The settling in process at Playsteps begins at the very first contact from the parent. The relationship that we build with families starts with that first email or phone call; first impressions go a very long way.
During show rounds we explain what we do and some of the reasons why. For example, when explaining the key carer system we mention attachment theory and its importance to the children, especially in their first few weeks, but also ongoing throughout their time with us.
Every parent/carer has an initial visit which is when they come in to spend an hour or so with their child’s key carer, chatting about their child and getting to know their key carer. After that, the child comes in for at least 2 more visits, but up to as many as we and the parents feel they need.
We give parents a Starting Point to complete so that we know approximately where their child is in the EYFS and can begin supporting their development from the outset. Although, for us, helping the children to become settled and happy at nursery is our number one priority in those first few weeks.
In the first few weeks, the child will spend as much time as possible with their key carer. We make sure that we have the things that we know they like – a favourite story or teddy can be a massive help.
Our routine helps too. The children quickly begin to understand what is happening because we follow a similar routine every day. This familiarity is really important.
We always encourage our parents to call or email as much as they like to see how their child is doing. We don’t take the key carer away from the child to speak to the parent as that can be unsettling for them. But, for mum or dad, a quick chat to see how they are doing can really help. We are always honest, children don’t always settle immediately so we reassure parents that that’s perfectly normal and that their child will get there.
There are two key things that we never lose sight of. Firstly, for a parent, leaving their child at nursery is a huge deal.
I know that their child will be well taken care of because I see it happening all day every day. I know they can trust our team because I have worked alongside them for 9 years, but the parents haven’t. So, it’s vital that we focus on supporting parents in those first few weeks because children very quickly pick up on stress or anxiety in their parents which in turn can make them reluctant to come to nursery.
Secondly, we remember that when a child starts nursery, they are the only person who doesn’t know why they are there.
We know why they are with us and so do their parents, but they don’t. That’s really key for us. Imagine a situation where you are told you are going into a room full of people you don’t know, your questions would be: Why? Who are these people? What am I supposed to do? How long will I be here? Children feel all of that too; it’s our job provide as much comfort and reassurance as they need until they begin to understand the answers to these questions.
We are about to open a new nursery so I’ve been thinking about how to settle the children in as they will all be new. They won’t have the other children who know exactly what to do and can be their buddy in the first few weeks, so we will have to make sure that we don’t make too many changes in those first few weeks so that things quickly become familiar.
We’ll also ensure that we have very familiar resources for them. For example, the role play area is set up as a kitchen, we have dinosaurs, train tracks, sand and water, a dolls house and lots of small world figures. We have lots of unusual resources too but these are mixed in with very familiar things to help the children feel comfortable.
A focus on that vital settling in period is so important because it sets the tone for the child’s time with us. The quicker we can help the child and their parents to feel happy and settled, the better for everyone.
About the author
Jo Morris has been in Early Years for 21 years; she holds the NNEB Diploma and has worked as a nanny and creche manager, working at sporting events across Europe and the Middle East.
For the past 9 years she has been the manager of a large PVI setting, gaining her Early Years Degree in 2015 and setting up a new company to grow the business.
Jo is passionate about the sector and about achieving the best possible outcome for every child.
Supporting practitioners is a key part of this and as such she is the spokesperson for Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding, a campaign group supporting the sector by calling for a change in the legislation around the 30 hours ‘free’ childcare policy.
You can contact Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org