Fifty Key Messages – build your social network

Starting a Parent, Baby and Toddler group


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.



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.


Organise Insurance

If your group has more than 35 children on any given morning and your venue has a floor space of approximately 150 square metres, Early Childhood Ireland can offer the appropriate insurance cover, at a very reasonable rate.

Extra places, up to a ceiling of 40 children, may be insured through Early Childhood Ireland Group Insurance Scheme, provided that the floor space available is increased proportionally.

You need Public Liability Insurance of at least €2,600,000. Check with your Insurer to confirm that all the group’s activities are covered, including once-off events.


Notify the health service executive

You are not obliged to notify the local Health Service Executive of the existence of your group, but it may be advisable and in your interest to do so.

Notifying the local Health Service Executive could also provide a useful contact point for new parents in the area.


Looking for funding

There are several different bodies and organisations you could contact about the possibility of securing funding, for instance:

  • Your regional office of the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
  • The National Lottery often provides once-off grants to organisations which offer a range of health related services.
  • If there is one, your Partnership or Community Development Group.
  • The Community Care department of your local Health Service Executive may be able to help with a Start-up Grant.
  • Local shops might also help with donations.
  • A number of County Childcare Committees may also provide small grants.
  • You could also raise funds directly, for insurance, by organising a Table Quiz, Raffle, Flag-Day, church gate collection, Coffee Morning, Race Night or a Sponsored Walk for Toddlers. (Please be aware that some of these activities require the permission of the Garda Siochana).


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 even closer supervision.


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 €2.00 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


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


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.

If you have an employee, a Health and Safety Statement has to be completed under Health and Safety Legislation and you must have Employers Liability Insurance. You should also be aware that you must fulfill all your legal responsibilities as an employer.

Children being transported in cars do so at the invitation of the owner and the insurance situation needs to be clarified with the car insurers. If transporting children in cars or minibuses, it is strongly recommended that the children should always be secured by safety belts and appropriate child seating.

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


Fire Safety

Ask your local Fire Officer to check the building you intend to use and to advise you about fire drills and other fire safety issues.

You will need to obtain a copy of “Fire Safety in Pre-Schools”, which you can download from the Environment, Community and Local Government website or you can contact the government publications office directly at the following address:

Government Publications Office,
51 St Stephens Green,
Dublin 2
Tel: 01-6476000


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.



You will probably need regularly to advertise your Parent, Baby and Toddler Group in places such as local Health Centres, Doctors’ Surgeries, Shops, Shopping Centres, Libraries, Post Offices, Churches, Pre-schools, Primary Schools and local newspapers.

It would also be a good idea to ask your local Public Health Nurse to promote the group.



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

Source: Early Childhood Ireland

For more Key Messages see

You may also like

Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

Leave a comment