Essential Guide for Busy Parents


We have collated answers to the most frequent questions, queries
and general issues that relate to families with children. Placing them
in this simple straight forward listing, will help you save time when
seeking to obtain any of these services and facilities. We have tried
to briefly cover all subjects relating to family life, guiding you to the
place where to obtain more information and if necessary additional
tips and advice. If the is any information you would like to see in
‘The essential guide for busy parents’ that would make life easier for
other parents and guardians simply email us giving your name, address
and the information. We have 13 subject headings.

  1. Activities for Children
  2. Adult Education
  3. Childcare
  4. Child Education
  5. Finance
  6. Health
  7. Home & Lifestyle
  8. Legal Concerns
  9. New Parents
  10. Pre-School Services
  11. Out and About
  12. Support Services
  13. Travel

1. Activities for Children 0 – 5

Parent and baby/toddler groups

These groups provide a venue for parents and their children to mix with other families. Groups vary considerably and you may need to go to two or three before you find one to your suiting.

Activity centres

Local leisure centres and community centres run activities such as gym babes and music in the community that introduces tots to the joys of making and moving to sound. Contact your local leisure centre for more details.


When your child is between 2-2 and a half they will be able to attend a playgroup for a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon. The number of sessions is dependent on the service provided, your child will be exposed to arts and crafts, story times and able to play in a safe environment

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2. Activities for children of all ages

Hobbies and interests

Yours child’s school will have out of school clubs and extra curriculum activities, recreational
and educational. Your local leisure centre and community centre will also run independent
activities such as dance, gymnastics, tennis and karate classes. Remember to ensure that qualified
and experienced staff facilitate the activity and that they are fully insured for any injuries that
might take place


Books borrowed for under 5’s have no penalty if late or damaged at most libraries. Stories and
activities on audio tapes and videos are also available. Some libraries also offer story times for
under 5’s, this allows your child to socialise with other children and experience being in a
controlled group setting.

Play schemes

Play schemes operate during school holidays. Half-day or full day sessions are available depending on the provider, a small fee is usually payable. Make sure you know exactly what’s on offer and the age group the scheme caters for. If you have a young child you may not want them to go to a scheme which has a lot of older children. Some schemes are funded which allows them to offer good rates to parents so shop around if you’re on a tight budget.

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3. Adult Education

Parenting courses

These courses are not necessarily for problem families but simply to aid parents as they adjust to the changing attitudes of their children. Contact your local family centre or health centre for the nearest course provided.


Most educational establishments offer childcare for people with children. Find out exactly what type of care is offered whether it’s a creche facility, nursery, or playgroup. The type of childcare determines the service you will receive. For example, if the provision is a creche then you will be required to collect your child at lunch times which can be inconvenient if you are not based at the same site. You also need to find out whether there is a waiting list for a child care place as this may affect the date you are able start your course.

Education Finance

Most education establishments give financial assistance for those needing to pay for childcare. Generally you must be in receipt of a government benefit. If you do not meet the general criteria for financial assistance most providers have additional funds that can be applied for.

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4. Childcare

Childcare Services

Your local council will have a list of registered carers, nurseries and creches in your area. Always be prepared to visit at least a couple of choices before you commit to one. Arrange an induction week to ensure your child is settling in the new environment. Find out what the staff retention is like, as this will give you an idea if the employees feel it is good working environment.

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5. Child Education

Arts & Crafts

From between 2-4 years old your child will be able to attend a playgroup. They will be able to stay without your supervision once they have settled in. Each session is for 2i/2 hours and varies between 2-5 mornings a week depending on the group. Your child will be exposed to arts and crafts and some structured learning. The cost per morning varies between £1.50 and £3 per session although funding is available for 3 year olds in most areas. For a registered provider contact your local council or

After School Care

This service is provided by both the private and public sector. Most groups cater for specific schools or geographical area. The cost of the service also varies depending on what’s provided e.g. snacks, outings. Some after school care offer additional educational support such as homework clubs for junior children. Be clear on exactly what you require. Check out or contact your local council.

Formal Education

You should identify as soon as possible the age at which you wish your child to receive formal education. The type of education you desire, whether private, state, religious or grant aided. If applying for state schools it is best to put your child’s name on the list as soon as possible or at least 2 years before your child is due to start. It varies from school to school but generally your child will start the term of their 5th birthday. Taking your child to a playgroup will help them develop social skills before they start school.


When utilising a private tutor ensure your child is supervised at all times especially if the tutor is not a part of a registered establishment.

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6. Finance

Banks and Building societies

(Services for 9’s and under) When opening an account for your child, don’t forget to take your child’s birth certificate, evidence of your identity such as a passport or driving license, plus another item with your address on it, such as a bill to confirm your address, this is all required by law. Most branches now require you to book in advance as it can take up to an hour to fill out the necessary paperwork, especially if you do not have an account at that bank.

Saving Plans

When you have children you will be inundated with literature encouraging you to save for your child’s future. We advise you to read through all the small print especially the penalties involved if you desired to redeem a plan early.

