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All you need is love I and ice cream

A real aeroplane in the garden, a big room with lots of beds in it, dressing-up clothes and ice-cream lunches, are the new pre-requisites of good childcare. If you are four years old, that is.

Parents may look for affordability, quality and convenience when choosing daycare. But the average toddler is more concerned with good food, good friends and feeling safe, according to a new report from the childcare charity, the Daycare Trust.

The charity interviewed 45 three and four-year-olds at length about what made their dream nursery. The children placed the highest emphasis on friendships, and needing to feel secure and loved - "not being left out during games".

Freedom, with space to play imaginative games, was also high on the toddler agenda - dressing up "as a fireman actually" was one little girl's choice. Most of the children cited more formal activities such as drawing, reading and listening to stories as their favourites - "Children have little books and try to do letters and like doing scribbles. We learn how to do things and we are quite good," said one proudly.

The boys and girls from a variety of ethnic backgrounds were interviewed over several visits to three London nurseries. They were given a teddy to play with and asked how they would make sure the bear would enjoy going to nursery.

"Staff should be kind and like children and say their work is really good" is the toddler advice for anyone thinking of taking up childcare as a profession.

Colette Kelleher, director of the Daycare Trust, said: "This is a childcare guide with a difference. Children are clear about what they enjoy and what helps them to learn. Parents everywhere should listen to children."

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