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Welcome to the Psychology Playgroup which is privately run and cares for children from the general public as well as students and staff of the University of Stirling.

Stirling University Playgroup currently has positions available on Fridays until the 23rd June 2017. For further information please contact Federica Caruso.

Established for over 25 years within the beautiful campus of the University of Stirling and graded ‘very good’ by the Care inspectorate for the quality of care and support, the Psychology playgroup provides high quality childcare as well as a stimulating and nurturing environment in which children can explore and learn.

The extensive facilities on campus provide the perfect setting for children to investigate nature and have fun walking in the woods and around the lochs. Children and carers also have access to a designated area for growing potted fruit, flowers and vegetables aided by the advice from our very own University gardeners.

A maximum of 16 children can attend each session from 9:00 to 12:00.

The small number of children in the playroom allows us to develop a curriculum that is sensitive and flexible to each child’s individual needs, while providing opportunities to build their confidence and develop a positive sense of self. A wide range of play materials and opportunities is on offer to encourage creative and imaginative play. Outdoor learning and science experiments are at the heart of our planning and the children also enjoy more focussed activities on early literacy and mathematical concepts.

The Psychology department has a long history of excellence in developmental research. The children within the playgroup have the unique chance to participate in new research ideas, with staff members and students ensuring that they use fun games and novel toys suitable for children. For more information look at the research tab below.

The playgroup is available to all children aged 2 years 9 months to 5 years. The sessions run from 9am - 12 pm mainly during term times and we currently have spaces available.



We also have a toddler group for 0 - 3 year olds, for more information please look at the Toddler Group Tab.


If you would like to arrange a visit please contact Federica Caruso, and for an information handout please click here.

Daily Routine

This is an outline of a typical day with the Stirling University Psychology PlayGroup;

Time (am)Activity
09.00 - 09.15 Children Arrive
09.15 - 10.15 Free Play
10.15 - 10.45 Snack Time
10.45 - 11.00 Story Time
11.00 - 11.45 Structured Play
11.45 - Midday Song Time

Stirling University Campus is a vibrant place, filled with fantastic views including the lake, mountains and local wildlife (Rabbits, Ducks and Swans). When the conditions are right the children are taken out to see the sights.‌


            Playgroup Image 7, Painter ‌       Playgroup Pic 9, Explorers       ‌Playgroup Picture 8, Designer

                       The Painter                    The Adventurers                    The Designer


"The university Playgroup is by far our family's favourite preschool activity our boys participated in. It provided a warm and safe environment for our little ones to explore, play and learn. Both our boys preferred it to nursery. It's a smaller group and less busy. The staff are fantastic and really get to know the children. As parents we valued their input and really felt our boys were valued and understood. It was a huge part of our family's lives for four years and I recommend it to everyone I meet with preschoolers."

   - Caroline.

"Our three children began their early education at the University Playgroup. In this happy supportive environment they learned firstly to share, take turns and later went on to form strong friendships that they still have today. Through many mediums such as toys, water, foam, music and movement they explored. We loved the fact that they spend spent a lot of time outside when possible too. Planting seedlings and learning about nature. Thank you Aileen and Sarah for your devotion to our children's early education."

   - Helen.

"An absolutely fantastic playgroup. It is well run by extremely kind and caring staff. It is somewhere you can leave your child assured that they are being well looked after in a safe environment. The activities they do are superior to some nurseries and they ensure outdoor activities in appropriate weather. The children learn a lot as well as having great fun. Would highly recommend this playgroup."

   - Julia.

