Parents often ask us how they can help their children prepare for the move from home to Nursery. Starting Nursery is certainly a big step for children, and their parents. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in your child’s development and is a critical period in any child’s growth, laying the foundations for later school success.
Soon he or she will be making friends, developing new skills, gaining confidence and building independence. In the run up to the big day, a mixture of excitement and apprehension is common – for both child and parent! There are ways, however, that you can smooth the process and help your child make a happy and confident start. Here is our advice on helping your child prepare for Nursery
You are already doing it!
Whether you know it or not, the chances are you’re already doing many things to prepare your child for life in Nursery. Simply reading, playing, and exploring together familiarises your child with the kinds of things that make up life in a good Nursery. There are plenty of fun family activities you can do – exploring, going for nature walks, working on puzzles and board games, or visiting the library – which will then be comfortingly familiar when encountered in Nursery. Try to offer your child a mixture of active, playful experiences and quieter, more focused activities.
Your child will enjoy Nursery far more if they can interact with others easily. Encourage them to follow simple instructions and routines, initiate and respond to conversations, and ask for help. When you are outside the family unit, resist the temptation to do all their talking for them. Instead, encourage them to speak up for themselves. Ask them to describe what they’re doing, or what they’d like to do, and listen to what they say!
Basic self-care skills are important, such as hand washing, nose wiping, attempting to dress and undress themselves, and potty training so they can use the toilet with growing confidence. Build independence by encouraging them to feed themselves, use cutlery, play independently and choose their own activities. The adults in the Nursery setting will of course help them with these activities, but the more you do at home, the easier your child will find it to manage when they are away from you.
Books are magic!
Read with your child as often as you can so that they can listen to books all the way through and enjoy sharing them with adults. Young children love the familiarity of stories and nursery rhymes read over and over again. Reading with children is beneficial in multiple ways; it improves concentration, teaches children about the world around them, improves vocabulary and language skills, develops their imagination and helps develop empathy. As far as your child is concerned, however, reading is fun!
Practice makes perfect
Developing fine and gross motor skills comes with practice and there are any number of opportunities for this at home. Colouring, working with play dough, and stringing beads together all help build fine motor skills. Most children love to express their inner artist with pencils, pens, paint, or chalk, each of which requires co-ordination of small movements. Completing simple jigsaw puzzles is another favourite activity where the repetition of placing pieces improves fine motor skills.
When it comes to gross motor skills, running, jumping, climbing, throwing and kicking a ball are all important, and having confidence in these areas will enable them to really enjoy Nursery.
Do as you would be done by
It may sound obvious, but thoughtfulness and good manners will really help as your child settles in to a new social group. Encourage pleases and thank yous, to their peers as well as the adults around them. The ability to share toys can take a while to learn, especially for oldest children, but it will make their interactions much easier.
Prepare your child for the first day at Nursery
In the time running up to the first day at Nursery, there are practical steps you can take to prepare your child. Talk about Nursery and the fun they will have there. Make buying their uniform an exciting event and let them get used to wearing it at home before they start Nursery. Leave your child with non-family members for periods of time, if they have not experienced that before. Help them separate from you without anxiety by repeating the same words and routine each time you leave them. Tell them when you will be back to collect them.
The first day
For the first few days when you are dropping your child off, is best to make a swift exit. Kiss them goodbye and explain you will be back later to collect them. Although this may be hard, it is definitely the best approach in the long run and will speed up the settling process. If you stay when they make a fuss they will remember that and continue to become upset at future drop offs.
At this age, learning should be fun. You want your child to feel happy and excited about taking that next step, and not anxious or stressed. Nursery is a time of tremendous growth. With just a little preparation, you can make this transition a confidence-building experience for both you and your child.