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Old 05.11.2012, 19:47
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Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

Hi EF members,

I am planning on opening a toddler playcentre (1-5 year olds) this year and I would love to collect some of your thoughts and advice on what it should or should not have.

I want to make my playcentre stand out obviously, and whilst all my friends with babies and toddlers (my DDs are 5, 4 and 12 months now) have said "just make sure it's spotless, tri-lingual and have lots for the children to do", I'm sure every mother has had experiences that are worth sharing! So if you have any opinions on things a toddler playcentre MUST have, or MUST avoid, please feel free to share!

The main features would be as follows...

...a small indoor climbing frame with cushioned mats at the bottom for main softplay

...a large outdoor garden, with swings

...general toys for 2-5s

...an imaginative play-area with kitchen (including wooden foods), dolls for dressing up (with clothing, stroller and babyseat).

...a colouring corner

...kids table and chairs that seat max 20 kids

...a small party room

...a 2rd room to host ante-natal/post-natal/baby-related classes run by other people, and weekly craft and story-telling sessions of my own

...and, last but not least, offer beverages for both adults and children

Good stories and bad, I would love to hear all your advice! Thank you in advance!
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Old 05.11.2012, 19:52
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

I think you'll definitely want to keep a good first-aid kit around.

May I ask where the play centre will be located? Also, is this the type of thing where parents can drop their kids off -- or would the parents be expected to stay?

I wish you much success!
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Old 05.11.2012, 20:06
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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Hi EF members,

I am planning on opening a toddler playcentre (1-5 year olds) this year and I would love to collect some of your thoughts and advice on what it should or should not have.

I want to make my playcentre stand out obviously, and whilst all my friends with babies and toddlers (my DDs are 5, 4 and 12 months now) have said "just make sure it's spotless, tri-lingual and have lots for the children to do", I'm sure every mother has had experiences that are worth sharing! So if you have any opinions on things a toddler playcentre MUST have, or MUST avoid, please feel free to share!

The main features would be as follows...

...a small indoor climbing frame with cushioned mats at the bottom for main softplay

...a large outdoor garden, with swings

...general toys for 2-5s

...an imaginative play-area with kitchen (including wooden foods), dolls for dressing up (with clothing, stroller and babyseat).

...a colouring corner

...kids table and chairs that seat max 20 kids

...a small party room

...a 2rd room to host ante-natal/post-natal/baby-related classes run by other people, and weekly craft and story-telling sessions of my own

...and, last but not least, offer beverages for both adults and children

Good stories and bad, I would love to hear all your advice! Thank you in advance!
A friendly carer that's important! I can't think of anything else right now, but I wish you lots of luck!
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Old 05.11.2012, 20:11
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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Hi EF members,

I am planning on opening a toddler playcentre (1-5 year olds) this year and I would love to collect some of your thoughts and advice on what it should or should not have.

I want to make my playcentre stand out obviously, and whilst all my friends with babies and toddlers (my DDs are 5, 4 and 12 months now) have said "just make sure it's spotless, tri-lingual and have lots for the children to do", I'm sure every mother has had experiences that are worth sharing! So if you have any opinions on things a toddler playcentre MUST have, or MUST avoid, please feel free to share!

The main features would be as follows...

...a small indoor climbing frame with cushioned mats at the bottom for main softplay

...a large outdoor garden, with swings

...general toys for 2-5s

...an imaginative play-area with kitchen (including wooden foods), dolls for dressing up (with clothing, stroller and babyseat).

...a colouring corner

...kids table and chairs that seat max 20 kids

...a small party room

...a 2rd room to host ante-natal/post-natal/baby-related classes run by other people, and weekly craft and story-telling sessions of my own

...and, last but not least, offer beverages for both adults and children

Good stories and bad, I would love to hear all your advice! Thank you in advance!
What else is to be outside apart from the swings? Swings are great for vestibular development, but I would also look for flexible play equipment that provided for both gross motor skills and imaginitive play eg: tyres, boxes and planks of light wood, children sized cleated boards and ladders, offcuts of hardwearing fabric such as unbleached calico or hessian as draping for dens and castles.
Swings: ones that can be varied ie: using climbers caribiners, it's easy to have ones that clip on and off and can be changed within moments ( more likely daily )
Ride on equipment other than tricycles - ones that can take 2-4 children, and work best once they figure that teamwork is needed .
An easy access sandpit.
Water trough in regular use.

