Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups

A Parent, Baby and Toddler Group is a local support group where parents and carers can meet to compare notes. In a Parent, Baby and Toddler Group, each parent or carer should be responsible for their own children at all times.

Advantages for Children

Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups provide a stepping stone for children preparing to go to playgroup.

These groups provide children with an environment in which they are able to play independently with other children, while still having the security of their parents close by. This can be a great help in building a child’s confidence.

Advantages for Parents

Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups provide parents with an opportunity to play with their child, giving them their undivided attention, away from the distractions of home.

It is also a way of meeting other parents in similar circumstances and it can be reassuring to realise that there are other people going through the same experiences.

For some parents, attending a Parent, Baby and Toddler Group can be their only social contact during the day. Therefore, these groups can provide a great support network.

They can also provide the basis for lifelong friendships, which is especially helpful to parents who do not have family support close by.

Starting a Parent, Baby & Toddler Group

1. Decide on how the group is to be organised

This can be as simple as deciding whether one person or a committee takes on the task of organising the group. The major advantage of a committee is that by sharing the work no one person is left to do it all and it can also provide continuity if a key member leaves. Holding an AGM every January may be a useful way of ensuring the continuity of the group.


2. Location

This can be anywhere you are able to find a suitable space with regular availability, for example, a community centre, room in a health centre, sports hall, band hall or purpose built structure. You will need adequate space and facilities for the storage of toys and materials.


3. Organise Insurance

You will need insurance cover to run a Parent, Baby & Toddler group. Please give us a call if you have any queries: (01) 405 7100.


4. Notify the Child and Family Agency (TUSLA)

You are not obliged to notify TUSLA of the existence of your group, but it may be advisable and in your interest to do so. Notifying TUSLA could also provide a useful contact point for new parents in the area.


5. Toys and Equipment

The general equipment required could include the following:

> suitable chairs and tables for adults and children
> tea and coffee making equipment
> cups and beakers
> changing facilities, in a separate area from the children
> a security gate/barrier to prevent children from leaving the setting
> a tape recorder could be useful

The toys and equipment specific to the various age groups could include:

For Babies: A safe area or baby haven, with soft flooring, soft toys, rattles, coloured bricks and activity centres

For Crawlers: If the space permits, a larger area could be cordoned off with, for instance, roll-along toys, cars, dolls, cloth books, shape sorters, stacking toys and rocking toys.

For Toddlers and Older Children: Appropriate toys could include dolls, teddies, prams and push-chairs, sit-and-ride toys, a garage with cars, simple jigsaws, building blocks, dress-up clothes such as hats and bags, a toy kitchen, colourful books, playdough, paint, collage and drawing equipment.

Sand and water play also provide good developmental opportunities, but require closer supervision.


6. Introductory information for new parents and carers

Basic introductory information could be provided to newcomers by means of a welcoming letter, including the following pieces of information:

> parents and carers must look after their own children, this is not a day care service
> cost per family (this would usually be about €3.00 per session)
> children must be accompanied to the toilet by the parent or the adult nominated by the parent
> children are not allowed in the tea and coffee area
> parents and carers are asked to play an active role in the group
> a lists of days, times, duration and venues for the meetings of the Parents and Toddler Group
> the telephone number of the secretary or designated contact person
> safety is the responsibility of all the adults attending the session


7. Day-to-day running

Tasks for the day-to-day running of the group could be put on job cards, which would then be distributed to each adult upon their arrival. The cards could include some of the following tasks:

> book and set up premises, unlock doors and lock up again at the end of session
> welcome people and distribute information
> initiate new parents and carers into the group and introduce them to others
> register new members and record the attendance of all children and adults
> collect money and record it in an Accounts Book
> organise drinks and snacks, with tea and coffee in a separate safe area
> supervise each play area
> read at story-time, lead sing-song
> clean and maintain toys and equipment
> clean and tidy up
> advertise the service
> while health and safety is everyone’s responsibility, it can be a good idea to have one person with a special interest in it to help raise safety consciousness. That person could also buy and maintain the First Aid Box, arrange fire drills or point out behaviours which might cause or contribute to unsafe situations


8. Health and Safety

Your Parent, Baby and Toddler Group should identify all health and safety hazards; eliminate them where possible and reduce them if they cannot be eliminated.

You need to put in place a simple Health and Safety Plan and make sure that everyone is aware of it. Often the best way of doing this is to:

> walk around the area used by the group
> write down the hazards
> determine how you will eliminate or reduce the hazards
> identify and record who will do this
> decide by when this will be done

You need to check that these steps have been taken and to regularly monitor health and safety. An Accident/Incident Book to record all accidents and near misses is essential.

Remember – safety in the group is the responsibility of all the members.


9. Courses, Outings and Parties

> Parents’ courses are available from many sources including: Early Childhood Ireland, the Community Care section of the local Health Service Executive, Primary Schools, Partnerships and Community Groups, Family Resource Centres and County Childcare Committees.
> VEC’s offer courses for many interests and will often provide special courses for parents and carers if asked to do so.
> Talks from experts could be arranged on matters like Nutrition, Child Development, Speech Therapy and the Value of Play.
> The group can provide a focal point for areas of interest to parents and carers, such as hobbies, computer courses and complementary medicine. The group should avail of the expertise of members of the group.
> Days out for parents and children to a local amenity can be enjoyable, healthy and popular activities.
> Evenings out for parents and carers can provide opportunities to get a well-deserved rest from the children and to develop friendships in a relaxed atmosphere.
> Parties for holidays like Christmas or Easter can be great fun. However, extra numbers need to be insured and properly supervised.
> Members of the group might form baby-sitting contacts.


10. Holidays

Parent, Baby and Toddler Groups normally operate in conjunction with Primary Schools’ terms and holidays.

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