By Anni McTavish
Positive Ways to Support Settling-in for The Early Years
For many practitioners and families this is a time of change and transition. Some children may be returning after the summer break, but many will be starting their very first day in your setting. Anni McTavish offers helpful ideas to support parents and practitioners.
How we respond and plan for these new beginnings can colour transitions long into the future, so it’s crucial we make sure we’re doing our best to get it right. Think back to your own experiences of going somewhere new or joining a different group. What did you find helpful? Was there something that someone did or said (or didn’t do or say!) that made you feel comfortable and welcome?
Review and reflect
Settling-in new children and families begins long before the first day. Information is vital. Each setting will have a settling-in policy, but has there been time to review it, make any changes and discuss concerns or new strategies: home visits, visits to the setting and/or an information booklet with details such as the daily routine, what to do if your child is ill etc, will all help.
We added a parent postcard this year: ‘How to help your child enjoy Nursery’, in which we encouraged parents to help their child to practise putting on their shoes and coat, pull up sleeves, blow their nose and tidy up before starting nursery.
Have babies’ and young children’s photographs ready, make sure names are spelt correctly and new labels are added to pegs or baskets. Include children’s interests in open-ended experiences. One mum was incredibly pleased to find that on her two year old’s first day, his key-person had remembered that he loved string, and had provided a large ball of it for him to play with.
Time and thought
Young children are developing their emotional resilience, but this is only possible if sensitive adults tune into their needs and help them to regulate their feelings and experiences. Every child and family will be different, so flexibility is vital. Good settling-in cannot be rushed. If it is, it often backfires and a child may end up taking longer to settle. Helpful ideas are included below to support parents and practitioners.
- Talk to your child about starting nursery and the sorts of things they will see and do.
- Visit the nursery or welcome a home visit.
- Read stories, such as: Going to Nursery (Anholt Family Favourites) by Laurence Anholt (Author), Catherine Anholt (Illustrator) and similar ideas can be found at: http://www.littleparachutes.com/subcategory.php?sid=13
- Give your child some power and choice e.g. What clothes would they like to wear (from a limited choice)? What fruit/breakfast to have?
- Take a transitional toy that stays with your child or add a magic pebble to their bag or a small photograph of you and/or their other parent in a waterproof key ring.
- Once you’ve spent time settling your child (and discuss this with your child’s key person) make a plan to leave and go. Find a ritual or way to say goodbye that works for you both. One little boy I worked with loved rockets and his favourite way of saying goodbye was being blasted into space, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! His parent lifted him over the gate and handed him to me for a cuddle.
- Although it might be tempting, do not disappear without saying good-bye. Your child may feel very anxious and find it more difficult to settle.
- Welcome parents and children with a warm smile and introduce yourself.
- Plan a calm and relaxed environment, with clear routines and enticing play experiences inside and outside.
- Spend time playing with a child alongside their parent.
- Talk to families about their child’s interests and find out what they prefer if upset, tired or worried.
- Discuss with parents a good time to leave and how to say good-bye.
- Don’t be worried about children having feelings – well-attached children may be sad, angry, scared etc. The important thing is to hear and acknowledge them. “I know you’re sad about Dad going, I’m going to look after you and he will be back soon”. Provide cuddles and reassurance.
- Encourage children to join-in with activities and praise the effort they make – “You spent a long time making that puzzle!”
- Be alert to difficulties and respond quickly. Ask parents to return if a child is overly distressed. Once an upset child has settled, parents will appreciate a quick phone call.
Finally, don’t forget to thank parents and value all the things they do to help their children settle in, and take care of yourself and colleagues during what can be a rewarding and sometimes challenging time.
Anni McTavish – Early years and creative arts consultant
Anni McTavish will be speaking and running workshops at the forthcoming COBIS Early Years Conference in Athens – Exploring the EYFS World
This article was first published here.