Inside: access to creative resources paint, pencils, felt pens, glue, scissors , a variety of paper and card.

A book area with comfortable cushions.

construction sets, including traditional big wooden blocks.
Puzzles, playdough ( the homemade variety, renewed weekly)
A supply of strongly build percussion instruments.
Natural items eg: wooden rather than plastic items whnever possible. Have baskedst of natural things for children to explore - add magnifying glasses or sheets.
Sand and water trays inside for bad weather.

More than adequate toilet facilities.

Friendly, warm, welcoming adults.
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Old 05.11.2012, 21:28
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

For my two boys (17 months and 3) it would be:
- a wooden train set with plenty of trains (and very important just now carriages for the trains to pull!)
- lots of cars, tractors, emergency vehicles of different sizes.
- cushions to lie on, roll on etc.
- a play kitchen
- a few strollers/ prams and dolls
- a little play house
- soft play areas would be fantastic
- a water table (seems to be a rarity here!)
- an outdoor area with lots of ride on bikes and cars

I would add:
- clean toilet with soap and towels (and although people bring their own it is great to see somewhere that has nappies and wipes which can be used if you have forgotten/ run out)
- somewhere which is not afraid to let children play, experiment and make a mess (not run riot - two different things)

Good luck with your venture.
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For information about children's workshops or tutoring in English click here.
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Old 05.11.2012, 21:48
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

It sound like great idea. There doesnt seem to be so many of these places in Zürich and they are a life line when children are smaller.

I am going to comment on provision of smaller toys and books etc. They will disapear, either by accident or on purpose, so you might want to think carefully about how many of these smaller toys you provide as it may become very expensive to replace them.
Books will be ripped and torn very quickly - but story time might be popular event. Or maybe a rhyme time with musical instruments handed out and collected back in at the end of the session in exchance for a sticker - these were always very popular in my local UK library.

An outdoor space could be a good idea for the warmer days.

Steps for sinks or smaller lower sinks for the children would be welcome.

Clear signage about if strollers are allowed in the building or need to be kept outside. If strollers are not allowed in then provision of high chairs for older babies so Mum have have a hot drink while baby has a snack and drink.

I always loved a play centre that had a pile of magazines to leaf through if my child had a nap.
Good luck
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Old 05.11.2012, 21:56
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

I would consider having an area for older children too. Most people end up having more than one child (OK, not everyone, but a lot of people!) so that means that when the oldest is too old to go then the youngest can't go either - so by not offering older kid entertainment you limit the amount of years people will be able to come to your place. Obviously older kids are at school too, but still, it's nice to take your kids where both older and younger siblings have something to do. You could say that mornings are baby only times, and afternoons offer an activity for older kids too.

You should also think about offering courses or group activities - like music time or baby massage (with a qualified instructor obviously) - these things really pull people in and make them likely to come back at other times too. Similarly special school holiday activities (for kindergarten age kids and older) are hugely popular.

Think about your pricing too - offer things like annual membership cards, 10 times visit cards etc.

Space - there has to be enough space to spread out. And acoustics - nobody wants to be in an echoey place with 50 kids screaming.
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Old 05.11.2012, 22:04
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

If space allows, a separate area (ideally room), called 'quiet room' this could incorporate the colouring corner and book area, where children can take a little time out from the noise of crashing toys in the main play area
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Old 05.11.2012, 22:15
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

Lots and lots of ...

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Old 05.11.2012, 22:53
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

Great idea and I wish you the very best too.

But you must talk to your Commune about the regulations re facilities, qualifications, insurance, etc, etc. A friend of mine tried to do something similar, but sadly gave up as the red tape was ginormous and the legalities very very complicated. Bonne chance.
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Old 06.11.2012, 07:16
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

The reason you don't see such playgroups is that it would be prohibitively expensive to provide what you want to and so either you have to charge too much, equals not many particpants, you go under. Alternatively you under charge and go bankrupt that way.

