Do you want to start a toddler group in a care home?

At The Together Project. we receive lots of lovely messages from people across the country who are interested in taking their little one into a care home. And with the new series of Channel 4’s Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds on our screens, interest is at an all-time high!

Our Songs & Smiles sessions currently run in London and Surrey, with launches across the country happening soon.  

There are some other wonderful initiatives in other areas, like Friend In Deed and Acorns & Oaks, but if you can’t find a local group, you might decide to start one up.

The first big decisions to make are: who will come, what will we do and where will it take place? Will it be an informal get-together over tea and biscuits, a playgroup, a structured activity or something else?

It’s a good idea to have put some thought into the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ before approaching a potential care home. Your idea is much more likely to get the go-ahead if you can show you’ve thought about the practicalities and have done some initial planning.

Here are some useful thinking points to help you plan.

  • What age group of children will your group work with and what activities will be most suited to them?


  • What type of care home is it and what activities will work for the people living there? For example, those in a nursing home may face greater physical or mental challenges than people in a different type of residential home. You will need to think about how to tailor your activities to meet both the children and the residents’ needs, abilities and interests. It might be a good idea to spend some time with the residents first to get to know them and understand what would work best.

  • At what time and how frequently will your group run? Are you planning a short-term project – for example, while you’re on parental leave – or will it carry on long-term?

  • How will you recruit parents/guardians and children to join your group? Both for the initial sessions and, if you’re continuing long-term, over the coming months? 

  • How can you ensure everyone is kept safe during your activity? A risk assessment is a useful tool for identifying any potential areas for harm and how they can be best mitigated.

  • How will you make your event a warm and welcoming destination? Care homes can be an unfamiliar environment for many people, who might be a bit unsure of what to expect. You might want to have an ‘ice breaker’ activity to warm everyone up. Attending a Dementia Friends Information Session will help you to understand the challenges that some of the residents might be facing – you could even suggest that the parents/guardians coming to your activity might want to become Dementia Friends too.

  • Will you need equipment and if so, how will this be paid for and where will it be stored? Local councils often have pots of money set aside to support grassroots community projects such as this.

  • Have you thought about the amount of time you’re willing to commit and whether this is enough to cover off any administration needed outside of the actual group itself (e.g. messaging parents, planning activities and so forth). Is there anybody who could help you out – to share the load, cover for when you’re on holiday or sick and so forth?

  • What do you want your activity to achieve and how will you know if it’s succeeding? Asking care home staff, parents/guardians and residents (with permission of the home) for feedback is a really good starting point.

Creating a successful group from scratch can be time-consuming, with lots of things to think about – but also hugely rewarding and with the potential to change lives for the better.

Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds is on Monday nights, starting 8th October, 9pm on Channel 4.

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Would you like to help us launch Songs & Smiles in more care homes across the country? Donate below to make us grow!


Watch the short film of our launch at Lake View Care Home in Surrey

Louise Goulden