Tips for Starting Nursery or Preschool

Is your little one starting nursery or pre-school soon?   

 children playing at nursery or preschool with toys

Starting a nursery or pre- school may be your child’s first experience of being away from you and the family home for a long period, so it’s very normal for everyone to feel a little anxious. This is even more true at the moment following more time at home in 2020 and such a change in social situations.

Here are Early Years Mum’s top tips to make this transition a worry-free time…

Go visiting

If possible, arrange for your child to visit the nursery in advance of their start date so that they can explore this new environment and meet members of staff and children in their new setting. Some setting have video tours online which are a great way of seeing the space too.

Many nurseries will have ‘welcome’ visits or ‘settling in’ days which allow children to familiarise themselves with the new space before their start date. It is very common for a child to behave differently when they visit a new setting, so don’t be afraid to talk to staff about the differences you are noticing. Some pre-schools will also come to visit your child at home before they start their sessions.

Visiting the setting allows your child to begin to form positive relationships with staff and other children before their sessions begin. When your child feels safe and secure, they will develop a feeling of belonging.

child holding mums hand to go to nursery

Make play dates

Before starting at a new setting, or even a few weeks into starting, see if you can make contact with other parents so that your child, and you as parents, can begin to form new friendships. Depending on your child’s stage of development, their play may be primarily alongside other children and not yet including them. This is a normal stage of development, and some children may regress to this stage upon entering a new environment. This is something you can talk to staff about as they encourage your child to initiate conversations and keep play going by talking to the other children through imaginative play or during an activity that interests them.

Get into routines

Start thinking about your own routines at home and putting things into place so that your child can manage the changes to their morning or afternoon routine. It is a good idea to speak to your new setting about things such as naps, meal times and toileting, so that you can discuss your child’s needs and the expectations at nursery. Having had some time with very little routine during 2020, some of these basics may be a big step at first.

toddler putting her own shoes on

Manage feelings

Talk to your child about how they feel about starting in their new setting and try to use positive language as much as possible. There are many books available to help your child with change and to familiarise them with the concept of nursery or school. Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo by Emma Chichester Clark and Goat Goes to Playgroup by Julia Donaldson are wonderful age-appropriate picture books to share with your child, and there are many more available in the local library or bookshops.

mum and child talking about worries

Acknowledge the feelings that they have and keep any of your own worries or anxieties hidden as these could be misinterpreted by your child. Talk to the setting about how you think your child will feel, and indeed how you currently and may potentially feel on their first day. Many children will want to hold on to their parent or carer and not let them go when they arrive at nursery. This is very normal, and it is sometimes necessary for you to stay a while. For other children, the longer you stay the more difficult leaving becomes, and therefore staff may support you to leave promptly in the mornings.

Encourage independence

As tempting as it can be to do their zip and put their drink and lunch away for them when they arrive at nursery, it is hugely beneficial for your child to begin learning to manage these tasks themselves, as it will encourage a sense of ownership and belonging. It also helps them to know where their belongings are throughout the day.

lunchbox with sandwich and apple

Open lines of communication

Find out how your new setting communicates with parents and carers and what you can expect on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Many settings will have a communication book or online app outlining what the children have been learning. Nurseries and pre- schools should regularly share information with you about your child’s learning, and this may include photographs and anecdotes of their play.

Ask questions

If you have any concerns or doubts about any aspect of nursery life, it is important to ask the staff questions. The likelihood is that if you have a question, at least two other parents will also be wondering the same thing. Your new setting may have opportunities for you to volunteer to be a parent representative, and hopefully we can soon return to go in to read stories, or to share your passion, culture or expertise.

Enjoy it!

You will have put a lot of time and research into choosing a nursery or pre-school that is right for your little one, so do take the time to sit back and enjoy watching your child’s confidence and independence grow. Don’t expect them to tell you an accurate recount of their day, I can almost guarantee it won’t happen. Just greet them with love and be a listening ear if they want to share their day.

parent and child holding hands walking to preschool

Early Years Mum is a Buckinghamshire based consultant offering support to parents of young children. Find out how children learn, what they will learn and how to support them at home.

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