Supporting Children and Parents with Transitions

Supporting Children and Parents with Transitions 3348 2839 Nursery Story

Transitions in the Early Years

Changes can be daunting but are unavoidable for many babies and children. Whether a nursery setting is an entirely new experience to the child or they’re moving to a new provider, the first few weeks in a new nursery can be a challenging time. Parents and families can also find it stressful. But with careful planning and communication, there are many ways in which you can support babies and their families when starting nursery. 

Children who attend an Early Years setting may experience more changes than at any other stage of their education:

  • They start nursery, daycare or preschool for the first time.
  • They’re dropped off and picked up.
  • They experience various activities throughout the day.
  • They progress from one room to another.

Research suggests that transitions can have a massive impact on children’s development and emotional well-being. Therefore, how these first transitions are handled could significantly impact the child’s capacity to cope with change in the short and long term.

Settling in

Helping a child to settle into nursery is a gradual process rather than a matter of ticking boxes. So it’s also vital that parents or carers are confident and happy to help support the child during the transition and, secondly, so that the child doesn’t pick up on any anxieties they may have.

Ideally, your first meeting with the child should be in their home, so you can get to know them and understand their routine in their own environment. Then, plan some short sessions at the nursery, with and without their parent or carer, to help a child settle in gently. Give the family a photo of the child’s key worker to show when talking about going to nursery. 

While settling in, children sometimes get distressed when a parent leaves. So it can be helpful to establish a “goodbye routine”, perhaps using a favourite toy. Ensure the child knows where everything is – the toilets, where their favourite activities and toys are, the doors to the play area, where to hang up their coats and so on. Getting to know their new surroundings will help to reduce any anxiety and make going to the nursery more enjoyable.

What does the EYFS say about transitions?

An Early Years practitioner can play a crucial role in helping children and families cope with changes. For example, building a secure attachment with a nursery teacher or other key person helps support a child who may find transitions, such as separating from their caregiver challenging. And if there’s a change of circumstances in the child’s family, such as moving house or the arrival of a new baby, maintaining a familiar routine with a caring and attentive key person can help reduce anxiety. 

The journey: from home to nursery or childminder

Transitions are times of excitement and opportunities but are also full of uncertainty and expectations. Transitions should be viewed as an ongoing journey rather than a destination and Early Years practitioners are vital in preparing for transitions, supporting children during uncertainties and being there after the event as a reassuring presence. Smooth transitions happen when teachers plan carefully to meet the child’s individual needs and engage with families to involve them in the process. While change is often unavoidable, managing transitions sensitively can help to reduce any stress and anxiety.

Supporting room moves within the nursery

When planning a move to a new room, the child’s key person should first visit the child and get to know them in their current room. Then plan some short visits to the new room supported by the key person, with activities that the child enjoys. Introduce the child to the other children in the room and arrange some one to one and group activities.

Building solid parental relationships towards a positive transition

Engaging with parents and communicating clearly and effectively with them can help and support a positive transition. Let families know about settling in procedures and encourage them to complete an “All About Me” transition form with any information about their child’s needs that they feel would be helpful. 

Enabling environments and develop a sense of security following a transition

The new Development Matters and Birth 2 5 Matters guidance documents emphasise the importance of an enabling environment, especially during and after a transition. For example, in an Early Years setting, there should be accessible zones or areas that offer various opportunities for play and experiences that reflect the child’s age and developmental stage, helping them develop a sense of security and belonging and cope with changes. 

Children learn in different ways and at different rates

The Development Matters and Birth 2 5 Matters “Unique Child” guidance tell us that children mature differently and at different rates, and they will each have different responses to change. So when planning support during transition, it must be tailored to the child’s holistic needs and developmental stage. 

Child-centred, play-based approaches are fundamental to successful learning in the early years and are an effective way to support children in coping with changes. Early Years practitioners provide a secure, familiar environment with a range of activities and play opportunities. 

Transitioning to primary school and beyond

Leaving an Early Years setting to enter Reception is a significant change, but a smooth transition will help children settle in quickly and set them on the path to successful learning. Teachers can visit the child in their early years setting seeing them in an environment that they feel secure and comfortable in and gather information about a child’s needs. They can also make home visits to get to know their family, before visiting the new school for a play session during the summer term so children can meet their teachers, become familiar with their new environment and make new friends. 

How to support children who find change difficult?

Some children find transitions more challenging than others, and they may need additional support. Whether moving to a different room or changing to a different activity, give them plenty of warning that a change is about to happen. Visual clues such as a transitional object or storyboard can help with communication.

Why is a Key Person and Attachment so important in transitions?

Stability is vital in a child’s early years, and research emphasises the importance of a key person and attachment in a child’s development. Attachment is the emotional bond that a child forms with someone looking after them, whether with a parent or carer or an Early Years practitioner. Children with strong attachments get on better with others and make friends more easily. They are also more confident in learning and exploring new activities.

Children thrive in secure and loving relationships. So a key person who gets to know the child well understands their needs, likes and dislikes can support them more effectively. Having a key person who is always responsible for the same small group of children ensures that they feel cared for, happy and settled at nursery. 

How using Nursery Story can support Early Years transitions

Communication is the key to a successful transition. With Nursery Story as your nursery management software, you have quick and effective communication between Early Years practitioners and parents. Parent engagement is a priority: good communication with parents creates a solid partnership, and extra input from parents will enable you to support children throughout a child’s learning and development journey.

Nursery Story benefits at a glance:

  • Instantly message families to reassure them quickly during the transition process
  • Share observations of nursery experiences and activities so parents can see what children are learning.
  • Share next steps and ideas for learning at home to engage parents and work collaboratively to ensure smooth transitions for all children.

Learn more!

If you’d like to find out more about transitions and parent engagement, view the Nursery Story Resource Centre. Here, you’ll find a collection of video guides, e-books, articles and more to support the development of your Early Years setting.

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