroup and what you hope to achieve. You need to be sure there are enough parents who are prepared to be involved in the everyday operation and management of the group.

      If you decide you want to establish a playgroup, there are some things you will need to think about and consider as part of your planning. These include:

  • Finding a suitable venue
    • Certificated playgroups are required to operate from venues that can be used by other groups in the community. Most playgroups operate from schools, church buildings or community halls which are often centrally located, easily accessible and affordable. Some playgroups share premises with other early childhood education providers such as playcentres and kindergartens. Certificated playgroups cannot operate from private homes.

      Your premises should be a safe and comfortable place for parents and children to meet. Children attending need to have access to a wide range of experiences and it is important the facilities and equipment reflect the culture and purpose of the playgroup.

      Things to consider when choosing a venue could include:

      • When is the venue available?
      • Would you be comfortable bringing your child to this place?
      • Is this a place where you would feel comfortable as well?
      • Would your child be safe here?
      • What is the cost of the venue and what does this include/entitle you to?
      • How confident are you that you will have ongoing access to this venue?
      • Is there adequate parking and is it easily accessible?
      • Is there public transport close by?

      You should ensure that the premises you select have met the certification criteria before you sign an agreement

      Other things you will need to consider in relation to your premises are:

      • Toilets – These need to be clean and tidy and easily accessible, with hand-washing facilities.
      • Kitchen – Can this be easily accessed by adults, with facilities the group could use, eg, fridge, microwave, crockery?
      • Heating and ventilation – Is there adequate heating? It is important to ensure all heaters are safe and inaccessible to children. There need to be enough doors and windows to allow air to flow through easily.
      • Outdoor area – If there is an outdoor area for children to play in, does it have safe structures and suitable fencing so children can be kept safe? If there is no outdoor area you will need to consider how the group is going to provide for physically active play opportunities.
      • Furniture – When thinking about furniture such as couches, chairs and tables, consider the comfort of parents and children.
      • You will also need to think about when the playgroup is open – what days the group will meet each week and how many hours the group will operate each day. Remember that no child can attend for more than four hours in any one day.
  • Equipment
    • As the playgroup becomes more established you will begin to gather a range of equipment for different uses in the learning programme. This could include items brought from home or collected for free.

      The equipment you select needs to be both fun and educational and it should be made available in a way that lets the children choose their own play activities, based on their interests.

      When creating your own resources or purchasing equipment for children remember that it needs to be:

      • appealing to children
      • reflective of children’s everyday lives and also provide new opportunities and challenges
      • able to be used imaginatively, and in different ways
      • large and strong enough not to be broken off or swallowed
      • durable, washable and hygienic
      • safe for children to use.

      There are many natural and recyclable resources that are free and useful for play. Home made resources can be both effective and cheap. Some businesses, eg, signwriters, carpenters, joiners or material shops may have offcuts that could provide your playgroup with some useful and fun play resources. Be discerning about the type of resources you choose.

      Staff at your local Ministry of Education office will be able to advise you on suitable quality equipment for your playgroup.

  • Storage of equipment
    • Storing your equipment on site can be an issue if you share the premises with other groups. You will need to consider whether there is enough secure space for your storage needs.

  • Playgroup curriculum
    • All certificated playgroups are required to 'plan for, provide and review an education programme that is consistent with the curriculum framework' which can be found in the booklet 'Certification Criteria for Playgroups 2008'.

      The curriculum framework provides the structure for everything that happens, and the way in which it happens, in a playgroup. The early childhood curriculum framework consists of the four principles and five strands of Te Whāriki. Te Whāriki is Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum document. It 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.

      Te Whāriki’s vision is for 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.

      In early childhood 'Curriculum' means the "sum total of experiences, activities and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development."

      A curriculum that is based on the four principles of Te Whāriki means that playgroups:

      • empower children to learn and grow by encouraging and allowing them to make choices and take responsibility for their own learning
      • reflect the holistic way that children learn and grow by recognising that all learning is interwoven and occurs within the context of relevant and meaningful experience
      • incorporate and involve children’s families and their local community by respecting differing viewpoints and fostering family and community participation
      • recognise that children learn through interacting with the people, places and things in their environments by providing a wide and interesting array of people, places and things for children to interact with.

      The five strands of Te Whāriki; well-being, belonging, contribution, communication and exploration, give more direction to what children will experience in a playgroup environment. They are the 5 key areas of learning and development in early childhood education. A curriculum that focuses on the 5 strands means that children will experience environments where:

      • they are physically and emotionally safe – (Well-being)
      • they and their families feel a sense of belonging – (Belonging)
      • everyone is treated fairly and contributions are valued – (Contribution)
      • 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 – (Communication)
      • they can actively explore and make sense of their world – (Exploration).

      So what does this mean in practice for playgroups?

      The day to day activities, experiences, events, routines, rituals, resources, opportunities and interactions that occur in the playgroup should reflect and promote the principles and strands of Te Whāriki but the specific nature of these will be decided on by the children and families in the playgroup.

      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.

      Some playgroups find it helpful to provide a range of activities, resources, and experiences each session that allow for:

      • family and dramatic play
      • creative play
      • exploring language, literacy and communication
      • physically active play
      • constructive play
      • exploratory play
      • manipulative play.

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

      It is useful to ask the following questions to help decide what might happen and how adults might interact with children and each other on a day-to-day basis in the playgroup:

      • What are our children interested in, trying hard to master, spending a lot of time doing, finding out about at the moment? Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that support them to continue to do these things?


      • Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that will enable children to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to keeping themselves safe and healthy?
      • Are we interacting with children and each other in ways that promote a good sense of self-worth?


      • Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that are familiar to children and enable them to feel welcomed and comfortable in this place?
      • Are we interacting in ways that show each other that in this place we are safe and cared for and we are all respected and accepted for who we are?


      • Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that encourage children to actively participate with and alongside others?
      • Are we acting and interacting in ways that support children to learn about valuing themselves and others and working together?


      • Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that enable children to develop increasing competence and confidence to communicate in a range of ways and for a range of purposes? Are we providing opportunities for children to learn about New Zealand’s dual heritage and some activities and resources that reflect Māori language, culture and values?
      • Are we interacting in ways that encourage children and adults to think, problem solve, express ideas, opinions and feelings?


      • Are we providing opportunities, activities and resources that are enticing, interesting, challenging and meaningful for children and encourage them to try things out, experiment, play around with materials and ideas and revisit and build on past experiences and ideas?
      • Are we interacting in ways that encourage children to actively explore their environ­ments and are we showing that we value their play and spontaneous exploration?

      Read more about Te Whāriki. Ask the staff at your local Ministry of Education office for more information and ideas about what you can do to support children’s learning and promote Māori cultural learning within playgroups.