Transitioning to or starting a new nursery or preschool can be an unsettling time for both child and parent.
Many children are left at nursery as a baby, around the time when separation anxiety kicks in and both parent and child are left feeling bereft, however a few weeks on and the tears have turned to smiles and both parties are relaxed in their new routine.
But what happens if you have chosen alternative child care or stayed at home with your little one? At the age of two or three, depending on your circumstances your child will be entitled to a number of free hours of childcare each week. Who wouldn’t want to make use of this?
By now you will probably have a bit of an idea of what kind of child you have. Are they aged two and already counting to one hundred or are they happier covering themselves in mud and running amok in the garden? There will be a setting just right for their style of learning through play. Because this is what it is…their first official step into education and learning.
Some pre-schools are academic focused, and the room settings will be more akin to school, while others will look very playgroup like. Visit and choose which one you both feel most comfortable in. Remember, they will be restricted to a classroom environment from aged four to 18, so it is okay to think play rather than writing.
There are pockets of the UK where the demand for funded childcare is outweighed by supply and waiting lists can be long. Secure your place as soon as you can.
Many of our top tips are the same for an older toddler/pre-schooler as they would be for babies.
Use your settling in days
Make sure you negotiate settling-in sessions with the nursery. You won’t be a high-maintenance parent for requesting as many sessions as you need. The staff in the setting would much rather have a happy child on day one than one who is unsettled and not having fun.
The importance of goodbyes
This is one of our key pieces of advice. It may be easier to sneak away while your child is distracted and happy but imagine how they feel when they turn around to show you what they are doing, and you aren’t there. If they haven’t been left before they may feel abandoned and worried about if you are coming back. So, actively say goodbye. Give cuddles and kisses and let them know when you will be back.
There may still be tears while you make your guilt-ridden escape, but as soon as they see you come back through the door they will quickly learn you always come back.
Involve them in the preparation
Involve your little one in getting prepped. Let them choose new shoes and bag, if they need a uniform, get them to try it on, it engenders an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Buy a new lunchbox together if they need one. Chat about what you will put in it and choose some snacks.
Are there friends who will be going to the same nursery? Invite them over for a play or meet in the park so they can get to know each other.
Playdates are also a great time for parents to share worries. You will find you aren’t the only ones dreading the first drop off morning. Why not arrange a coffee or chat rather than rushing off on that first day?
Talk about it and live it at home
Make sure you are talking to your child about their day. Look for positives when there are tears, make them laugh by asking silly questions. Display their artwork at home so they develop a sense of pride in what they are achieving.
Some kids will run into nursery without looking back, while other parents will feel like a tree trunk with a little person attached to them. Whichever way it is for you, there is no right and no wrong. Every child is a small human reacting to a new environment and experience and we need to respect their feelings.
One thing is for sure though, they will definitely have a blast!
Parental Choice are childcare experts and our team can help you find your ideal nursery setting locally to you.