It may just feel like you were holding your little one in your arms for the very first time a couple of weeks ago, but in a blink of an eye, here they are planning for their first day at nursery! So here you are, doing your research on all the best nurseries in town and before you know it your little ones nursery adventure is about to begin.
It can be difficult to predict how your child will respond to attending nursery for the first time - some kids walk right in and need no time to adjust, while others may find it a little harder being apart from their Mum and Dad. Regardless of whether your child responds at first, they'll quickly relax into their daily routine and enjoy all the different toys to play with, songs to sing and activities they can play with their new friends.
While starting nursery may seem a little daunting for your child, here at Matchstick Monkey, we have you covered! Here are some of my top tips for making the transition to nursery easier for you and your child.
How to Prepare your Baby for Nursery
1. Visit together
Before nursery begins, ask the staff if you can visit and spend some time in your child’s classroom or on the playground together. This will make your child and you feel safe and relaxed as they experience this new world. If the nursery does not allow joint visits, consider driving to the school or nursery on a Saturday with your child. This may be good for them because you get to see their nursery from the outside, and you can help show them why starting nursery is an exciting time for them.
2. Tell your child what to expect
Hyping up school or nursery could potentially backfire — kids see us through too quickly. Telling your kid they are going to have the best day ever and how fun school is, when you're still nervous about how they're going to cope isn't going to work.
This method can also be troublesome, because if you promise your child that they would enjoy learning, and then they don't, they may be disappointed or feel like they can't trust what you're saying. Instead, begin sharing the aspects of their day with him. Ask your toddler their teacher's name, and remind them about the regular routine. Understanding what will happen while at school or daycare will help them feel more comfortable.
3. Get Social
If your little one is an only child, it may come as a very unexpected surprise to be thrown into a group of lots of other kids at nursery. Once your child begins in the nursery, it's a smart idea to raise the amount of playing dates they have with children of a similar age, or maybe to visit a group of kids to get your child used to the idea of being with other people, sharing toys and taking turns.
4. Transition gradually
When selecting a nursery, check that they offer settling in sessions where you and your child can attend. Most nurseries provide free settlement in sessions that encourage children to experience their new world with the reassurance that they will have their Mum or Dad. This helps your child to feel confident getting to know the nursery setting knowing that you are there if they need it.
Settling in workshops is also a perfect way for parents to obtain input into the kinds of activities children are likely to take part in at nursery and see the tools and services available for children to use. Being familiar with the nursery system, facilities and events provide a perfect place to chat while telling your child about their day and providing more opportunities for positive conversations about nursery and what they like about going there.
5. Set simple tasks
Children are also required to help with nursery activities such as picking up toys or passing snack time dishes. Giving your child some preschool-friendly tasks will also help with this and is the perfect way to develop trust and independence in preparation for beginning nursery.
6. Stay Calm
It is important that you stay cool. Children are very sensitive to the responses of their parents, and if you view their nursery encounter as an environment that causes fear, they are likely to pick up on it. Talking favourably about the nursery will also encourage your little one to see that going to the nursery is an adventure to look forward to, and is not a dreaded unpleasant experience.
7. Be on time
Life with children can be stressful, so it is best to make sure that the morning drop offs are as stress-free as possible when your child is settled into nursery life. So both of you will come to the nursery feeling relaxed and without the need for a crazy dash to get there on time. The same rules apply at pick up time, so it's a smart idea to make sure you don't pick up your little one late, particularly when they start first.
8. Regular sessions
Where necessary, book your child in for more than one session a week, because that will speed up their transition to nursery attendance process. One week can sound like a very long time for young children, but only having one session a week will make it easier for kids to get into their new schedule and become comfortable with nursery life.
9. Say goodbye with confidence
It can be extremely difficult to leave your child when they are screaming and yelling for you. The thing is, if you sit and try and console your child, they will get trapped in a kind of limbo and will not be able to move on. So long as you're still there, part of them will ask how they can convince you to stay, and that makes relaxing very difficult.
Most kids settle down really quickly after their parents have left. When you're nervous about leaving your child when they are unsettled, remind the nursery to contact you if they are still upset after 30 minutes so that you can find a solution. If you are able to say goodbye with confidence, this demonstrates that you are happy that they will enjoy nursery and that most of all, they feel safe.
Good luck - you got this!