How many families are enough?

How many families are enough?


How many families are enough?

Ever heard about the Pareto principle?

“The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 Rule, the Law of the Vital Few, and the Principle of Factor Sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”

Or, in Playcentre terms, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the members' efforts. This is a well-accepted principle applied in many aspects of society. So, rather than trying to fight it, let’s work with it. It does not mean 80% of members will not be doing anything; it simply means that 20% of your members will be the movers and shakers. The other 80% will be willing to help, but not take charge.

Applying this principle, you can see that the fewer families you have the more of a challenge you have. Five is often cited as the ideal team size. So to get a core group of five, ideally you need 25 families according to this argument. However, we all know that many centres make it work with fewer than 25 families. Playcentre people are amazingly resourceful.

As much as you can have too few families, you can also have too many.

And then there is Dunbar’s number

Dunbar’s number is 150. It "is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person."

In Playcentre terms, where we are centred on families and relationships, the Dunbar number of 150 corresponds to about 37 families.

Again, I know many centres are thriving with more. We are a creative bunch.

So how do you make Playcentre work financially with 25-37 families? By encouraging families to attend more often, make Playcentre their primary ECE service and stay on until their tamariki go to school.

Ideally we want tamariki to attend Playcentre one day for every year of their age. That is, two times for a two-year-old, three for a child who’s three. That’s great for relationships, continuity of their learning and their sense of well-being and belonging.

To run five sessions a week, 20 children per session, all you need is 25 families who choose Playcentre as their primary ECE service. It will look like this:

Under twos






9 X 1 session each

11 X 2 sessions each

11 X 3 sessions each

9 X 4 sessions


5 sessions with 20 tamariki per session


Download this file to see what the potential roll is for your centre based on the number of children starting school every year. Nationwide about 6.4% of children participate in Playcentre. Rural areas often have much higher participation. Wouldn’t it be great to increase the participation of tamariki nationwide!

Give people a reason to choose your Playcentre. Provide great quality sessions where tamariki and adults are excited about the play and learning, provide a strong supportive community with nurturing relationships, and be well connected with your community. We've been doing it for 75 years. Let's keep doing what we're good at and celebrate the good work.


If you need help to grow your roll, talk to your centre support person who can help you to develop a growth plan.

If your neighbouring schools are not listed in the above file, find your schools here to see what your potential roll is.


Posted: Friday 29 April 2016