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How to Settle 2 Year Olds into a Nursery

A Reflection by Catherine Claridge, an Experienced, Early Years Practitioner from Beechwood Park School.

All quality nurseries will understand that children are incredibly special and uniquely precious to their parents and that it can be hard to leave their child in someone else’s care. Therefore, it is important for Early Years teachers to work closely with parents to create a trusting partnership which will help support the child. It is also important for the child to ‘see’ this relationship between their parent and their teacher, in order for them to trust and feel secure.

First and foremost, the child needs to build a bond with their Key Person with whom they will feel safe and cared for. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships. The child also needs to be in an ‘enabling environment’ in a nursery, where they are supported by adults who listen to their individual needs and help them learn and grow at their own pace. Nurseries will help children to develop in the three Prime Areas of Learning first, to build their learning foundations;

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development;
  • Physical Development; and
  • Communication and Language.

Once they are developing in these three Prime Areas, they will then be able to start developing in other areas of learning:

  • Literacy;
  • Maths;
  • Understanding of the World; and
  • Expressive Arts and Design.

At all childcare settings, each child will have an allocated Key Person who will care, comfort, and teach them throughout the year. The Key Person will also track the child’s progress and carry out a 2-Year-Old Check the term the child has turned 2. This is a statutory assessment which is carried out to flag up any early concerns. At Woodlands, (Beechwood Park’s Nursery), children soon become familiar with their Key Person by participating in daily small group times. During these sessions, each teacher takes their group of children to do an activity around the children’s interest where they can get to know one another more deeply. Developing friendships between the children within these small groups is typical and lovely to observe.

At Woodlands, before a child starts, parents are given a form called ‘All About Me’ to fill in about their child. This is so that we are informed of anything important we need to know and can prepare for each child starting with us before they step through the door.

A great ‘tip’ to help a child settle at their new nursery is by familiarising themselves with the physical layout and the people at their new setting. At Woodlands, we create and hand out placemats for each new child, which include pictures of the classroom, garden, toilets, pegs and the teachers. We give these to the children to take home to have on their kitchen tables for a couple of weeks before they start with us. Parents report that these placemats really help their children to feel like they know the Nursery a little before they even start.

Another way of helping children settle into their new nursery is to allow them to bring in a comfort toy, (also known as a Transitional Object in teacher-speak!) This offers the child a tangible link to home. From my experience, it is best for the parent to leave as soon as they have dropped off their child if the child becomes upset at the thought of being without their Mum or Dad. This is to prevent the anticipation of the child thinking “is my mum/dad going to stay?” At Woodlands our motto is “the quicker you drop off, the better.” This is so the teacher can settle the child as soon as possible, into a safe, nurturing environment.

Effective, regular and respectful communication between parents, carers and the nursery teachers is vital to supporting both the settling in process and then the continuation of the child’s journey in a nursery. At Woodlands, the teachers are available to the parents via email, during drop off or pick up times, through our online communication tool called Tapestry as well as during our Parents’ Consultation Evenings.

When it comes to toilet training, the Early Years Practitioners should be more than happy to work together with parents to help the child transition from nappies to pants. Here are some signs to look for that indicate a child may be ready to start toilet training:

  • Drier nappies during the day
  • Showing an interest in the potty or toilet
  • Wearing pull up nappies and trying to use the toilet or potty

Once a child is in the routine of attending a nursery, and are showing signs of starting to toilet train, I would advise to start this process during the holiday periods when the family has more time to spend at home to encourage and support the child to use the potty or toilet. Once the decision is made, it is best for the parent to stick with their plan and follow through. This is because it can be confusing for the child if they are switching from nappies to pants during the day. The key to this transition is consistency. The length of time it takes a child to potty train varies from child to child. At Woodlands, we work with each child and their parents to ensure we work in partnership. There will of course be some ‘accidents’ here and there, especially at the beginning. If the child is showing signs that they are not ready, it is better to revert back to nappies and start when the child is ready, as there is no point putting parents and the child through unnecessary stress. Children thrive on praise during this transition which can encourage them to persevere.

When it comes to ‘learning’, what better way to help our young children develop than by ‘learning through play’? This means the children learn so much whilst playing, without realising they are learning. This may be learning new words, turn-taking, sharing, negotiating, creating friendships and so much more! At Woodlands Nursery, the teachers strive to create fun, interesting, unique, engaging activities throughout the day in which the children participate. My colleagues and I strive to go ‘in the moment’, with our young children, listening to their ideas and observing their interests and passions, which in turn lead us into our ‘next’ activities. By organising our learning environment in this way, we see that our children are more inclined to excitedly and whole-heartedly participate in the experiences and activities on offer.

Finally, there is nothing better for a parent to see their child beaming from ear to ear when collecting them from nursery. Children may not always ‘tell’ their parents what they have done during their nursery day but often they will ‘show’ what they have learnt in other ways. For example, during role play at home with their toys or with their parents – something to watch out for!

Catherine Claridge