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Moving into daycare

The first weeks when your child is settling in are of crucial importance to their later happiness at pre-school or nursery.

Change and transition

For children, any kind of change or transition can be scary. It can be a difficult time for parents too. Extra care taken before and during this period will minimise difficulties later on and may affect how easily and happily your child mixes with others.

Settling in

Being in a large group of children, sometimes for the first time can be a frightening experience. Try going to a parent and toddler group beforehand, or attend other activities where other small children are around so they get used to mixing with others.

If your child is in a pre-school, day nursery, or nursery or reception class in a school, they should have a named 'key person'. This is the person who is your main point of contact within the setting and who is responsible for helping your child to become settled, happy and safe. They should discuss with you the best way of helping your child settle in gently.

How to ease the way

  • Put your child’s feelings first. They have formed a strong attachment to you and need support and time to form another strong bond with the staff at the setting or school they are attending.
  • Spend lots of time talking to your child positively about where they are going and what will happen there, so they know what to expect.
  • Visit with your child as much as you can before they start. Some schools and nurseries will also offer you a home visit, in order to spend time getting to know you and your child in an informal environment.
  • Try not to rush the settling in period and give your child lots of support. Plan to stay with your child for a while initially, to help them to adjust to this new environment and new people.
  • Leave your child for short periods only initially, especially if they are very young, so that they gradually get used to being away from you. Talk to your child’s key person about how this is going and when they feel your child is ready to stay for the whole session.
  • When you have decided to definitely leave your child, always say goodbye and tell her that you will be back, then leave quickly and calmly. It may help if you give your child a minute or two’s notice that you are leaving, so they can begin to get used to the idea. Never sneak out while your child isn’t looking, as this may affect her trust in you and make her more anxious in the long run.
  • Be patient and take it slowly if your child becomes clingy – this is a natural response when a child is stressed. The calmer and more supportive you are, the easier it will be for them to eventually leave you.
  • You will probably find that your child reacts at home in some way; they may be more clingy than usual, or they may be more rejecting. Both are normal reactions, and a little extra attention and love will help them to cope with these feelings.
  • Try to speak to your child’s key person as often as possible about what your child has been doing, what they have enjoyed, what they need to be doing more of and what you can do at home.