by Becki from My First Five Years (@myfirstfiveyears)
Starting nursery is a big step for both a child and their parents. Becki – an Early Years specialist – from My First Five Years, the development app, has given us her top 10 tips for helping to prepare your child for nursery. This article features practical tips that will make the transition into childcare easier for both of you!
If you choose to send your child to nursery, it can feel like you suddenly find yourself standing at the gates on their first day, clutching their little bag and wondering where the time went.
The transition to nursery, or any childcare arrangement, is a big milestone for parent and child alike. The good news is, there are things you can do to prepare your child for nursery and make this next chapter kinder on yourself too!
10 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Nursery
- Pick a nursery you love
This might sound obvious, but you need to feel confident leaving them there. So
look at as many different options as you can! You will just know when a nursery is
right for you. This sounds ambiguous, but there are many factors that create
a good feeling for a parent, such as the team, the rooms, the management,
qualifications, first aid knowledge, how many trips they go on – the list
goes on and on. Each parent’s priorities around what they want from nursery
It’s also good to be open-minded. When I was looking for a nursery for my daughter Edith, the one we chose wasn’t what I initially thought I was looking for. However, we were won over by the people who worked there and the fact that the whole team has first aid training (this isn’t the law).
If you’re struggling to find the right nursery, there are also thousands of wonderful nannies and childminders, so have a look into other options.
- Walk them to the nursery regularly
Children are creatures of habit and if you start to implement new routines
with them too quickly, they can often find it overwhelming. One way you can
prepare your child for nursery is to walk them to the gates before they actually start. You can talk about the different things you can see on the way and what you might do when you get there. Even if your child is very small, this can be a very effective way to get them comfortable with a new environment.
- Read books about going to nursery
Books are a brilliant way to introduce new concepts to children. A great book for preparing a child for nursery is Maisy Goes to Nursery by Lucy Cousins. It shows how much fun they will have when they go and introduces them to some of the different activities they might take part in when they get there. Your local library will also have lots of different books about starting nursery.
- Encourage them to spend time with others
For many children, starting nursery is one of the first times they will have spent
time with unfamiliar people and it can come as a shock to them. If you can, spend time with your child in playgroups and classes so that they can become accustomed to unfamiliar faces. Take your friends up on the offer to babysit them for an hour here and there as well, so they begin to understand that you can leave them but that you will always come back too.
- Make them a book of photos to take with them
A photograph can be so useful in supporting a child to settle into their nursery room. Your child can bring a small selection of photos of the people they live with, their home and pets into nursery. It means they can see the familiar faces and places whenever they need to throughout the day as well as talk about them more confidently.
Making a simple photobook together or choosing some favourite photos to bring in is a great way to prepare your child for starting nursery as you can discuss the change with them in a low-pressure setting.
You can make a simple flipbook together. Simply fold over some light card and staple like a book, then stick in some of your favourite pictures. You can pop this in their nursery bag for their first day.
- Implement a similar routine at home
Ask the nursery what a typical day looks like. Nurseries will do as much as they can to mirror the routine you have at home to begin with, then will transition them into the nursery routine over the first few months. If you can replicate any of their routines at home, it will be less of a shock to their system and a good way to help prepare your child for nursery.
- Be positive about this new chapter
Without even realising it, you might find yourselves being anxious about the start of this new chapter in front of your child and it is only natural to then pass on this apprehension to them. So where possible, save your worries to talk about away from them and be as positive about nursery as you can in front of them.
- Allow them to bring an object from home with them
Choosing a transitional object to help prepare your child for nursery simply means taking something into the nursery that reminds them of home. It can often help children to settle and have a sense of belonging when starting nursery. This can be a teddy, comforter or dummy if they use one. Small cars, items of clothing and pictures work too. Read more about transitional objects here: Blankets, bears and bye-bye – how transitional objects help your child to settle in new situations.
- Keep photos of the nursery at home
Use the nursery’s website or socials to share photos of the nursery with your child. You can even make a nursery book (like above) to keep at home. This will really help them become accustomed to what the building, rooms and people look like ahead of starting there.
- Embrace the time you spend together
In the chaos of preparing your child for nursery, it can be really difficult to be present in the time you have with them now. Where you can, take time to appreciate just being you two together.
Allow them to fall asleep on you, let them have ten more minutes in the bath or a few more goes on the swing in the park. These moments with our children are precious and fleeting, and all we can really do about that is soak them up and appreciate them where we can, in the moment.
A note from Becki: One thing I have really enjoyed about Edith attending nursery is how much I look forward to our days together now. Every Monday morning, I cannot wait to go and grab her out of her cot, see her beaming face and think of how we can make the most of our day together. I even seem to enjoy the mundane tasks of preparing food for her and putting her down for a nap now that she attends nursery, who knew?
Edith has been going to nursery for many months now and she loves it, she doesn’t even look back when I drop her in. This is a little heartbreaking, but in a way that allows me to get on with my day safe in the knowledge that she is having a ball. She gets to be messy, loud and interact with a lot of other children and I have got a bit of myself back in the process. I am no longer just ‘mum’, but I am also Becki the human and content creator at My First Five Years, where I get to combine my love of all things Early Years with creating and launching a brand-new app!
My First Five Years is a unique child development app and educational platform with over 2600+ skills and associated activities that your child can master in their first five years of life. It helps parents give their children the best foundation for lifelong learning using the power of play over the years, and is packed full of further reading, interesting facts and much more. You can try it for 14 days completely free, search for My First Five Years on the App Store.
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