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

The value of playgroups

Playgroups are one early childhood education (ECE) option available to children and families in New Zealand. They contribute towards a key government objective of increasing participation in quality early childhood education.

The benefit of playgroups is that they can be set up quickly, are flexible and they have fewer regulatory requirements than other ECE services and can respond well to the needs of their community.

  • What is a playgroup?
    • The Education and Training Act 2020 (The Act) allows for the service provider (organiser) of a playgroup to be an individual or a group of people. In many cases this will be a parent or groups of parents.

      The Act defines a playgroup as a group that meets on a regular basis to facilitate children’s play and in respect of which:

      (a) no child attends for more than four hours on any day, and
      (b) more than half the children attending on any occasion have a parent or caregiver present in the same play area at the same time.

      This ensures playgroups have a high ratio of adults present while children are learning. It also limits the length of time a child can attend on any one day to four hours maximum.

      The main aim of a playgroup is to provide a learning environment that is varied and responsive to the interests and learning needs of individual children. In addition to providing ECE opportunities for children, playgroups provide an informal support network for parents. Playgroups encourage and support parents to learn about the education needs of children and acknowledge the significance of their role in their child’s early education.

      There are many different types of playgroups in New Zealand. Some have a primary focus on maintaining culture, language or philosophical approaches, such as Ngā Puna Kōhungahunga (Māori language playgroups), Pasifika, Montessori or Steiner playgroups. Some playgroups operate in rural areas and may only have one session per week while others may run up to five mornings a week. A playgroup may be the only facility in an area that focuses on early childhood education.

      Playgroups are the only ECE service that are certificated rather than licensed. This means that there are fewer regulatory requirements that need to be met.

      To receive funding and support from the Ministry of Education, playgroups are required to be certificated. Certification is optional and it is possible for playgroups to operate without a certificate. However, if a playgroup is not certificated it will not receive funding and support from the Ministry of Education even though it must operate within the definition of a playgroup in the Education and Training Act 2020.

      So, what is the difference between a playgroup and other ECE options such as early childhood education and care centres, playcentres and kindergartens?

      There are two main types of ECE service – teacher-led and parent-led. All teacher-led services and parent-led services other than playgroups are licensed.

      Teacher-led services and parent-led services below outlines the types of ECE services available.

  • Teacher-led services
    • Education and care services

      • run all-day sessions or flexible hour programmes for children from birth to school age
      • some services cater for specific age ranges, eg, under twos
      • may be privately owned, or owned and operated by a community group
      • some have a particular language and cultural base.


      • accept children between two and five years old and can have set morning and afternoon sessions for different age groups
      • some offer all-day or flexible sessions for a wider age range of children
      • non-profit, community-based services managed by a Kindergarten Association.

      Home-based education and care services

      • involve an educator1 providing education and care for groups of up to 4 under school age children at a time in a home setting
      • each educator must belong to a licensed home-based care network and is supported by a coordinator2 who is a registered ECE teacher.
  • Parent-led services
    • Playgroups

      • are run by parents and cater for groups of children from birth to school age and their parents
      • typically meet for 1 to 5 sessions each week to provide play, social and learning opportunities for children
      • can be certificated and may be less formal than other kinds of ECE services.

      Pasifika playgroups

      • In addition to the above playgroup requirements, Pasifika playgroups focus on developing and maintaining Pasifika languages and cultures.

      Ngā Puna kōhungahunga

      • In addition to the above playgroup requirements, Māori language and tikanga is reflected in the structure and content of the playgroup sessions.


      • are collectively supervised and managed by parents for children from birth to school age
      • have a strong focus on parent education as well as children’s learning
      • are supported by Playcentre Associations around the country.

      Ngā Kōhanga Reo

      • cater for children from birth to school age in a Māori language and tikanga Māori environment
      • parents and whānau manage and operate the kōhanga reo with the support and guidance of the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
      • some kōhanga reo are also teacher-led services with trained kaiako.