One big difference in Switzerland as opposed to the UK is people are encouraged to take personal responsability so less Health and Saftely and so there are a lot more open areas to play in, parks, etc. Schools are also usualy very well equiped with gyms and sporting equipment.
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Old 06.11.2012, 07:32
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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One big difference in Switzerland as opposed to the UK is people are encouraged to take personal responsability so less Health and Saftely and so there are a lot more open areas to play in, parks, etc. Schools are also usualy very well equiped with gyms and sporting equipment.
for 2-5 years olds indoors? I think it is a great idea. In the US a friend and I considered doing the same but were never brave enough to try! Another nice idea I have seen are cafes that have a play area in the middle with seating all around the perimeter (separated by a half wall or similar). Moms can chat and have a drink while the kids can play. Different from a true playcenter like you are thinking of, but thought I would mention it.
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Old 06.11.2012, 07:34
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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I think you'll definitely want to keep a good first-aid kit around.

May I ask where the play centre will be located? Also, is this the type of thing where parents can drop their kids off -- or would the parents be expected to stay?

I wish you much success!
Good one CF

Location will be in Stafa and I'm currently working out the legalities, not quite sure at the moment whether it will be a drop off or mum and tods group.

Thanks for the well wishes!
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Old 06.11.2012, 07:41
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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A friendly carer that's important! I can't think of anything else right now, but I wish you lots of luck!
Cheers Sapin!

For friendly, kind, bubbly carers, I'm looking at Liliput.ch and the local Gemeinde has an extensive list of certified carers as well. Please let me know if you are aware of other good classified carer sites.
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Old 06.11.2012, 08:12
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

Lovely idea, but...

You should avoid customers in nappies, these take too long to change. You will definitely need a helper, all the time. You can't help a child at the toilet and watch all the others at the same time.

You might want to leave swings off the list: they are very good for smashing into little faces. Maybe avoid hot "beverages", boiling water is dangerous.

Have you looked for accomodation? It is VERY difficult to find suitable rooms at a reasonable price. Owners are frightened of the possibly noisy playground.

We took over a playgroup in Bern, http://esp-bern.ch/ it is still going strong, but there are many bridges to cross. The income from toddlers was not enough to pay the rent, and we had to offer English teaching to ex-pat children as well. You could find it easier to join an existing playgroup.
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Old 06.11.2012, 08:21
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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What else is to be outside apart from the swings? Swings are great for vestibular development, but I would also look for flexible play equipment that provided for both gross motor skills and imaginitive play eg: tyres, boxes and planks of light wood, children sized cleated boards and ladders, offcuts of hardwearing fabric such as unbleached calico or hessian as draping for dens and castles.
Swings: ones that can be varied ie: using climbers caribiners, it's easy to have ones that clip on and off and can be changed within moments ( more likely daily )
Ride on equipment other than tricycles - ones that can take 2-4 children, and work best once they figure that teamwork is needed .
An easy access sandpit.
Water trough in regular use.

Inside: access to creative resources paint, pencils, felt pens, glue, scissors , a variety of paper and card.

A book area with comfortable cushions.

construction sets, including traditional big wooden blocks.
Puzzles, playdough ( the homemade variety, renewed weekly)
A supply of strongly build percussion instruments.
Natural items eg: wooden rather than plastic items whnever possible. Have baskets of natural things for children to explore - add magnifying glasses or sheets.
Sand and water trays inside for bad weather.

More than adequate toilet facilities.

Friendly, warm, welcoming adults.
Hi Biff,

I'm so glad you posted on the outdoor facility aspect of the playgroup, so many great ideas to incorporate! Here's another question for you. How much focus should I put into the garden for the winter season? I assume, much focus as my 4 year old attends a weekly 'all season' Waldgruppe and my 5 year old is in kindergarten where I was informed to ensure she has proper outdoor clothing as they have sheduled play-time outside on a daily basis. What's your opinion?

