Building and supporting baby and toddler groups
Baby and toddler groups are an essential part of the community. They offer the opportunity for young children aged up to two-and-a-half years to have fun and mix with other children in a safe environment where a familiar adult can share and extend their early learning experiences.
Baby and toddler groups do not need to register with Ofsted because parents and carers stay with their children and remain responsible for them at all times. Drop-in visits from relevant advisers such as a health visitor, speech and language therapist or dental nurse are often arranged to provide additional support and guidance to young families.
How do I start a baby and toddler group?
To start a group, you will need to find suitable, safe premises with appropriate toilets and kitchen facilities, space for activities and storage space for equipment. You also need to consider legislation such as health and safety, fire regulations, food hygiene and the Equality Act.
Check that no one else is operating a group at the same time in the area. You can often do this via your local authority’s Family Information Service, who may also be able to list your group on the local authority website. Children’s Centres, nurseries, primary schools and libraries in the area may also be willing to help publicise your group, and Health Visitors may help to pass on information too.
How do I run a brilliant baby and toddler group?
Have a simple set of guidelines for everyone to abide by including topics such as hot drinks, no smoking, no shouting and no smacking. You might also want to include information on how incidents such as biting and scratching will be dealt with. Giving this information out to all parents helps everyone to understand what is acceptable behaviour in the group.
Involving parents who use the group from the start will help maintain high standards and retain volunteers. Activities should be designed to support a young child’s developing skills such as communication and motor skills, e.g. sand and water activities, mark-making, board books and action songs.
How can I make my baby and toddler group sustainable?
Setting a budget at the start will help to ensure sustainability. Making a list of regular outgoings such as rent, insurance payments, consumables and equipment replacement will help you work out how much income you need to generate to keep your group going.
Many baby and toddler groups form a committee as a way of sharing the work of running the group and some are set up as charities. The Alliance has a model constitution specifically designed for baby and toddler member groups with an income of less than £5000 that wish to operate as a charity. This can be found in the members' area below.
Further advice on running your baby and toddler group can be found in the Alliance’s Baby and Toddler brochure or from the Information Service Team on 020 7697 2595.