Your child’s first day at playgroup or nursery can be a formidable prospect for both you and your child. Our advice here in this blog, will hopefully help to ensure that your child’s experience of nursery is a positive one from the very beginning.
Enhance social confidence
Socialising with other children is a key skill that must be learnt slowly, with some children finding it easier than others. If you can introduce your child to the idea of sharing and taking turns before they start nursery school, then it is likely that they will find the whole experience less intimidating and more enjoyable.
Children usually play near each other as oppose to playing together until they are around three years old. You do not need to stand over young children whilst they play, but you do need to be nearby so that you can step in if they start to bicker over toys. If you do not have a network of other mums with children the same age as yours, look to join a mother and toddler group.
Time away from parents
It will be easier for your child to settle in at nursery if you have slowly got them used to being left with other guardians, such as grandparents or childminders. Start off by leaving them for short periods, an hour whilst you go shopping, and then gradually build it up until your child is happy to be left for a whole morning or an afternoon without you.
Visit the Nursery School
“When you’re choosing a nursery, it’s usually best to visit it without your child the first time,” says Diane Rich at Early Education, an organisation which promotes quality in early years education. “The next time take your child with you and see how he responds to the environment and watch how the carers interact with him.”
Some nursery schools will allow you to leave your child for short visits to see how they get on. When you get home, talk positively about the nursery school, the activities that took place, the other children and the staff. Chat through any concerns your child has before they start.
On the first day
- Give yourself plenty of time. The chances are, your child will not be prepared for you to just drop them off and leave, so be prepared to hang around until they feel settled.
- It is likely that you will be feeling just as anxious and emotional as your child, but try to stay positive and confident, as children pick up on any worries or anxieties.
- Explain to your child when you will be collecting them.
- Leave your contact number with staff in case they need to get hold of you.
- If your child cries and will not allow you to leave, ask staff for advice.
- When you have said your goodbyes, try not to worry. Be assured that if there is a problem, you will be contacted.
Borrow some books to help
Visit your local library and borrow some books on starting nursery, such as Going to Playschool by Sarah Garland. When you have read them, talk to your child about all the fun activities they might be doing at nursery, like playing outside, painting pictures, playing with sand and water, making models, singing and building with bricks.
Do not worry about letters and numbers
We all want our children to do well, but no nursery will expect your child to have a good understanding of letters and numbers when they start. Young children learn by playing and therefore optimal learning means being encouraged to play. This does not mean your child will have free, undirected play throughout their sessions, a good nursery will provide a balanced agenda of directed activities that are suitable for your child’s level of development and will help them to learn through play.
If you want to encourage your child’s learning at home, it helps to make it fun. Play games of i-Spy to associate sounds and letters, encourage number recognition by counting everyday objects like blue cars in the street, bake cakes to find out about weighing and measuring, invest in a portable dry wipe magnetic whiteboard for your child to draw on so that they learn pen control, which will help with writing when they go to primary school.
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