It’s a new academic year and we are welcoming new people to our settings: children, staff and parents alike. To intensify matters, the new EYFS kicks in too. But what about the general things that you can do to help your new intake adjust to life in your setting? Read on to find some advice on things you can do to smooth the transition for everyone.

1. Give information ahead of time

The more people know about your setting, how it works and what to expect when they get there, the less anxious they will be, so make sure you have given out as much information as you can ahead of time. Induction days help here so put yourself in your new recruits’ shoes and think about what you would want to know, be it things about the rooms, staff, food, changing nappy protocols, safety standards or curriculum. Make sure you have answered as many potential questions as possible and set up easy ways that people can contact you with any last-minute queries.

2. Be organised

It is vital that you have organised everyday things, protocols and procedures in advance so that your staff can go straight into the job of looking after the children. Make sure that your rotas are set up and that you have cover for early and late sessions with the correct ratios and experience. Ensure that you also have plans in place for sickness or self-isolation cover since, although COVID cases are currently falling, we are still quite a way from being back to normal.

3. Support drop-off and pick-up

One time of the day that you can ease new children into your setting more easily is at drop-off and pick-up, when anxieties are high. You might want to set up a slightly later or slightly earlier time for a new intake so that they are not caught up with the melee of established parents. Ensure too that you have enough staff around to support the children during these times. It may mean adjusting your working hours slightly so that staff and children are not all expecting to go home at exactly the same time, ensuring instead that your staff have time to talk to parents at the end of the child’s day, and then some extra time to tidy up and lock up the setting after that. Children are often keen to show their parents things they have done during the day, so establish routines to ensure things do not get forgotten.

4. Get to know the children quickly – use your circle time

The quicker you get to know the children in your care, the sooner you know what their needs are, and the better your care will be. Obviously, you will have spoken to parents and carers before admitting children, but your staff are well placed to observe things that parents might not, such as how children react in different social environments or how they play with new children. Circle time can be a great time to ask questions, pass on information about activities or your expectations, and generally understand what makes everyone tick. Don’t underestimate the information you can get from circle time, and make sure your staff are tuned in to what to look and listen out for, as well as who they should pass information on to if they are concerned for any reason.

Consider too the impact that the pandemic may have had on the children coming into the setting this year. Many of them may be less well socially-adjusted than previous years, because they may not have had the same social interactions with their family, friends and other children that previous intakes have. They may well have spent most of their short lives with a limited number of people and may be more nervous about meeting, or socialising with larger groups. Circle time can be used to allay their fears, make new friends and ease and tensions that may develop. You can even use it to practice things like saying goodbye to parents or role-play other social scenarios to help educate them on these things.

5. Allow emotions and help with them

At this time of year, children will be feeling a lot of emotions that they may not have felt before. They may not have been separated from their parents/carers for long periods of time, they may not know how to share with others or how to express their frustration when things don’t go their way. This is all part of developing as a human being and little ones will need your expert guidance and support to manage new emotions, label and understand them. Spending some extra effort to watch out for signs of emotional distress will pay off in the long run as the children learn to adjust to new rules and expectations. It doesn’t mean relaxing your standards of behaviour or abandoning rules, but it does mean having the patience to look at the situations fully and to take time to understand any social or cultural aspects that may affect students too.

6. Explain what’s happening

Find multisensory ways to explain what to expect each day, especially if you have SEN children. Use words if they are old enough to understand, but also make visual or auditory clues as to what is going to be next. This could be singing songs in transitions between activities or having a clapping rhythm to signal other sections in the day. The more they understand about what is happening, the less anxious they will be.

7. Be consistent

One of the things that many humans of any age struggle with most, is change, even though it is the catalyst to new growth and new experiences. However, you can help people respond to the change and shock of starting nursery, by being consistent with a few things so their day has some certainty in it. Humans need a degree of certainty in their lives to feel secure. You can help parents too by liaising with and advising them about the things their child has achieved during the day and offering suggestions on ways to continue this at home, be that with potty training, vocabulary or developing fine motor skills. That way, the transition to nursery will be easier all round.

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