Deciding to start your child at a nursery can be a very daunting process from the outset. As a parent, putting your trust into a setting with adults who you don’t know well can be a difficult and challenging time to navigate. There are many things which are important to consider when choosing the right setting for your child to ensure that you are confident in the care that your child will receive whilst they are there.
Things to consider:
- Do your research, find which setting best suits you and your child; read their latest Ofsted report
- Visit the setting with your child and meet the team; get a feel for the environment
- Ask about settings policies and procedures, how do they support learning? How do they maintain safety? How do they tackle child protection issues? Which qualifications do the staff team have?
- Get to know the staff; ask them questions
Once you have made your decision and chosen the nursery that you can see your child thriving at, and are confident that the environment and staff team will provide your child with stimulating learning experiences to help them make the best possible progress, there are some other things to consider to prepare your child for the transition ahead.
- Go on play dates to get your child used to being around other children to begin those crucial socialising experiences
- Spend time with friends and family members to get used to them being cared for by others
- Establish a good routine for getting ready each day to enable you to leave the house and arrive at a suitable time
- Talk about nursery to your child to build familiarity
- Work on your child’s independence skills such as dressing and undressing and putting on their own coat, depending on their age
- Set simple tasks at home such as helping to tidy up
Once your child has begun transitioning into your chosen nursery you may find that your emotions are heightened and you feel anxious about your child being in a new environment with people they are not as familiar with. These are all perfectly normal feelings to have and at Little Hands we offer a range of ways to support you and your child throughout this time. You will be offered stay and play sessions before your child officially starts, these are shorted sessions to attend both with your child and to also introduce them to being left at the setting without you, so they can begin building relationships with the staff team.
During these sessions you have the opportunity to find out as much as you can about the environment your child will be in and what the staff team are like who will be responsible for caring for your child. Your child will begin to form bonds with the practitioners and they will be assigned a key person depending on who they form the strongest bond with. This supports the attachment that is so important to children to help them feel safe.
Throughout the stay and play sessions, offer as much information about your child’s needs, likes, dislikes and current levels of development as you can to ensure the team have a good picture of how they can support your child to settle in. We also ask you to share family photos which will be displayed in the environment for your child to refer to throughout their sessions. Another thing that we ask you to consider is to ensure that you book regular sessions for your child to attend to maintain familiarity with the team and build a good routine for nursery.
Once your child has begun, and attends the setting fully, it is important to maintain a calm approach as children often pick up on any anxieties that parents may have. Be as prompt as possible with saying goodbye to your child so that they are able to focus on the rest of their day at nursery. Once you have left your child for the first time and your emotions may be heightened, distract yourself with something else to focus on, call your partner, a friend or family member and share your feelings with them so that they can support you. Don’t panic if the first few weeks at nursery are difficult, it takes time for children to settle in and build familiarity in the new environment.
As part of our processes at Little Hands, we understand how daunting this time can be and we offer a range of ways to help ease parents anxieties. We welcome any telephone calls to check in on your children and also the use of the messaging feature on our nursery software. Our teams also make an extra effort in those early days of settling in to send more updates on your child’s diary and images of them enjoying their day.
There are many benefits to having your child start a nursery setting, one of the most significant is the impact it will have on their personal, social and emotional development. From a young age your child will be learning about forming positive relationships, beginning to understand others, and how to play not only alongside others, but also with them. They will build their confidence and self-esteem, develop their communication skills, learn new life skills, widen their experience of the world and be prepared to become lifelong learners in the outside world.
I have been working at Little Hands for just over 8 years now and progressed through the company in various different roles. Growing up I have always had a passion for supporting young children, right from helping with my little sister to babysitting family and friends children at any given opportunity! As I progressed through the company, I saw how hard it can be for parents to drop their children off at nursery and leave them in the care of someone else. As a practitioner, I always knew that the children would settle and that they are okay as I trusted our strategies and procedures. Reassuring parents about their little ones’ progress was always a big part of the job.
However, since having a baby of my own last year I saw first hand exactly how hard the transition can be for some parents. Even though I had worked at Little Hands for a number of years I still found myself being anxious about G starting nursery. This made me empathise so much with other parents and families on how hard it must be to choose a nursery for your little one, and put your full trust in people that you have only just met. I have a good relationship with the team here and yet I still was worried about G settling in and me not being with her everyday. So, if you find yourself looking for a nursery and being worried about leaving your child with someone else please be reassured that these feelings are completely normal and it honestly will get easier as your child gets to know the staff team and settles in.
Our top tips for a smoother transition into nursery…
- If possible try and time their start date and settling in sessions around no other transitions in the child’s life e.g. moving house
- Use children’s comforters as and when necessary whilst they are settling in, then we will gradually reduce these when children feel safe and secure
- Communicate openly with the staff to explain any worries you have or certain procedures you would like followed in order to reassure you
- Be open to giving feedback to the nursery about how you would like certain strategies used with your little one
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice around certain topics e.g. weaning or sleep routines
- If possible, arrange gradual sessions to support the child getting used to a different environment. e.g. start with 2 sessions, then after a couple of months increase to 3 sessions
From someone that has both worked in a nursery and now is a parent with a child in nursery, these are my top four things that I would recommend to ask when looking for suitable nurseries..
- What training and qualifications do staff have?
- What does the curriculum offer?
- What is the ethos and values of the company?
- What does a typical day look like for a child?
Other questions you may have when your child is initially starting…
- Should I be concerned if my child is crying when being dropped off at nursery?
- How much involvement should I have with my child’s learning?
- What should I expect from my child’s key worker?
- How can I ensure that my child’s individual routines are being followed?
- Is there anything I can do to support their development at home?
For all of these questions, and any other questions you may have; our staff teams are on hand to help. Don’t keep your queries to yourself, we are all on this journey together!
For similar articles, please see the below blog posts on our settling in process and a checklist for starting nursery.