Starting School: Preparing your toddler for the first day of nursery
Starting nursery for the first time can be daunting for both parent and child alike. It’s completely normal to worry about this period of change and when the time comes rest assured that the nursery staff will be there to help support you both with the transition. In the meantime, there are plenty of fun things you can do to prepare yourselves for the big day that will help you both look forward to this exciting new chapter. Have a read of our tried and tested tips for starting nursery below!
Talk About nursery
One of the biggest worries little ones face is the fear of the unknown. Whilst it might sound obvious, spend some time talking with your child about what their day at nursery will be like, all the fun activities they’ll do there and finally what time you will be back to pick them up. Talking honestly and positively will help ease those inevitable worried thoughts.
Something else you can do to help familiarise the situation is to pick up a couple of story books about starting nursery such as ‘Princess Polly I’m Starting Nursery’ or watch the Peppa Pig nursery episodes. It’s a great way to illustrate what nursery is all about and reassure your child that there is nothing to be scared about.
Practise some nursery inspired activities
Something that can help ease the transition is to introduce your little one to activities that often take place at nursery. A great place to trial these naturally is at your regular playgroups and playdates, where they can get used to other adults, group play, singing and eating all together at snack time.
Back at home focus on some short structured activities, this could include drawing, practising the actions to songs, puzzles and reading. Basically, everything you’re doing already, but with some added attention to seeing activities through and tidying up together after. Being able to recognise certain games and stories will all help with the settling in process.
Encourage independent skills at home
Nursery encourages children to build their independence and self-help skills with daily tasks. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t practise some of these at home beforehand so that they come as less of a shock during that first week. For example, if your child is physically ready, try prompting them to put on their own socks & shoes (good old velcro) when leaving the house. Eating with utensils at meals and mastering an open cup will also stand them in good stead for nursery mealtimes.
The night before nursery starts make sure everything is packed and ready by the door, so that you don’t need to rush through anything in the morning. You can pack your child’s nursery bag together, including a comfort toy if they have one. On the day itself, show your little one how excited you are about their first day, as they will pick up on your energy and will relax more if they can see you’re comfortable. It’s good to arrive early at nursery on the first day so you can have a chat with your child’s key worker and re-introduce your child to the room (which they should remember from their settling in session).
Say goodbye & try not to linger
The part most parents naturally worry about is saying ‘goodbye’. It’s never easy and can be guilt inducing, but try not to draw out the hand-over process, as the longer you linger the harder it can become to leave. If you find your little one gets upset, do your best not to prolong things, instead reassure him/her again that you will be back later to pick them up and give them another kiss. Their key worker will usually be on hand to then distract them so you can scoot off again.
A final tip for Mum…
It’s OK to find it hard and to have the tissues ready. If you’re feeling anxious, remind yourself of all the benefits nursery has and trust that it will get easier. Whilst this is a first for you and your child, the nursery staff have plenty of experience in this matter, so you can rest assure they have a few tricks up their sleeve to help your child settle in - your little one is in safe hands! But if you find you need to pick up a comfort hot chocolate before continuing your day, no one will judge you… :)
How did you prepare for your kids' first day at nursery? Whether you were cool as a cucumber or left resembling sadness from Inside Out, let us know in a comment below or join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!