So, you’ve chosen the right nursery or pre-school, and now the big lead-up to starting is on the horizon! It’s daunting, but have faith, as it doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. It’s an exciting step in your child’s journey. Here are some tips on how to settle your child into nursery.
It is important to acknowledge that your child starting nursery can be a difficult transition for the whole family. Especially if you have a child known to have the wobbles, or who experiences and displays symptoms of separation anxiety.
If we think of nature and nurture, naturally your child wants to stay with you, but we can nurture to ensure a happy, smooth and healthy transition.
Let’s have a look at some tips to help your transition!
Initial visits are vital; don’t just rely on one visit as your child needs to gain recognition and build trust. Your child will pick up on tiny elements during visits that will become part of their recognition of nursery – little tiny details that as an adult we may overlook, as we’re looking at the bigger picture.
Your child not only needs to feel familiar with the teachers/key workers and the new environment they’re in, but there’s the journey from the car to the front door, then the move into the building and then entering their designated room/space.
These are all new and unfamiliar areas and this journey can be the most daunting part of the whole experience for them.
Is there a routine to entering the nursery or pre-school? Is there a key person you can meet each time you visit to hand your child to? This is all important and becomes established within your child as part of the routine.
Place great importance on this ‘tradition’ as you need to leave the room at some point! Establish a routine regarding how you leave the room and stick to it every single time, even if there are distractions!
Try with all your might not to become overwhelmed and flustered if your child becomes distressed. If you feel good about the nursery and your handover, then you need to lead by example and show confidence even though it can be hard.
I really want you to remember here, that that’s a compliment! Yes, that’s right!! Naturally, you’re the most important person in this little one’s world and they need your support in helping to settle. Be honest! Please don’t distract your child and make a run for it. It only causes prolonged upset and can cause further issues rather than treating the cause of the upset.
The best advice I can give you is to get down to your child’s level once bag and jackets have been hung, look your child in the eyes with a warm, happy and confident “mummy/daddy is saying goodbye now, as I need to go to work. I will be back to pick you up and take you home”. Embrace your child and then leave.
You can call the nursery if you need to, but place trust in the carers to ensure your little one is supported and being reassured that it’s OK and mummy/daddy will be back later.
Your child absorbs from you, so try to acknowledge how you feel and recognise these feelings. Let them sit and know that it’s OK to feel the way they do. Get out, go for a run or do what you do to have your time. Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns, not only to your child’s teachers, but to your friends and family, so they too can offer you support.
Don’t be afraid to encourage your child to talk about feelings by leading the way. “I know it can be tricky parting ways when mummy/daddy goes to work, sometimes that makes me feel….” “You are doing so well, you’re very brave going to nursery and exploring with your friends”.
Ensure your morning routine is the same every morning in terms of getting out the door and the journey to nursery. Try to have everything organised the night before, so you have a little down time together before leaving the house. Whether it’s hanging out over breakfast or doing a little colouring in.
Be sure to give a five-minute warning before it’s time to leave. Leave your shoes by the door, so putting your shoes on together becomes a thing you do rather than a mad rush around the house trying to find your child’s other trainer!
Remember any change is difficult and needs time and nurturing. Be on the lookout for those happy moments and offer your little champion praise! “I really liked the way you opened the door for me, that was very kind”.
Opting for a nutritious breakfast will set your little one up for the day and help feelings of contentment and satisfaction. This, in turn, helps your child to have a better day. If you need to prepare packed lunches, consider finger foods and picnic-style goodies such as mini quiches, slices, patties, balls, mini breads and fruit loaf. Make this a time for exploration of food and this too will help with those wobbles as it is fun and exciting!
If you do a sandwich, a nice idea is to use a cookie cutter to create a pony or a pirate! I sometimes use little star and flower cutters for carrots and cucumber too!
Talk about nursery and what you like about it on days that nursery isn’t on. At times, when it doesn’t seem like your child is listening, they really are! Children are actively and passively learning from the world around them and are instinctively tuned into our voices. “I really like seeing put your bag away in the morning, it really helps me.” “I love the way you sing with your teacher.” “I like the way you listen and help your teacher.”
Hang creative masterpieces proudly at home provoking conversations about nursery. You could also create an art book they go into as a lot of artwork does come home! You could have a masterpiece of the week on display and talk about it proudly.
Take your little one to buy a special backpack and drink bottle.
Talk about why you’re choosing it and that it will have their name on, so it is special to them. Choose a special teddy or comforter you’re both happy with to take along to nursery for comfort. I’ve wrapped a scarf of mine around my daughter’s shoulders that she has worn all day! You’d be surprised what comfort is required to help our little ones along the way as they transition.
Part of this transitioning process is getting used to being amongst other children. At this point in time in their development, it is about them and their world, not that they’re a person within a big world! Children parallel play at this age, but are constantly developing their social and emotional skills as they learn to be with other children and to develop relationships.
Don’t be afraid to raise any concerns to your child’s teacher/s, never feel as though you’re being a burden. Trust me, as teachers we need to get to know and work with the parents in order to happily and positively teach your children.
Of course, there are going to be good mornings and not-so-good mornings, trust your instincts and let your little one lead the way. With constant support and reassurance from you, your child WILL settle and will soon be leading you in through those doors to nursery proudly.
*Stacey Turner is author of I’m Going to Nursery, an Early Years teacher and mum to five and seven-year-old girls.