Simple yet effective strategies to help parents and young children start childcare, whether in a nursery, with a child-minder, playgroup, or drop-in session.
One: Be positive. They are going to have a wonderful time, and so are you. Most parents worry more than the child about settling into a new setting. Show that you are confident at the settling in sessions and build a good rapport with your child’s key worker. This will help you to establish a good relationship with this person. It can also help your child feel more comfortable at the setting.
Two: Talk to your child. Prepare them for the setting. Tell them what it will be like, the friends they will make, who will be looking after them and how you will leave them for a short time and then return. Ensure you plan ahead as some children take longer to settle into new surroundings than others and you want to make this an enjoyable experience for your child. Talk with your child about the exciting new things they will be doing in their new setting.
Three: Visit. Take every opportunity to visit the setting with your child before their first day so that everything is familiar. It is usual for nurseries, child-minders and playgroups or drop-in’s to offer at least one settling in session, don’t miss it. Try to make several visits to the new setting with your child. Busy Bumblebees Montessori encourages parents to come for three one hour sessions with their child, which gives the child and parent the opportunity to become familiar with the setting and its daily schedule. It also gives the child the opportunity to make new friends and feel more comfortable on their first day.
Four: Connect with a Keyworker. Ensure that when you visit the setting, your child is introduced to a keyworker or familiar person. Talk about this person/s at home so that the name becomes familiar. If possible, on arrival each morning look for this special person. A key person is important in a group setting not only for the attachment of your child, but to also ensure that a child’s learning and care is tailored to meet their individual needs. The EYFS (2014 p10) states, “The key person must seek to engage and support parents and/or carer’s in guiding their child’s development at home. They should also help families engage with more specialist support if appropriate”.
Five: Take a comforter. Take your child’s comforter with you to the first few sessions. A teddy, a bunny, blanket or something else special and familiar from home. It may be put in a safe place ready to offer if your child needs a bit of extra comfort. Show your child where they will keep their special things at the setting. At our Camden childcare setting we take a photograph of our children’s special things and place this on their own special coat peg. Children quickly learn that this is a special place for them to keep their own things.
Six: Prepare and practise. In the run up to starting, leave your child with a grandparent or friend for an hour here and there, so that they are comfortable with you leaving and returning. Take your child to lots of group activities and drop-in’s to get them familiar with being in large group situations. Prepare them to share toys and explain that they will be sharing things now with other children, who they will make friends with and play with at the new setting. A great free YouTube video that looks at children learning to share can be found at Sharing is Caring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsTPGZm8erI&t=88s
Seven: Separate quickly. Don’t stay too long when dropping your child off at the setting. Make the separation loving but brief and be positive and confident. Explain that you are going home to do some jobs / popping into work and that you will be back soon. All settings will contact you if your child becomes distressed, so don’t worry ‘no news is good news’. Establishing a relationship with a new person for a child is a highly complex skill and will take time and patience for the child and key worker, so be patient and give them time to bond with the new key worker and also to make new friends at the setting. Most children settle in extremely quickly and love their new environment.
Childcare settings provide a wonderful experience for young children. Your child’s development will be supported in every way and truly you will be amazed at the new skills they gain within weeks. Remain positive and confident with your child through the journey of starting childcare and embrace this beautiful phase of your child’s life, sharing stories together about your days when you meet again.
For more information on Busy Bumblebees Montessori visit busybumblebeesmontessori.com