Help your toddler beat nursery blues

Starting nursery is unsettling for you both but there's plenty you can do to help your child relax….

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  • Have a nosey around

    It can be scary for your little one to suddenly find herself in a brand new place full of strange faces. That’s why visiting your nursery a couple of times before her first day is so important. “Visits – or the settling-in period – are a crucial part of starting at nursery,” explains Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association.

    “It helps your tot get to know the nursery, staff and children, and they also get to know her, " says Purnima. Contact the nursery a few weeks before your child is due to start to arrange a time to go in together and have a tour of the place

  • Walk on by

    If your nursery is in your local area, find out when it has breaktime, then when you and your little one are next off to the park, re-route yourself past its playground. It’s a great way to show your toddler how much fun she’ll be having when she starts.

  • Staff briefings

    When you go in for visits, your nursery will collect basic information about your child. “Staff will actively encourage you to share her likes and dislikes with the keyworker she’ll be assigned to who’ll monitor her progress,” explains Purnima. “This person will help record her development, so make time to talk to them.

    She adds, "Let them know if there are any issues at home that might affect your child’s behaviour (one that comes up quite often is the arrival of a new baby) and the keyworker, in turn, can keep you updated about how she’s progressing.”

  • Try it on

    Get your tot used to her belongings so she’s reassured about what’s hers and what she’s allowed to use. Get her to choose a bag for nursery so she has some control over what’s happening and will remember what it looks like. In the week before nursery starts, have a dry run with clothes, bags and pens so when she gets them out on the big day, she knows what’s what and isn’t fazed.

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  • Talk her through

    Starting nursery is a big step and preparation at home is vital for you both. “Talk about what happens at nursery and what sort of activities she’ll be doing, making it all sound exciting, adventurous and most importantly, very natural,” advises Katy Hayden, a childcare expert at Tinies

    “Any new situation can be scary for a young child, so explaining what each activity might entail, such as story time, snack time and quiet time, will help her remember what she’s expected to do 
once she’s at nursery,” says Katy.

  • Read all about it

    There are a whole host of books about starting school that will help your tot realise it’s great fun. Try Topsy and Tim Sticker Storybook: Start School. Fun stickers guide readers through their first day, including making new friends and lunchtime.

  • Keep grinning

    No matter how upset you’re feeling about your child flying the nest, keep it to yourself and smile, smile, smile. “Any fears and worries that you have must be put aside until you’re on your own,” explains Katy. “Children are very good at sensing what’s going on, so will be concerned if they see you upset.”

  • No turning back

    Reassurance is a must when you drop your tot off so explain where you’re going. For example, ‘I’m popping home but will be back after you’ve had fun here’. “Tell her that you love her and will miss her, but don’t overdo it as again, any negative emotion will rub off,” advises Katy.

    She adds, “Let the nursery staff help. We all say ‘She’ll be fine when you go’ but I can honestly say it really is true.” Each time you run back makes it harder for you both, so try and be reassuring and confident that she’ll be safe and having lots of fun in no time.

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  • Dressing for the occasion

    “Take advice from the nursery on what she’ll need to wear, as her clothing might need to change depending on any activities planned,” explains Purnima. “It will also depend on her age. If she’s only just out of nappies then put her in something she can be changed out of easily.”

    Remember to pack a spare set of clothes in case she has any little accidents, while Velcro-fastening shoes will help make her feel independent as she won’t have to ask for help tying her laces.

  • (Knee) high society

    Make friends with other mums and she’ll soon have party invites and playdates coming out of her ears. “Friendships are so important to children,” explains Katy.

    Meeting outside with other parents and their toddlers is vital to help her become familiar with her fellow classmates. So chat at the gates, throw a gathering in the park to get to know everyone.

  • Don’t forget the blankie

    “If your child has a favourite toy or blankie that she wants to take to nursery with her to help her settle in, it doesn’t hurt at first,” reassures Purnima. “Lots of parents even bring along a child’s special cup to make nursery feel like a home from home.”