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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 from August 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 rich, challenging, and meaningful learning experiences. This is achieved by building upon children's individual interests and needs, as well as strong relationships with parents and the University's community.

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, emotional wellbeing, 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.

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
2016 Very Good N/A N/A Good Care Inspectorate 2016
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.

The Playgroup is a very good experience as it’s very safe and familiar, and of course friendly! The teachers are amazing with the children, they organise lots of different activities every day so that it’s impossible for the kids to get bored. My daughter loves all the outdoors activities and the work on the seasons is very interesting and stimulating. We are Italian and we are very glad that our daughter is learning English at the playgroup. It’s impressive to see how she is improving day after day thanks to the playgroup experience. The teachers try to give a feedback every time I collect my daughter and this is very important as parents can be aware of what the children have been up to during the morning.’


‘The care and support which my son is provided with when attending the playgroup is outstanding. All staff are very approachable and ensure that kids’ safety is a priority. Sarah and Federica have done a fantastic job at helping my son settle in when he first started back in September 2016. Now he looks forward to his nursery sessions every week and looks forward to telling the teachers what he has been up to. The variety of activity is fantastic. The kids have fun but learn at the same time. My son’s confidence has grown since starting and he is constantly developing new skills and knowledge.


‘I am happy because my daughter is happy. She said that she likes being there “more than the other nursery”. I like the idea of having different environments for the children and a clear structure of activities each day. In my opinion, I think it is good to be involved with students and the research. I also like the detailed feedback on the development of the children. I recommend the playgroup to other parents because the children are secure and are learning social behaviour with the other children. I especially like the inclusion of literacy, numeracy, gardening and classical music in the curriculum.


We have received extremely kind and professional support with settling my son at playgroup. Particularly as this has been a tricky transition. I have had great communication from staff members. This is a very special provision that allows children to access group play/childcare in a small, nurturing environment. The fact that it’s based within the psychology department allows my child new experiences and can play a part in understanding child development. I would recommend the playgroup to other parents because of the unique, friendly, small and homely setting, as well as the professional and welcoming nature of the staff, in addition to the forward-thinking and alternative opportunities for children.’


‘Both my children have enjoyed their time at playgroup and have benefited from the safe, stimulating, fun and playful learning environment, that is nurtured in that wee room tucked away in a nondescript corridor lost amongst the university offices and lecture halls! Due to the small numbers and welcoming staff, it is a great place for young children to grow their independence and learn. Games are played with students and walks are taken in the grounds, all adding to the unique experience offered.’

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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