Keren shares her top tips on how to be prepared to start a new term with your toddler.
This year is my fourteenth as a hands-on founder of a thriving chain of nurseries. I suspect I’ve settled in more than one thousand toddlers and pre-schoolers in that time. I am lucky to have been part of many children’s first days at nursery and school. I am happy to share some tips with you and hope this will make your children’s transition a little smoother.
Practical Preparation for Children
If at all possible, aim to establish term time routines for your children a good seven to ten days before they are due to start school or nursery.
Regular nap times, bedtimes and meal times will make it easier for everyone once the routine of school or nursery sets in. Try and maintain a simple routine prior to the start of the school year. Before bedtime, spend time with your child, speak about your own childhood experience at nursery or school to encourage your child to speak about their feelings or even anxieties.
Some children find transition harder than others. You can counter this by talking about your child’s new class, teacher or school in a positive way to help avoid those anxieties. Most nurseries and schools would have invited you and your child for a visit to meet their teachers. Speak to your children about what they remember from those visits and what they would choose to play with when they enter the classroom.
Where possible, add a positive angle to the issues that might be worrying your child; therapists call this reframing. Let them express their feelings and as much as possible and lead them to “label” those emotions: worry, fear, anxious, excitement and so on. These are normal feelings, and our role as parents is to accommodate them. If you have a picture of the future classroom or school, you can share a story about it. With older children, you can ask: “what could be the worst that can happen”? “What can be the best scenario?” One of our roles as parents is to be emotionally available for our children.
What should you expect on the first day?
Parents, do bring tissues; more for you than your little one. Our staff can mostly be found supporting bereft parents in those emotional first days. Most nurseries will have a tried and tested set of procedures to settle in new children as smoothly as possible. This often involves staggering start dates and times, and easing new children in on a reduced hour basis, so that each child feels safe and secure in their new environment. Ask about this when you visit a potential school or nursery for the first time.
Prepare yourself mentally, always remember that beginnings are challenging, just like starting a new job. It takes time to trust a setting with your most precious thing. Eventually, once your children are settled, you will notice the benefits of the choice you have made!
As for the practicalities of a new school, it’s all about the kit!
Buying early often means discounted prices and avoiding the dreaded queues during the back to school rush.
In an ideal world, you’ll have stocked up on school shoes, trainers, non marking trainers, plimsolls, wellies, hats, gloves, scarves, mittens (2 pairs), vests, socks, tights and all that stationery before the kids have broken up for summer…..
So that’s the wish list, but I’ve yet to meet a parent who gets all this done.
In reality, you’ll probably be labelling everything the night before school starts like the rest of us!
But do please label; lost property can be overwhelming for teachers, let alone the parents whose little one inevitably loses EVERYTHING on Day 1.
At nursery, children tend to hide things and we only find them weeks later. Furthermore, we all tend to buy from the same shops, so there will always be five or six coats of the same colour, shape and brand. Please do your best to support all involved.
For all “security items” such as muslins, dummies, teddies, etc please ensure you have one for the school or nursery, and one for home.
It’s also worth paying attention to childcare and rotas, and really worth getting organised early to avoid last minute logistical panics.