Make sure your little one is ready for their first day at nursery or pre-school
The first day of pre-school or nursery school is a big moment for your little one: here’s how to prepare - and how to help them settle in.
At a glance
- Talk to them about their new pre-school before they start to get them used to the idea
- Visit the pre-school and invent an excuse to walk past it occasionally, pointing it out so it feels part of their life
- Once they are settled in, arranging playdates can help their budding friendships
Some useful preparations
- If they’re not used to spending time away from you, it’s a good idea to test the waters a couple of months before starting at nursery/pre-school – maybe get a friend or grandparent to look after them for an hour or two a couple of times a week.
- Visit the pre-school with your little one, and invent an excuse to walk past it occasionally and point it out so it feels part of their life.
- Sound positive and cheerful about the move, but don’t go overboard and oversell it: they may get suspicious.
- Check out the policy on potty training. Places that only take the over threes normally expect them to be out of nappies. It can be a useful incentive if you've got a reluctant potty trainer. But no nursery/pre-school will expect perfection; they’ll be used to dealing with accidents and will have a cupboard somewhere stuffed to the brim with wipes and spare pants.
- The teachers/helpers will love you if you can teach your little one to put on their jumper/coat/hat/gloves, even if zips are beyond them yet. It will also give them some useful playground kudos.
- It’s their social and listening skills that will help them more than anything else to settle in. Have some playdates before they start so they can practise their turn-taking and sharing. To practise their listening skills, you might go along to storytime at your local library. While you’re there, you could take out some picture books about starting nursery.
- Don’t think you have to teach your little one the alphabet or how to write their name before they start. They’ll probably start learning letter recognition later in the academic year, but nurseries don’t expect children to know them yet.
- Some will run off without a backward glance, but most will be a bit hesitant – as will their mums! You may need to hang around for 15 minutes or longer on the first day or two, so don’t make too many exciting plans for the first week and try not to appear rushed, which may spook them.
- When you drop them off do your very best impression of a brisk-but-cheerful-and-confident parent – even if you’re feeling the exact opposite.
- Teachers advise not slipping off without saying goodbye when your child is distracted. Better to say goodbye properly - give a hug and a kiss and tell them when you’ll be back – then go. Lingering is rarely a good idea. All children will have a key worker, so ask them for advice if your little one is having difficulties – they’ll be used to dealing with settling-in problems.
- When you pick them up don’t expect to get chapter and verse on what they've done: some might oblige but most will say ‘nothing’ or ‘I played’. In the early days they won’t even know the names of most children and helpers so it will take some time for quality information to emerge.
- Once they are settled in, arranging playdates can help their budding friendships, but they’ll probably be more tired than usual so one every week or two is probably enough.
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