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Life at two – Ava’s first full day at nursery

27 months – Looking at the role of the key person in the settling in period.

Contents of section

  • Arrival at nursery - leaving mum
  • Not wanting to join group
  • Interacting with key person - circle schema
  • Asking key person for help
  • Dr Peter Elfer - key person can't be with child all of the time
  • Creative play
  • Choosing to join group
  • Reunion with mum
  • Dr Peter Elfer - importance of key person's relationship with parents or close carers


  • How does Claire help Ava’s separation from mum?
  • How does Claire help Ava feel at ease?
  • How does Ava react when Claire asks her to come and join the group?
  • What does Ava’s mark making tell us about her interests?
  • What does Ava ask Claire to do for her in the playground?
  • How does Ava’s behaviour change after getting help from Claire?

At the beginning of the day Claire, Ava’s key person, helps ease the separation from mum. Whilst what Claire says can be important, just her presence to greet Ava and be with her at this special time of leaving mum makes a big difference to Ava and how she will cope. (Although the key person cannot always be there when children arrive, it is important that they are as often as possible and especially on a child’s first days.)

Ava is beginning to be able to take advantage of what is on offer at the nursery. She’s feeling a bit more at ease helped by the fact that Claire is sensitive to all of her communications and doesn’t make her join in with the group activity. Claire is beginning to pick up on Ava’s interests. She has noticed that Ava likes encircling things and does this in different ways. This might be one of Ava’s schemas. (Schemas 2 are patterns of linked behaviours which the child can generalise and use in a whole varieties of different situations and they form the basis of exploration and play. Identifying schemas helps make sense of children’s play and thinking and what other activities and resources might help to extend their thinking.) Claire is beginning to tune in to Ava as she observes her free play and sensitively helps her interact with other children.

2 for more information on schemas see: Nutbrown, C. Threads of Thinking. Young Children Learning and the Role of Early Education. Paul Chapman Publishing. 1994