Currently, many early years settings will be helping their oldest children prepare for their upcoming transition to school. While focussed on those all-important preparation activities – such as visits to the new setting, reading books about starting school and playing making friends games – it’s easy to forget about providing equally important opportunities for children to take away special mementos of their time with you, and to say a proper farewell.
For many children, the very first relationship made with an adult outside of their immediate family is the one formed with their key worker. Their first experience of their parents trusting another adult to care for them may also have occurred at the setting. Many children won’t remember a time when coming along wasn’t part of their life, and some children may have been attending since they were just a few weeks old. So there’s no doubt that saying goodbye to well-loved staff and familiar routines can be as much of an emotional upheaval as the prospect of adapting to the new destination. Children may also have very real emotional attachments to friends who aren’t moving on with them, to particular toys that belong to the setting (a favourite teddy perhaps), or a setting’s pet.
A good way to ease the journey is to let families know that you’d love them to visit soon after starting school, so the child can show you how smart they look in their new school uniform. ‘Goodbye’ then becomes the more comforting ‘see you soon.’ It also gives the child a real sense of pride in the transition they’ve made when visiting day rolls around.
You could also create a leavers’ scrapbook, featuring photos, children’s artwork, postcards from memorable trips out and so on. Children will enjoy talking about the memories the items provoke, and this can inspire the writing of fitting captions. The scrapbook can be shared at storytime, and by scanning the pages, you can create a digital version for each child to keep. Remember too that any video clips, pictures or audio clips in which a child features also make fantastic mementoes that can be emailed to parents without incurring expense. (Ensure you have permission to share these from the parents of all children who feature).
For a lovely memento of the friendships children have made at the setting, why not make friendship wreaths for children to take home? Simply have each child make a handprint and cut them all out. Now have children stick them, overlapping, onto a cardboard ring, to create a garland. Similarly, you may like to make a friendship tree for the setting, with each child’s handprint representing a leaf.
Leavers’ parties are also a great idea – there will be photo opportunities of course, and meeting may inspire parents to arrange their own play dates so that children can stay in touch. (Remember that parents may also be in need of support as their child takes a big step into the wider world.) And why not use the event to present children with their files of work and assessments you have for them to takeaway with them, and make that “au revoir” a real moment of pride.
Until next month,