Regarding the toilet facilities, I was thinking of purchasing the toilet seat with ladder, see below and a step stool for the lavabo, have you had any experience with your babs and this particular seat?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/i...9624031&s=baby

Also, what an excellent selection of indoor activities. Wooden toys and items are also a must for me. I thought I had everything but now will incorporate homemade playdough, baskets of natural things and look into sand and water tray as well.

Cheers Biff!
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Old 06.11.2012, 08:39
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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For my two boys (17 months and 3) it would be:
- a wooden train set with plenty of trains (and very important just now carriages for the trains to pull!)
- lots of cars, tractors, emergency vehicles of different sizes.
- cushions to lie on, roll on etc.
- a play kitchen
- a few strollers/ prams and dolls
- a little play house
- soft play areas would be fantastic
- a water table (seems to be a rarity here!)
- an outdoor area with lots of ride on bikes and cars

I would add:
- clean toilet with soap and towels (and although people bring their own it is great to see somewhere that has nappies and wipes which can be used if you have forgotten/ run out)
- somewhere which is not afraid to let children play, experiment and make a mess (not run riot - two different things)

Good luck with your venture.
Pepper,

Most on your list are sorted, just missing a water table and little playhouse.

A question regarding the playhouse. There isn't room for a playhouse indoors but I wonder if I should provide one for the outside garden. As it seems playing outdoors in Switzerland, through all seasons, is important. What's your opinion?

Soft towels for our wee ones hands, nappies and wipes are brilliant ideas! It's those little extra's that really do make a difference. What are your thoughts on hand sanitizers for the parents? Is that something common here?

Thx Pepper
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Old 06.11.2012, 09:00
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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It sound like great idea. There doesnt seem to be so many of these places in Zürich and they are a life line when children are smaller.

I am going to comment on provision of smaller toys and books etc. They will disapear, either by accident or on purpose, so you might want to think carefully about how many of these smaller toys you provide as it may become very expensive to replace them.
Books will be ripped and torn very quickly - but story time might be popular event. Or maybe a rhyme time with musical instruments handed out and collected back in at the end of the session in exchance for a sticker - these were always very popular in my local UK library.

An outdoor space could be a good idea for the warmer days.

Steps for sinks or smaller lower sinks for the children would be welcome.

Clear signage about if strollers are allowed in the building or need to be kept outside. If strollers are not allowed in then provision of high chairs for older babies so Mum have have a hot drink while baby has a snack and drink.

I always loved a play centre that had a pile of magazines to leaf through if my child had a nap.
Good luck
Good point Heather4!

I wonder if I should look at creating a separate section for the old 4 and 5's with book reading facilities and have daily storytime for all. Will have to put a lot more thought into missing toys and items. There will be a huge garden facility at the moment with a swingset but have been given some brilliant ideas for additional outdoor play items from a couple other EF members that I will look into.

I love those little washrooms, I will have a step stool and was thinking of providing this specific seat and ladder as well, http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/i...9624031&s=baby. Have you had any experience with it?

Clear signange, highchairs and magazines noted. Those little extras really do make a difference.

Thx!
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Old 06.11.2012, 10:05
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

Not sure of the regulations for your particular area or Canton, but around here the SPJ (protectction jeunesse) generally gets involved if it is considered a child care facitlity. This triggers a bunch of things mostly safety issues, but best to be clear upfront what these are before choosing a facility, etc. For example, they require that the toilets and sinks be child size, at toddler level. If outdoors, there are rules about enclosures, gates, etc...
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Old 06.11.2012, 12:04
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Re: Opening my own toddler playcentre - would love your advice!

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Not sure of the regulations for your particular area or Canton, but around here the SPJ (protectction jeunesse) generally gets involved if it is considered a child care facitlity. This triggers a bunch of things mostly safety issues, but best to be clear upfront what these are before choosing a facility, etc. For example, they require that the toilets and sinks be child size, at toddler level. If outdoors, there are rules about enclosures, gates, etc...
The safer the better. Thank you runningdeer!

I'll be making a trip to the Gemeinde and speak with some locals on their experiences next week. Will keep you posted.
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