The Office for the Early Years
Every family wants to give their child the best start in life. A strong early years system and high-quality early childhood education and care helps them to do so, by supporting children to build the foundation to become creative, entrepreneurial, resilient and capable learners.
The Department for Education recognises the vitally important role that families play in children’s development and learning as we know that well-supported parents who are highly engaged with the children help them reach their full potential.
We know that the first 1000 days of a child’s life are critical for their health, development and learning.
This is when the brain, physical, language, social, emotional and cognitive development is the fastest.
Playgroups are an important early childhood service during this crucial period as research demonstrates a consistent positive relationship between playgroup attendance and children’s early development.
Playgroups provide an opportunity for children to interact with and engage in play with similar-aged children, and an opportunity for families to be connected to each other and their communities. They support children’s development through sharing songs, rhymes, oral language, painting, drawing, writing, and sharing books. Playgroups can also facilitate referrals to other early childhood services as required.
The department’s ‘Learning Together Communities’ program helps families to engage in their children’s learning. It offers playgroups and parent education courses across South Australia, designed to support families in their role as their children’s first teachers. This helps children’s early literacy, numeracy, development and engagement with learning. The program aims to support the development and wellbeing of children and their families, empower families to support their children’s learning and development, provide access to quality information and resources, and promote and support positive relationships between families and early childhood services and schools.
We are also partnering with Playgroup SA to establish more playgroups as well as making it easier for families to find their local playgroup. Families are encouraged to visit the Playgroup SA’s Find a Playgroup website to find their nearest playgroup.
Through the department’s Early Learning Strategy, the South Australian Government is funding the Raising Literacy Australia’s Early Years Taskforce, promoting the importance of early childhood development through its ‘Words Grow Minds’ campaign; a campaign that gets straight to the heart of how families can help babies and young children thrive – through talking, reading, playing and singing together from birth.
Children have a right to education and care, a right to access to high-quality systems and services to support the best possible start in life – whatever their background, wherever they live.
Through leading reforms to provide local programs that support community priorities and provide strong foundations to families as their children’s first teachers, and through partnering with key stakeholders in the early years space, we are working together to ensure South Australia is the best place to be born and grow up.
Words: Jackie Bray
Jackie is the Head of The Office for the Early Years in the Department for Education
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Summer 2023