Thinking of starting a childcare business
Starting a Parent and Toddler group
A toddler group is an informal meeting place for parents, carers and children to come together. Toddler groups are a great way for pre-school children to socialise, meet new children, learn to interact with others and most importantly have fun.
For parents and carers they are a chance to meet with and enjoy other adult company. Parents and carers are responsible for the children and so must remain with them at all times.
It is often hard to find a local group for many reasons. There may not be one in your area, or they may not have the space to take any more children. If this is the case you may consider starting your own group.
There is no need to register a toddler group with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) due to the fact that parents/carers do not leave their children unattended. However, it may be a good idea to check what other groups may be in the area or for others that are just coming in existence. You could also check local interest by putting notices up that detail your intentions, or check with health visitors or other local professionals.
Toddler groups are usually run in one of the two ways:
- Committee Run Groups - Usually these groups are run for parents by parents. The members will form a committee that meets on a regular basis. Committees will often have a number of elected people on them such as a chairperson, secretary, treasurer etc. It is a good way to share the workload and can make the decision making process easier.
- Church Groups - These are usually organised and run by members of the Church. As a committee does not run these groups they welcome all the help and support that they can get from parents and carers.
Once you have decided on the running/committee for the group then one of the first things you need to do is find suitable premises for the group to meet. Popular locations for meetings include church/village/community halls, clinics, or scout huts.
Some of things to consider when looking for suitable premises are:
- Is there space to store equipment safely between meetings?
- Are there fire extinguishers?
- Suitable fire exits?
- Is there a safe place to leave prams/pushchairs?
- Is the entrance/exit door childproof?
- Is there any heating? If so, is it safe? Could children be burnt?
- Can any stacked furniture be made safe?
- What kitchen facilities are there?
- Are the toilet facilities suitable?
- Is the floor easy to clean? Is it flat and suitable for toys/playing?
- Insurance - are you covered by the premises or will you need your own?
As a group you will need to ensure that you have enough money to cover expenses and occasional outings. Costs will include things such as:
- Rent costs
- How much is the rent?
- Do you need to pay for the school holidays even if the group doesn't run?
- Does the rent include lighting and heating costs or are these additional?
- Insurance costs and any subscription/membership charges.
- Refreshment costs - tea/coffee/healthy snacks
- Cost of equipment and materials such as paper, glue, sand, toys.
The group must be covered by an insurance policy in case someone is hurt or has an accident. It is important that you keep an inventory of what you have and what it would cost to replace. Arrange who will be responsible for administration and organisation of the insurance policy. You will need to ensure that your inventory of equipment is updated on a regular basis.
You will need to organise and appoint individuals to be responsible for:
- Booking the premises
- Collecting the key
- Unlocking and locking up again
- Returning the key.
- Collecting fees at each session
- Keeping all finance records up to date
- Paying the rent? Insurance? Other costs? Hold petty cash?
Money will need to be kept secure between sessions - think about who will be responsible for any bank accounts and banking.
You will need to decide when you are going to hold each session - term time only or all year. Most groups take children from birth to three, but if you are running during the school holidays you must decide if you are prepared to take school age children at these sessions.
You will also need to decide for how long each session will run - most run for 1½ to 2 hours.
It is a good idea for new members of the group to complete a simple registration form. This needs to include details such as:
- Parents/carers name
- Childs name
- Child's date of birth
- Contact telephone number
- Medical conditions (including allergies)
- Specific needs
- Signature of parent/carer
- Date of joining
This form must also include a Data Protection declaration, stating how the information supplied will be stored and used and who will have access to it. The person completing the form must give written consent for the information to be used in the ways stated. The information must not be used for any other purpose other than that which is stated.
You need to ensure that you keep a register or record of every person in attendance on a sessional basis. This means that in the event of an evacuation or emergency you know who is on the premises. It will also give you an idea of group numbers each week.
If someone has an accident while in attendance of the session you will need to record the details in an accident book. There needs to be a record of time and type of injury, name of person, first aid given and if a trip to the doctor or hospital was needed. It needs to be signed by the individual themselves or the parent / carer to show that they are happy with what is recorded.
Child Protection Policy
Everyone who is involved in any activity involving children must have a current child protection policy in place. The policy needs to be reviewed on an annual basis. The policy needs to be in place for the safety and protection of both volunteers and the children. A copy of the policy should be made available or displayed clearly whilst the group is in session and all members should be made aware of it. Policies need to include issues such as guidelines for the selection process of volunteers, practical procedures for keeping children safe, and definitions of the type of abuse and information about the signs or symptoms of abuse.
It is a good idea to have a meeting with your local Fire Safety Officer. In some cases this is the manager of the building which you may be renting. They will be able to tell you about up-to-date regulations, check the fire extinguishers, fire alarms, fire exits and even advise you on a fire drill procedure. It is important that all group members are aware of this procedures and who is responsible in the event of an emergency.
Venue Safety and Security
Before each session you must check the room to make sure that it is clear of all harmful objects and that all sockets have safety covers, fires or heaters are behind guards and if needed, safety gates are in place.
Prams and pushchairs will need to be secured in a safe place away from fire exits or access points. All toys and equipment need to be stored safely and away from children where appropriate.
It is advisable to have a qualified first aider in attendance at each session, along with a fully stocked first aid box.
Toys and Equipment
All should be in good clean condition, checked, and maintained on a regular basis. Toys provided should be appropriate to the different age groups. A good selection to cover all stages of development is advisable. All toys and equipment must bear the relevant safety and quality symbols.
At the start of each session, or as people arrive; you will need to keep a register of
who is in attendance. This is important for fire or other emergencies.
When planning a session you need to consider the following:
You may need to experiment with the layout of the room to find something that suits the majority of people. Clusters of adults can be useful for blocking off spaces, but remember to ensure adults are close to the activities so that children feel safeenough to play. It is also vital that babies are protected from toddlers who are finding their feet or using toys such as ride on bikes.
You will need to have available a range of toys and activities. It may be a good idea to have things like unstructured play, a craft or messy activity, book corner, sit and ride toys, puzzles, large play equipment and a safe area for babies with rattles, soft toys and mobiles. Remember to vary the activities weekly and ensure that the room is safe and that everyone can move around easily and safely. It may also be nice to have group story or singing towards the end of the sessions.
Most groups offer some kind of refreshments in the form of tea and coffee for
parents/carers (ensure all hot drinks are made and drunk away from young children) and water or milk for the children. Often a healthy snack is also offered.
The key to creating a successful group is to be inclusive and make everyone feel welcome - mums, dads, grandparents, carers and children. Many people who feel isolated in their communities will welcome the support and friendship that your group can offer.
The most important thing that you and your group need to remember is to have fun
Further support and guidance on setting up a parent and toddler group is available from:
The majority of groups become members of Wales Preschool Providers Association (Wales PPA) or Mudiad Meithrin (MM) who offer general help, support and guidance in setting up and running a parent and toddler group / Ti a Fi.