Starting up a parent and toddler group
What is a Parent and Toddler Group?
It is a group of like minded parents/carers who meet for an hour or two, usually weekly. It allows the adults to meet up and make friends with other parents. The focus is on the children who benefit from learning social skills, and interacting with other children. If toddler groups are lacking in your area, it is relatively simple to set one up and the results are so rewarding. Just follow these simple steps and your toddler group could become a reality in a few short weeks.
The first step is to ensure that there is a demand for a toddler group in your area, do your research and ask around. Ask your friends if they would be willing to give up a few hours a week to come along and support the group. Once you have established the need for a parent and toddler group, the next step is to find suitable premises. Depending on how big you want the group to be, is all relevant to the premises required. Some groups that I know actually hold the sessions in their own homes. Another question to ask yourself is - Do you want the group to be a profit-making organisation or not? Do you purely want to run the group just to cover the cost of the rent and refreshments, or do you wish to make a profit to invest in new toys, games etc?
Be sure that when you have found a suitable location for your group, that everyone is aware of the fire exits and carry out regular fire drills.
Finding suitable premises
You will probably find that there are suitable premises in your town available for your group for a minimal rent. Try asking at your local church, community hall, sports centre or local scout hall. Most will be glad to rent out a room for a few hours per week. Check that the premises have the amenities that you require, i.e. Are tables/chairs available for use? Can you use the kitchen for preparing light refreshments? Is there a cupboard or room that you can store the toys and equipment in?
Advertising your group
In order to recruit new members, you should talk to all of your friends with small children and invite them along to your sessions. Put up a poster in your local churches, supermarkets, library, health centre, sports/leisure centre,primary schools and community hall. Print off some flyers and do a leaflet drop, this may attract some local interest. Another option is to place a small ad in your local or free newspaper - these tend to be relatively inexpensive. You could ask the newspaper to run an article on your group detailing the information and contact numbers to phone if interested in joining your sessions.
Set up a committee
Once you have a few members, it would be wise to set up a committee to plan for the group in matters such as keeping records, funds, and organising meetings to discuss future proposals such as events and fundraising for the future. Two members of the committee can open up a bank account in the name of the toddler group, where profit from the funds can be paid into to earn interest while deciding on how to spend monies raised.
Since the parents themselves will be in attendance with their own children, there is no legal requirement to be registered with Ofsted. Also, there is no need for CRB checks to be carried out either. If you are in any doubt or need clarification on any matter, it is advisable that you take advice from PLA (Pre-school Learning Alliance). If storing your toys and games in the premises, relevant insurance may need to be taken out, but check first with the owner as this may be covered under their insurance.
Toys and equipment
When your group is first starting out, you may have to rely on donations from other members. Check to see if there is a local toy library near you which you could borrow toys from on a monthly basis. Check with Freecycle as sometimes toys, games and books are available free if you can pick these up. Funding may be available via a local authority grant, contact your local office to find out as each local authority differs.
Session Times and Costs
Most toddler groups are run during the school term, and times coincide with school times as most parents will have other children at nursery or primary school. Times vary, although the sessions normally last from 1 to 2 hours per week. Costs are very much dependent on whether you wish to be a profit-making group, so take all your costs into account before deciding on the fees to charge. Around £1.50 to £3.00 is common to charge for each play session.
When someone new joins your group, be sure to ask them to complete a form detailing their name, address, childs details, contact numbers and any disability or allergy. This is required in the event that the group has to be cancelled unavoidably at short notice, and the type of food each child is allowed taking into account religious/moral beliefs and allergies or intolerances. Keep an attendance book detailing the children who attended, the amount taken and paid out in rent etc. You do not have to be an expert accountant, but do keep a record of the monies received, paid out and amount left over.
What activities are offered in parent/toddler groups?
Just remember that each session offered, should be stimulating and fun for each child. Some ideas for activities are:
- Singing songs and nursery rhymes
- Music and movement
- Craft activities such as drawing, painting, playdoh, chalks,
- Story telling
- Free play with age appropriate toys
- Musical instruments
- Playing games
- Sand/water play
- Baking or decorating biscuits
- Nature walks
During some point in the year, you may feel that extra funds are required e.g. Christmas presents, parties, halloween, summer trips etc., or you may just want to buy some more toys and equipment. The best way to do this is through fundraising, and these are some suggestions to raise some extra cash:
- A professional photographer can be arranged to take some photos of the children individually and the group could decide to sell for a pound or so more to raise funds.
- Bring and buy sale, where all the monies raised goes into group funds.
- Sponsored events
- Table top sale
- Local businesses may be prepared to donate cash
- Book People - this is a company which offer books at discounted prices. The more books sold, the more value in books the fundraisers receive. A great way to obtain new books, and I have found this especially profitable in the months leading up to Christmas.
Go for it
Starting up a parent and toddler group is advantageous to both the parent and child. New friendships will be made and it is a great outlet for meeting people of similar backgrounds who want social development for their child/children in a fun and stimulating environment, while the adults can meet up and relax watching their children play.