"Having worked in childcare settings in the past, I was struck first of all about how the children were actually playing meaningfully and were engaged in loads of varied activities of their choosing. Even though the playroom wasn't that big and there were 12 or so little people there all doing different things, the atmosphere was calm and happy. Some were up the climbing frame, some were pretending to be doctors in the house trying to treat a doll that had obviously contracted something vile as she was being carefully ministered to by 3 nurses, 4 doctors and a teddy bear. There was painting, a sand pit, a water table replete with items to float and sink, a table of games, musical instruments and a group of children carefully preparing a snack under the watchful eye of one of the playleaders. Later on I would hear stories, singing and see the children play games and show awareness of the playgroup rules whilst on a walk or working with the students for their research (not experiments, as I came to understand, as it sounds wrong and totally gives an inaccurate impression of what actually happens there!) The staff are genuinely kind and interested in the children and are brilliant at making their mornings joyful and interesting."

   - Gemma.


The playgroup runs a waiting list system. A child's name can be put on this list at any time. If you wish to do so, please email, telephone or visit Federica Caruso with your child's name, date of birth, address and contact telephone number.

You will be notified as soon as a space becomes available.

The next session begins on Monday 22nd August 2016 and runs until Friday 23rd June 2017.

Children can start at any time during this period.

The playgroup meets daily Mondays to Fridays inclusively, starting at 9am and concluding at 12.00 noon.

The cost for each three hour session is £6.75 at present and reviewed annually. Two invoices will be sent, one at the start of each term. Fees may be paid by instalments in October, November and December for the winter term and by 7th March and 7th April for the summer term.

Childcare Vouchers are acceptable. No refund will be paid for non-attendance.

If you wish to withdraw your child from playgroup, we require a minimum of four weeks' notice. 

DateStart TimeFinish Time
Autumn Term Monday 22nd August, 2016 Friday 7th October, 2016
Winter Term Monday 17th October, 2016 Wednesday 21st December, 2016
Spring Term Thursday 5th January, 2017 Thursday 23rd March, 2017
Summer Term I Tuesday 28th March, 2017 Friday 7th April, 2017
Summer Term II Tuesday 18th April, 2017 Friday 23rd June, 2017
MayDay (Holiday) Monday 1st May, 2017 Monday 1st May, 2017

The Psychology at Stirling University has a long history of excellence in developmental research looking into developmental issues. The children within the playgroup have the chance to participate in new research ideas with staff members trained in child care and communication. 

All research projects are created with health and safety in mind, are passed through a University ethics committee and will not be taken unless parental consent is given, as parents are asked when the child enrols.

Main Researchers

NameArea of ResearchContact
Dr Jan Kuipers Is interested in speech perception and the development of a mental lexicon in mono- and bilingual infants and toddlers using Event Related Potentials (ERP) and eye-tracking techniques.
Dr Sarah Vick Is interested in nonverbal  communication, human animal interactions and outdoor learning.
Dr Eva Rafetseder Is particularly interested in the developmental changes of how children drawing inferences. Most of her work has focussed on counterfactual reasoning (i.e., what children conclude, if past events had not occurred the way they did) and how this is related to the development of complex emotions (e.g. regret, relief).
Dr Stephen Langton Eye gaze in children with autistic spectrum disorders (the use of luminance and geometric information).
Dr Yee Lee Shing Is interested in how human cognition develops across the lifespan, making use of both neuroimaging and multivariate developmental methodology.
Prof Christine Caldwell I am interested in social learning, traditions, and cultural evolution, in nonhumans and humans.
Dr Elizabeth Renner Dr Elizabeth Renner is working with Dr Christine Caldwell to study social and individual learning at different ages.
Mr Mark Atkinson I’m interested in how and when children use different types of information to learn. In particular, I’m looking at how children learn from adults and other children, and how this may be different to how other primates use social information. I’m also interested in language acquisition, and how children may play a part in changing a language as they learn it.
Dr Line Caes I'm interested in how children learn to deal with events that can cause distress. In particular, I'm interested to find out how they learn from observing how others (playgroup caregivers and peers) respond to a sad or painful situation.
Dr Catherine Grainger I am interested in cognitive development, and how cognitive processes differ in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

If you would like to talk to any of our researchers on their projects please don't hesitate contacting the researcher, clicking on the name will take you directly to their home page.

