Transitioning to nursery or school is a big step, and for some children it can feel overwhelming, so signposting and preparing your child for this change can really help during this time.
Children’s awareness of the concept of time is limited as they live in the present and gauge it by the sequence of events. You can help them by making a visual timetable showing their daily routines, upcoming holidays and family events for example. Each event can be crossed out as it passes.
If you have a particularly anxious child, it’s a good idea to prepare and talk more about starting nursery or school only around 2 weeks before the beginning of term, to minimise their worries about this change to their life and routine.
Some nurseries and schools offer families transitioning days as an opportunity for you all to meet the teachers before the start of term. But during Covid times this may not have happened. Or perhaps it was just held via a Zoom meeting which is not the same as physically visiting your child’s new setting.
Here are some of our ideas to help settle your child during this time of transition:
Walk past their new nursery or school to familiarise them with the building and the journey there. You could create a map to show the journey from home to their school.
If they will be wearing a uniform, buy it with your child, and involve them in these decisions. For example, whether to wear trousers or a skirt, cardigan or sweater if the school offers these choices. Or let your child help choose a few non-uniform clothes that can be worn to school.
A new school rucksack can be a useful way to personalise their items. Attaching colourful key rings can help your child quickly identify their own book bags and rucksacks, particularly if they have to carry a certain style or colour.
Encourage independence by buying clothes that are easy for your child to take on and off, especially if they are going to have to negotiate changing for PE. If they are not used to going to the toilet independently, belts and zips can be tricky. Some useful ideas to help your child as they learn to be more independent could include shoes or trainers with velcro straps, pull on elasticated trousers or leggings, and practice doing up zips or buckles on your child’s coat at home first.
I used to put a little soft toy in my daughters’ pockets which we would choose together. It became our ritual every new school year for my daughters to slip their hand into their pocket friend for some comfort, to remind them of home.
Link up with another child if you know they will be at the same nursery or school. Even if they are not good buddies a familiar face is always welcoming.
As a teacher I know how many items go missing! We always amass a big pile of unnamed items that are never returned to their owners!
If your child is out playing in the playground and the sun comes out – the sweaters will come off and be left in the playground.
There are so many different types of name tags, sew in (personally I don’t have the time!), iron-on, stamp types or just keep a permanent marker pen handy to write your child’s name on the label.
First experience books
These types of stories can help children to understand what starting nursery or school can feel like. Learning about new routines and that everyone goes through this experience can be reassuring.
Role playing around starting nursery or school can really help children to identify their feelings around this transition. For example, using their dolls or teddies to play ‘school’. I made uniforms for my daughters’ teddies and we used to take the dolls’ register – she got a lot of enjoyment from this.
Let your child help choose their new lunch box and water bottle
Involve your child in what they would like to have to eat and prepare some together at home and once they start in their new school
Pop a note in their lunchbox – a big heart ❤️ or a message to your child – ‘Enjoy your lunch, love Mama and Papa ❤️’
Acknowledge your child’s worries and feelings and be positive:
‘I understand you feel worried to leave me, let’s think up ways to help.’
‘I’m looking forward to hearing about your day when I collect you. We can have a hot chocolate together and talk about it.’
Paula is a Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader who has run the much loved Woodentots Montessori nurseries in North London for over 30 years. Recently recognised as Montessorian of the Year, Paula’s schools offer a unique and rich mix of Montessori, Steiner and Forest School, with child-led creativity at their core.
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