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Setting up a children's activity or parent and toddler group

Parent and toddler groups are normally for parents/carers with under-threes, but children under five can usually attend too. It provides an opportunity for parents/carers and their young children to spend time together in the company of others.

Each session usually last for approximately two hours, promoting children’s early learning through a variety of fun play opportunities such as story telling, sing-a-long, or craft session. Most groups have a baby corner for new mums to make friends. 

Parent and toddler groups are often run on a voluntary basis and do not have to be registered by Ofsted.

Read more about groups that are not required to be registered by Ofsted (opens a new window)


The majority of groups are set up and run as informal session, with parents and carers joining in, supervising their children for the during the session. Some groups provide simple sessions to include singing, signing or rhyming, reading, messy play, or soft play. There is usually a small charge to attend and many offer refreshments as part of this or for a small extra cost.

Things to consider

Consider the following factors when doing your initial planning:

  • How will you run your group, on your own or will you consider teaming up with another parent?
  • What do your sessions offer, are there any basic start-up costs involved such as the cost of toys, props, or activity items?
  • How will you advertise and do you have a budget for this?
  • Will you need to hire a venue, is the space large enough, what are the costs involved and what is included for the fee?
  • Do you need insurance, this can be particularly important consideration
  • How often will your group run, only term-time or during the holidays?
  • Are there any other groups nearby and what days do they run?
  • How long will your sessions be?
  • How much will you charge to ensure you cover all of your costs and if needed, make a profit?
Health and Safety

Parent and toddler groups are not governed by health and safety rules in the same way as registered childcare providers. However, any activities involving young children, needs careful consideration to the safety and well-being of those who attend your sessions. Make sure that the venue is safe and secure and that there are not obvious dangers.

If you plan to use equipment or toys during your sessions, you will need to ensure that they are all up to safety standards and also ensure that they are cleaned and well maintained to ensure that they are safe for all to use as time goes on. Always check your equipment and environment before the start of each session. It is advisable to have a first aid kit on hand and basic first aid training is also essential.

Some tips for when you are up and running
  • Create a friendly environment, welcome your new families and learn their names as soon as possible. Having a relaxed and inviting atmosphere will help to encourage people to return.
  • Keep a register and offer all new attendees a welcome pack containing the terms and conditions of your group.
  • Consider a no mobile phone policy during the session !
  • Make sure that any hot refreshments are served safely and out of the way of harm. 
  • Think about food allergies and have guidelines about bringing in food. 
  • Encourage parents and carers to play and engage with their children through group activities.
  • Keep in touch and manage your register, keeping contact details up to date so that you can keep in touch with those who attend and let everyone know if you make changes or need to cancel a session.
  • Try to have some structure to your sessions allowing some flexibility as babies and toddlers tend to tire quickly. It can be helpful to let parents know that they are free to dip in and out of the session to meet their child’s needs as required.
  • If toys play a major role in your session, you may want to make an appeal to local parents, nurseries etc for unwanted toys so that you can rotate and keep the sessions fresh and engaging.
  • Don’t forget to set out clear guidelines for the terms and conditions, illness policies (for example chicken pox etc) as these are easily spread and may mean your wider group is at risk.
Other information on running children's activities

The Out of School Alliance website has some useful guidance for anyone considering starting up a children's activity club (opens a new window)