In their first year of life, children undergo crucial changes in their perceptual, motor, cognitive, and social abilities. By systematically observing these changes we aim to gain understanding in what stimulates and what constrains child development in these different domains. Such understanding is of vital importance to determine (a) why some children face problems in their development and (b) how these problems can be treated using evidence-based practice.

Here at Stirling University, researchers are concerned with several questions: How do children distinguish good intentions from bad intentions? How do they know what other people believe and want? How do children learn language? When do children start to experience complex emotions such as regret and relief? How do children process faces, and how do typically developing children differ from children with autism and children with Williams Syndrome? Are outdoor activities enhancing children’s creativity and learning process?

Stirling University provides excellent resources in the area of developmental psychology. Amongst these are the on-site preschool playgroup (3 to 5 years) and the parent-toddler group (newborn to 3 years). Access to these groups is invaluable for both, researchers and students of developmental psychology. The playgroup offers excellent research facilities, including several video-monitored testing rooms and a one-way mirror observation room. We use a variety of approaches, ranging from observational studies, free-play paradigms, and experimental studies, including eye-tracking, and we are developing a child neuroimaging (EEG) lab. Once a year parents are invited to an informal meeting where they will be given information about the most recent studies and they will be given the opportunity to talk to developmental researchers about the most recent findings.

The Toddler group is for children between 0 - 3 years old each week each Tuesday and Thursday between 1:30 - 3:30pm, for £2 per day in room 3W8.

No formal teaching of the toddlers will be given during these times, however it gives them the opportunity to come into the university to play with other children, under supervision of a parent or carer. This is a fantastic opportunity for your toddler to socialise with other children in a friendly and safe environment, during the important developmental years of their life and give parents the chance to talk with other parents with similarly aged children.

The care group comes with refreshments for both toddlers and parents, whilst we also have changing facilities  during these times a parent or carer is needed per child to oversee care of your toddler.

Please be aware that if parking on site, the University has adopted a 'Pay and Display'. Pay and display rates are as follows;

  • Up to 1 Hour - £1
  • 1 - 3 Hours - £2
  • 3 - 5 Hours - £3
  • 5+ Hours - £5

We would like to request (upon signing up) for permission to  include your toddler in ongoing research projects and to allow our trained developmental psychologists and/or students to contact you directly. However, please be aware that you are under no obligation to do so when joining the toddler group. 

For more details please look at the carer letter > Toddler Care

Below are the annual* inspections for the playgroup;

YearQuality of Care & SupportQuality of EnvironmentQuality of StaffingQuality of Management & LeadershipA Copy of the Report
2014 Excellent Very Good Very Good Very Good Care Report 2014
2012 Excellent Excellent Very Good Very Good Care Report 2012
2010 Very Good Very Good N/A N/A
2009 Very Good Very Good Very Good Good Care Report 2009

Please Note:

1) N/A means that the field was not in the report.

2) All Ratings were completed on a scale ranging from Excellent to Unsatisfactory.

3) All CARE Inspections were completed by the 'Scottish Care Commission'.

Open Day, Monday 24th of April from 10am to 12pm, Cottrell Building

Psychology Staff room 3A94.

Our open day is dedicated to all parents, current and future, as well as students who are interested in child development. Come along to learn about the latest findings of the research activities carried out at the playgroup and visit our facilities to find out how the playgroup can be a place for your child to learn and grow.

10.00 - 10.30am Welcome, Tea and Coffee
10.30 - 11.30am Presentation from our researchers
11.30 - 12.00pm Tour of our facilities and visit to the main playgroup room.

A small crèche as well as a healthy snack will be available to all children who come along. 

If you are able to attend the Open Day, or wish to visit us at another time, contact

For more details please click here for a programme.

For further info contact Federica Caruso Playgroup Manager Playgroup
Room 3W6 Cottrell Building
Psychology, Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
01786 466836
© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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