Stocking up on toys and equipment makes for a great start to the year, especially when you're one of the many Victorian playgroups to be awarded a 2016 Great Start Community Playgroup grant.
From Manangatang in remote north western Victoria, through to Toongabbie in the south east, 59 playgroups have recently been awarded funding to help them buy resources, run new sessions, and get mentoring support for their community playgroup.
Great Start grants prioritised regional communities or areas where few playgroups exist, with recipients sharing in a $50,000 investment to help give Victorian children the best start in life.
This round's recipients include 10 playgroups in growth areas like Point Cook and South Morang, and 29 playgroups in metropolitan Melbourne, including Frankston, Essendon and Newport; the rest are spread across regional Victoria.
Playgroups play an important role in helping new parents connect with one another, enabling them to learn from and support each other as their children grow.
Two playgroups in Alphington and Healesville have turned their focus to new dads, receiving grants to provide sessions for dads and kids.
Ensuring children and parents from multicultural communities don't miss out, grants to buy books and resources in languages other than English have also been awarded. These will support a Spanish-speaking playgroup in Ballarat, a Russian playgroup in Manor Lakes, Rosebud's Japanese playgroup, a North Melbourne Somalian playgroup and Ferntree Gully's Italian playgroup.
As well as strengthening families and communities, participating in playgroups gives children a lifelong love of learning.
More than 40,000 children and 30,000 families participate in playgroups in Victoria each year.
The grants mean, more parents across Victoria will be able to access community playgroups closer to home.