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7. Health

Health Care

NHS Direct can help you with any health problems you may wish to discuss over the phone if your local surgery is closed. They can issue prescriptions and direct you accordingly to your local chemist, or doctor Tel: 0845 4647.

Family practitioners

If you have recently had a child you will automatically receive a card to give to your doctor, which registers your new baby. If you are moving into a new area you can look in the yellow pages to identify a surgery close to you. If you are-not happy with the service of a practitioner you should inform the receptionist who should instruct you about the appropriate complaints procedure

First aid

Local colleges and voluntary organisation such as the Red Cross offer first aid courses. Contact your local college or look in your yellow pages for a course near you. Red Cross Tel: 0845 601 5014.

Dental care

You should start to brush your child’s teeth as soon as they start to grow and register your child with a dentist at this point. You should change your child’s tooth brush at least every 12 weeks or when the bristles start to become tatty. Brush the teeth twice a day and not too hard. Ensure you have a brush designed for your child’s age.

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8. Home & lifestyle

Fire safety

Fireguards are essential for households with a crawling baby or toddler. The law requires that all homes should be fitted with a smoke alarm, check regularly to ensure it is in good working order.

Gates and railings

Stair gates, preferably at the top and bottom of stairs are advised, make sure they are always securely closed. Gardens should be securely sealed with gates and fences/railings and young children outdoors should be supervised at all times

Party venues

Leisure centres, restaurants, football clubs, tourist attractions are but a few venues that offer children’s party services. Book well in advance, as some providers are booked up to three months in advance

Trading Standards

If you are not happy with a service or facility you have received this organisation can tell you the best steps to take.

Milk delivery

Fresh milk delivered to your door may be preferred when you have a young and growing family. Your local directory will give the dairy that delivers in your area. Be sure to ask what time they will deliver to ensure it will arrive in time for breakfast!

Hair dressers

Some hair saloons and barbers have set times to cut children’s hair usually avoiding their busy hours. If using a new hair stylist ask them if they are confident in cutting children’s hair as parents have experienced problems. Some hair stylists offer discounts for families attending together. If there is a special occasion such as a child being a bridesmaid or pageboy, it’s best to do a trial run before the big day.

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9. Legal Concerns

Citizens Advice Bureau

This organisation offers free legal advice. Waiting times to see an advisor can be long, therefore some branch’s offer an appointment system. Tel: 0115 958 5280


Most solicitors offer SOmins free consultation to assess your situation try at least 2-3 practices before committing to one.

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10. New parents

Registry offices

You need to register your baby’s birth within 6 weeks of the birth date. You may make changes to the birth certificate up to 12 months from registering your child.

Nappy Services

Both disposable and non-disposable nappies can be delivered to your door. For non-disposable nappies a collection and delivery service will be operating in your area. Ask your health visitor for information on your local service.
Pre-School Services Providers

Your local council under eight’s unit will hold up-to-date information on pre-school services. We advise that you go via the council to utilise any service, as a formal check would have been carried out to enable them to be entered on the list.

Insurance (Out and About)

If you send you child to an activity outside of your home, for example to be part of a sporting activity or even a playgroup, you should find out if they are insured for accidental injuries.

Information Services

The city/town information centres are run by the local council and should be the first point of call when seeking to find out what’s where locally.

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11. Out and About

Outdoor play

Adventure playgrounds, out door pools, courts and pitches are available for public use. Children are the responsibility of parents when utilising these facilities. If taking part in an organised activity ensure the group is sufficiently insured in the event of any accidents.

Department stores

These are good places to look out for when out with young children. They all cater for family needs by offering baby changing and feeding facilities. Restaurants in department stores also offer meals for babies and well-balanced child meals that are a nice alternative to the fast food option.

Leisure centres

Offering physical activities from swimming to gym and dance. See our local services and facilities guide for more details.


Not all restaurants welcome children. If you are going out with a young child confirm what facilities they have i.e. child menus, highchair and booster seats. Also ask if they are prepared to warm bottles and provide hot water if necessary.

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12. Support Services

Social Services

Support the needs of people in society assisting with financial, social, and health problems. If you need assistance in any of these areas either for yourself, friend or relative you should contact your local counsel social services department.

Support agencies

See our A-Z listing of support services that assist the family.

Family centres

Support the family in a variety of areas from offering parenting courses to childcare. You tend to obtain their services via referral by your doctor, health workers or social services.


Depending on your specific need you should contact you doctor, health worker or social services Department. General advice and counselling such as coping with stress or difficult relationships etc. are also available via community services such as family centres or local support groups. See our A-Z support services directory.

Help lines

Ideal if you want to discuss a problem anonymously. They assist you with a variety of problems that you may be facing. See our A-Z support services directory.

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13. Travel

Passport services

All children including babies now need their own passport you can pick up an application form from your local post office.

Child restraints

A driver can be prosecuted if a child under 14 is not wearing a seat belt. By law, you must not carry a child without a seat belt or proper child restraint in the front seat of any vehicle. A child under three must sit in an appropriate car seat.

Parents: we want to hear from you! If there is any information that you have found difficult to obtain and would like to see it listed to help other parents contact us with the details