Working for Whitehorse - Supported Playgroup Goes Online

Whitehorse News - December 2020

Natasha started working at Whitehorse Council in 2019 as a Supported Playgroup Facilitator, drawing on a breadth of experience working with children and families. As a local resident, she also wanted to find a role close to home, not knowing that 2020 would result in a year working entirely from home.

The Smalltalk Supported Playgroup program facilitated by Natasha adapted this year.

Initiating remote sessions in March, calling them ‘playgroup at home’, she offered families options on how to stay connected, such as weekly newsletters, play at home ideas, Zoom sessions, phone calls and text messaging.

The weekly Zoom sessions followed aspects of face-to-face playgroup, including group singing, finger rhymes, stories and conversations. Children and their families also got to meet one another’s pets.

The communication was also two-way, with Natasha learning new songs from the parents.

Ideas for the ‘play at home’ activities included using materials that could easily be found at home. This became a fun challenge for families, who raided kitchen cupboards and recycling to find the items. Families found the ideas kept them inspired while at home.

During the pandemic, Natasha worked with a regional network of supported playgroup facilitators to share how they were working and coping through the pandemic.

As the sole staff member working with playgroups at Whitehorse, Natasha found this network valuable and supportive.

“I gave many things a go and moved on if it wasn’t successful,” Natasha said of the program. “I saw the situation as an opportunity to keep things interesting.”

Natasha also organised printing and posting of activity sheets to participating families. The sheets are available on the Council website and can be viewed at Play at Home Activities page.

Parents and carers captured the creativity of their children at playgroup this year through photographs. Families that wanted to be part of a photobook sent in photos of their children playing at home. There were photos of many childhood favourite games, such as peek-a-boo, hide and seek and good old jumping in puddles.

The greatest challenge for Natasha in her new role has been the loss of face-to-face contact with children and families.

With restrictions easing, the Supported Playgroup program looks forward to gathering in person again in 2021. To enquire about the Supported Playgroup, email supportedplaygroup@whitehorse.vic.gov.au