It probably seems like five minutes ago, you were preparing for your baby to be born and now your child is preparing to start nursery school! How is it, time seems to fly by so quickly once you are a parent....
Starting nursery school can seem a bit daunting, not only for your child, but also for you, as parents. It’s natural to feel a little anxious as you want him or her to be able to get off to the very best of starts. You might need to keep a tissue at the ready, but try and keep it hidden until after the nursery doors shut, as your child will pick up on your anxiety and upset.
The majority of children can’t wait to get inside and explore what’s behind those doors. Of course, there will always be one or two children who might feel a little shy and not as keen to leave mum’s side, but you will find the nursery teachers and staff know lots of ways to help them feel relaxed.
So what can you do before The Big Day arrives?
The most important thing you can do for your child is to BE POSITIVE! Starting nursery school is an important milestone in your child’s life and they will be wondering what it might be like and what’s going to happen there.
Preparation is the key! It’s really important to take the time to prepare your child for nursery, by talking about what they can expect. A great way to do this is to read “Starting Nursery School” books from the library. There are plenty of these to choose from and you will be able to pick out all the fun activities shown, as a starting point for conversations and address any worries they might raise. Ask them what activities they are looking forward to doing the most, when they start school.
Many schools now offer a home-visit to allow the nursery teacher to meet the child within their own home setting. Take them up on this, if it is offered to you, as it allows you and your child to meet the teacher in a relaxed environment. You can also raise any concerns you might have with them, for example if your child still has accidents during the day or if you are anxious about how they might settle in. Meeting the teacher before they start school, will really help to reassure your child, as they will recognise them on the day itself, which can make things easier. If a home-visit is not possible, see if it is possible to arrange a quick visit to the school and if possible meet the teacher then. It will help your child settle in quicker if they have seen where the coat pegs or the toilets are for example.
Some schools offer a "taster” session" during the first week or so of nursery. This is when you and your child will be invited in to the nursery, giving you a chance to chat to staff and your child the chance to meet and play with their new classmates! Following these sessions, the children will start being integrated into the nursery. Most nursery schools stagger this, as it helps the children to be not so overwhelmed and encourages a smoother transition.
What else can you do to prepare your child?
Encourage your child to be as independent as possible before they start. Make this as easy as you can for them, for example, choose clothes that are easy to do up or pull up and down, when they need to go to the toilet. Choose shoes that have velcro ties, not laces or buckles. Teach them how to wipe their nose with a tissue!
Teach them to go to the toilet by themselves and how to clean up afterwards! If your child still has the occasional accident, tell the staff beforehand and include a spare set of clothing in their bag. Make sure they know how to wash their hands, this is really important as apart from a basic hygiene must, there are invariably lots of bugs that float around and these can be picked up easily.
Try and teach your child to recognise their own name before they start, so they can know what tray or clothes peg is theirs. But don’t worry if they can’t, you will probably have been asked to supply a photo or two of your child and the staff will have put the photo together with their name on these things, which will help your child know what’s theirs.
On the day!
Leave plenty of time to get to the nursery, you don’t want to rush your child and make things stressful. Make sure you have packed their bag the night before and everything is at hand.
Tip: Label everything with their name, from shoes to socks to coats and jumpers!
Some nursery schools won’t mind you coming into the cloakroom area and helping your child to locate their coat peg and showing them where to go and sit, but do not stay any longer than necessary, as this will have the opposite effect and not help your child to settle quickly.
Play nice and say hello to the other parents! Don’t forget everyone is feeling the same and it will help to break the ice.
Smile! Try not to cry in front of your child as this will upset your child and ultimately confuse them, as you have spent lots of time telling them what a wonderful time they are going to have!
Collect on time! Make sure you are on time for pick up! You don’t want to make your child feel anxious that you are not coming back. But equally, don’t turn up too early and hang around outside, as your child will probably see you and want to leave earlier than they should!
Don’t forget to take a photo of them on their first day, as this will definitely be a day you will want to remember. The first of many firsts in learning to let go ( you and them!).
Good luck! Let us know if you have any helpful tips or stories you want to share.