How settings can take the tension out of settling in at nursery

PIP Bye Bye!

Starting daycare away from home can be a daunting experience for a young child – and their parent. Anne O’Connor looks at the case of two-year-old Ava and considers how settings can take the tension out of settling in at nursery…

Ava’s first day Ava, who lives with her mother Molly, attends a small local nursery for two and half days a week. As part of the settling-in process, she and her mother had visited the setting several times so that they were able to begin building a relationship with Ava’s appointed key person, Claire. This familiarity meant that Claire could tune in quickly to Ava’s needs on her first day.

Despite being familiar with the setting, Ava was hesitant and uncertain when she arrived on the first day and looked to her mother for reassurance. Claire stayed close by and talked to both of them. She then got down to Ava’s level and talked to her, gently welcoming and encouraging her.

Sensing Ava’s anxiety, Claire continued to talk to her in a soothing way and got her attention. Claire was aware that Ava loved her food, so used the lunch bag to engage her in conversation. Ava became more animated and talked about the food in her bag.

As Molly left, Claire lifted Ava up so she could watch through the window as her mother waved goodbye. Claire encouraged Ava to blow her mother a kiss and reassured her that mother would return. Ava was able to smile happily through the window at Molly.

As Ava’s secure base in the nursery, Claire was available to her throughout the session, remaining sensitive to her needs and motivations. She let Ava take her own time settling in and didn’t make her join in with the group activity. She observed her play, helped her interact with other children and had lots to tell Molly on her return.

Claire reassured Molly that Ava had coped well with the session, which helped the transition for both mother and child, from nursery to home, at the end of the day.

Helping children settle

1 Starting daycare can be a difficult time for a young child, but practitioners can ease the settling-in process by providing the child with:

Time Schedule accompanied visits, arrange for key people to visit the child at home and avoid hurrying or pressurising a child into settling. Joining in with activities or interacting with others at the setting needs to be done according to the child’s timescale.

Flexibility Offer a flexible set-up that allows ‘settling’ children to follow their own motivations rather than rigid routines, such as carpet times, registrations and group activities. Key people Assign one or two practitioners to the child and their parents, not just for administrative purposes and record-keeping, but also to be available to the family as much as possible, so that family and practitioners can build a strong relationship and attachment. A key person is soon able to tune into a child’s needs and be the bridge between home and the setting.

Reassurance Reassure the child that their parent will return, that their needs will be met and that they will be safe while their parent is not there.

Familiarity Provide family photographs, taped songs and rhymes from home. Offer toys and follow routines that the child will have become familiar with on their previous visits. Remember that some children need ‘transitional objects’, such as a blanket, soft toy or other comforter from home, which they should be allowed to keep with them as long as they need.

Sensitivity Careful observations of the child by key practitioners enable them to respond appropriately to the child’s needs, offering help when needed, soothing anxieties and adapting routines where necessary.

Warmth Warm interactions between practitioner and child are essential in building secure attachments. Tone of voice, smiles, responsive body language and sensitive physical contact all contribute to a warm welcome for a child settling into nursery or school.

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Article written by Anne O’Connor and published in Nursery World ©

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