Helping your little ones settle in



Last month, we looked at how practitioners can prepare children for the big transition from the early years setting to the school classroom.  With that accomplished, settings will now be focussing on how to help their new cohort of children settle into their own busy early years environments.

Preparing to receive a new child

Here are some helpful guidelines for practitioners preparing to receive a new child:

  • Ensure all registration information has been received before the child attends, so that everyone is prepared to meet the child’s needs.
  • Have a key worker allocated to the child.
  • If possible, allow adjustment to the new environment to occur slowly through a combination of visits with parents/carers and one or more short stays alone before the child attends for a longer period.
  • Tell children and adults that the new child is coming and encourage them to make the child welcome. Tell them the child’s preferred name – Nicholas may prefer to be called Nick, for example.
  • Give the child a warm welcome – the key worker should be available to receive them.
  • Always encourage children and parents/carers to say goodbye to one another. Provide honest reassurance – never fib about when a child will be reunited with their family. If they won’t be going home until lunch time or the end of the day, don’t promise that a parent will be back in five minutes! But do let the child know there’s lots of fun to be had in the meantime.
  • If comfort objects are brought from home, ensure the child has easy access to them.
  • Take the child to hang up their outside clothes and to store their personal belongings. If possible, provide children with their own pegs, drawers and/or lockers. Younger children can have a picture/word label to help them recognise their own space.
  • Show the child around so that the environment becomes familiar. Help them to understand routines and/or timetables.
  • Provide interesting activities, appropriate to the child’s age, needs and abilities. In the case of younger children, it is helpful to include an activity they specifically enjoy – building with bricks, for example. The provision of imaginative/creative activities can encourage children to express their feelings.
  • Provide positive images of people. Reminders of the child’s home culture should also be promoted.
  • Remain supportive while allowing the child time to adjust to their new situation. Make sure they know who they can go to if they need help. (Even if there is a key worker designated, children should know who to go to if the key worker is not available).
  • Advise families that children may experience unsettled feelings while they adjust to the transition. Sometimes this includes temporary regressive behaviour (when children go back to an earlier stage of development for comfort, for example a three-year-old may want to be fed).
  • Provide ways to involve families in the child’s experience, to assist the transition from the setting to home. Brief daily reports or home-to-setting diaries are helpful. You can read more about establishing good relationships with parents and carers in the blog archive (October 2013).

Next time, we’ll look at effective long term planning for the year ahead.

Until then, Happy New School Year!