Play Steps is informed by an ecological approach to learning through play inclusive of children, their caregivers, the school and the wider community. Research suggests that:
- positive parental involvement in learning both at home and outside the home has a positive impact on academic achievement and wellbeing (Emerson, Fear, Fox & Sanders 2012)
- in Australia, the entry into the school environment is likely to be more challenging for children from financially disadvantaged families, Indigenous families, families with children who have a disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families (Roiser & McDonald, 2011)
- parents who are knowledgeable about what their child is learning are more likely to engage with their child’s learning at home (Morrison, Griffith & Alberts, 1997 as cited in McLean et al., 2017)
- facilitated playgroups in schools are “a unique opportunity for parents to experience and build knowledge about their local school.” (McLean et al., 2017, p. 1-2).
As a facilitated playgroup program, Play Steps draws from the supported playgroups literature². Supported playgroups:
- provide parents with information on child development (Jackson, 2006; Shulver, 2011) and support the development of parental confidence (Bohr et al., 2010, DEECD, 2012)
- that were underpinned by a learning through play program were “associated with significant positive changes over time in child language and social development (Nicholson et al., 2010; Williams et al., 2012) and attachment status (Scharfe, 2011), and decreased behavioural problems maintained to 6-month follow-up (Robinson et al., 2009)” (Williams et al., 2015, p. 25).
Research conducted by the Telethon Kids Institute and funded by Playgroup Australia found that children who had not attended playgroup were 1.82 times more likely to experience difficulties adjusting to school (adjusted for differences in gender, Indigenous status, language and socio-economic status) (Gregory et al., 2017: 31).
Families from disadvantaged or vulnerable backgrounds who regularly attended playgroup “performed significantly better on measures of learning competency and social and emotional wellbeing” than other children from similar backgrounds who had never attended playgroup (Hancock et al., 2015).² For more information: Systematic Literature Review: Research on Supported Playgroups Williams et al., 2015).