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Stay and play toddler group


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Hi

We are starting a toddler group at our pre-school setting on 25th July. It is for parents (or any other adults) and their children to come and play for 2hrs.

It was a suggestion from our current parents to try and raise our pre-school numbers! Hopefully the children will move on from the toddler group to pre-school as they get older.

Does anyone else do this?

Has it increased your numbers at pre-school?

What sort of activities do you provide?

Has anyone got any photos of their room layout?

Do the staff play with the children/talk to adults? I am assuming a mix of both.

I have never been to a stay and play group so not sure what they involve!

Sorry for all the questions and thank you in advance for your help :1b

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I used to have one (quite some time ago) but no longer do. The main reason being was that most parents wanted the toddler group in the morning whereas we could only offer the afternoon as we were running our preschool sessions in the hall (we are a church hall setting).

We got some carry on business out of it but we found that there is no "loyalty" as such as quite a few parents access all the parent and toddler groups in a given area during the week.

The group was run as on a "loss leader" basis e.g., the costs being met by future preschool bookings. So many parent and toddler groups are voluntary if you have staff to pay you and you pass this cost on you just won't get the business.

You need to have a whole range of resources from birth to 5 years old and refreshments for children and their parents.

We used to offer an "art & craft / messy play" type experience each week.

This all sounds a bit of a downer - sorry - but whilst the toddler group was lovely from a business perspective it was a non-starter - we dropped ours when we were able to offer a 5 hour pre-school session everyday.

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I have run one but a long time ago now so no pics.. we provided all the usual items like paint sand water etc.. a craft thing, and some construction etc.. so similar to the preschool but with less small bits.. We had to cater for all ages from babies to 5 yrs.. many of our mums had 2 children with them.

Staff interact with both parents and children...and I suggest from the start you make it clear it is a play session for both parent and child , not a social one for parent to leave child to play and ignore them! The idea in ours was to have parents play alongside or with the child all the time they were there.. or if not actually playing giving close supervision , not sitting chatting with other mums while child plays.. They can have plenty of adult interaction at the same time as playing with child..

ours did help with numbers, the biggest thing was the help with transition to preschool.. they were in the same room so already knew layout, staff and environment.. made mum leaving them a lot easier when they joined us..

we did not cover costs which was a downside.. parents were never happy paying very much if anything when they stayed, and we still had to cover hall hire , materials, staff... we had parents volunteer to help set up and help etc.. to keep cost to a minimum.

We did stop it when we offered full days...

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We also tried and failed! Only a couple of parents and toddlers came, and they just sat on the floor together with their children who were too wary to venture forth. We tried to chat and entice, but they were having none of it. They came for about six weeks then stopped. It was hard work and we didn't get anywhere. When the two boys did start preschool they were dreadful to try to settle and it took the best part of two terms to get through a session without one or other of them having a meltdown!

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ah very timely question for me! we are just about to launch our new smalls and toddlers group in october (all being well!) there are several practical things i have to sort out first though!

The ideas for us is to use a space we have in the building for the group ,,,it will be a booked only service (due to space)

I used to run a plus two's group when pre-school was very sessional at one point i had 80 children registered !!!! (in different sessions of course!) we ran it like a watered down version of pre-school with similar sorts of activities including songs and story at the end and a snack time for the whole group. We tried really hard to build relationships both with the children and the adults. I have never run it to increase numbers but more to aid transition (though no obligation to register for preschool) ...this worked less well when we had to move it off site and it closed after a few months. We wrote an agreement for parents to cover behaviour etc which helped sort out some of the issues.

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Our bumps, babies and toddler group has been running for many years but when I took over preschool , it's numbers were dwindling as the parent volunteer lacked enthusiasm and social skills. Another parent took over and really made a difference, numbers increased and the atmosphere was welcoming, she set up a face book page and when she had to move suddenly ensured there were mums on board to carry it on. We have had a lot of children come up through preschool , I am often still around to introduce myself and get to know mums personally. The children come up are better settled as used to the environment and I encourage parents who visit or enquire about preschool to bring their children along to toddler group.

We do find that often when they start preschool they don't visit toddlers but that is only the ones without younger siblings.

We give support when necessary and our good links with the children centre means they visit often and even lead a group activity .

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We took over our village tots group at Easter as the parent who was running it decided to give it up, also our numbers for Sept were low and we thought it might help. The group was run in the same building as the Pre School - they have our big room and we have the smaller one on a Fri due to numbers. It has definitely worked - we are now full for Sept! It has taken hard work and a lot of social skills interacting with parents and making them aware of who we are. Although the tots group have their own shed and toys it is great to be able to share recourses. The tots group is now a bit more structured in the layout of the room; a designated baby area with lots of gym mats and nests. I do a craft activity and playdough table each week as well as lots of other toys. The children have a bowl of chopped up fruit and a biscuit plus a drink and I make a cake which we sell to raise money. I have brought in a facebook page too to keep parents informed. It has definitely worked for us.

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We offered one, which I can tell about later. Just a quick comment - a parent told me that she thought it may have been more difficult to settle her child after attending the group as the child seemed to associate being at our setting with being there with her mother.

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We offered one, which I can tell about later. Just a quick comment - a parent told me that she thought it may have been more difficult to settle her child after attending the group as the child seemed to associate being at our setting with being there with her mother.

We run one and couldn't do without it, as it is our main feeder - we are closed one morning a week to provide for it and although we have pressure from Early Years to open pre-school 5 mornings we know if we closed our Toddler group, pre-school would be closed.

I would echo what has been said above, we find it a 50/50 scenario some children it helps having been to Toddlers, others struggle as they were used to having a carer with them. We do suggest to parents that it's perhaps best to not attend Toddlers for awhile once their child has started at pre-school as that really does confuse them!

I always think that Toddlers is more for the parent/carers to get out and start to socialise with their little ones rather than it all being about the children. I agree with others, it doesn't always break even.

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Thanks all.

We are prepared to run the toddlers at a loss with the hope of it increasing preschool numbers, so I'm glad it has worked like that for some of you :)

Nothing to add except good luck hope it works out for you! :1b

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Hi,

We have a successful toddler group that operates one morning a week when playgroup isn't open. It is operated by one member of our playgroup staff who sets up, welcomes parents and makes drinks and snacks then mingles. Parents are solely responsible for their children whilst they are there. I think we charge £2.50 with additional siblings 50p. They get fruit and a biscuit and parents get a hot drink.

We use it as a primary feeder into playgroup and have found it to be very successful as we are in a small rural community with few and far between groups.

Numbers do fluctuate, so we make sure we use social media, netmums, local mums magazines and playgroup newsletters to promote it to new families in the area.

Parents like the continuity as the toddler staff member is at playgroup for some sessions, it is held in the same room with similar toys, so when the children start playgroup it isn't always so daunting for them.

Hope it works for you!

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Thank you all for your advice!

We had our first stay and play this morning and it was brilliant! We had 29 children in of all ages from 3weeks to 4yrs!
We had one or two parents complaining about children not sharing but other than that lots of lovely feedback and we had 2 parents interested in a funded 3yr old place for their children!

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