What your child thinks about nursery

When you understand how your little one’s really feeling in the run-up to his first day at nursery or pre-school, it’ll stop you from worrying

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Your child will get to play with new toys and make new friends

“I’m so excited”

Stomach doing little flips at the thought of being apart, even for the morning? We’re talking about you, not your little one! But you probably think she’s feeling the same way, right? Actually, the only reason she will is because she’s copying you.

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“Nerves are really unlikely for your toddler,” says our child psychologist Richard Woolfson. “Nursery is a hugely exciting place to a little one. You’ll have visited before, together, so it’s not an unknown place to her. She’ll know that there are toys and other children there.”

“This is familiar”

“Groundwork is crucial,” says Richard. “The visit is when your child should see and meet the carers at the nursery, so on the big day these aren’t people she’s never seen before. It also gives her the chance to understand that someone else will be there, and that she’s not being left alone without a grown-up she trusts.”

“Mum likes it so I will”

When you do that visit (and on the first day), it’s up to you to be upbeat and make it look fun, Richard adds. “Be confident, talk to people,” he says. “Save your worries and fears for when your child isn’t within earshot.” And as your child gets the idea of this new, exciting place, build on that. “If you’re constantly saying things like ‘don’t worry’ and ‘it’ll be OK’, that negativity will filter down to your tot.”

“New toys? It’s not Christmas…”

“You’re worried about how your child will cope, but she’ll probably be fine as long as there’s a good dose of happy vibes behind her – from you. If the parent’s positive, the child’s more likely to be positive,” says Richard. As far as she’s concerned there’s a room full of new things to play with, and lots of people to share them with. It’s like a big party, and she’s the newest guest.

“Mum? Was she here…?”

“Don’t draw out your goodbyes – make it short and sweet, not melodramatic,” says Richard. If she’s tearful, you need to be strong and leave anyway. “She will survive!” he reassures. “The crying will stop when you’ve gone as those new toys and friends start to become more and more appealing. Tears aren’t a sign of poor adjustment – your child just needs a small amount of time.”

“I’m learning so much”

“Nursery’s a big stage in your child gaining independence. The average mum, even with the best will in the world, would find it difficult to put on the level of entertainment, education and learning that nurseries can – that’s why we send our children to them, as well as to build social skills,” Richard explains. “Staff are trained to integrate new children, your child won’t have to make friends and do things all by herself. She’ll be led to tables to share with other children, given tasks and helped with games.”

“I don’t mind if you have time out”

Now you might not like this one, but it’s rare that a nursery carer will tell a mum that a child’s missed her. Sorry! But it’s just such an exciting world for your little one. “This is a chance for you as a mum to have some time out,” Richard adds. “Enjoy that time, don’t sit at home pining. That way you’ll feel more positive about yourself, too.”

“I’m making new mates”

Some children keep to themselves more, mixing in after a few weeks, whereas some will launch into a social charm offensive. Each child’s different, so be patient, Richard adds. “They won’t become best buddies with another child overnight – and we’re not talking about making friends for life here, rather developing new little relationships with other children.”

“I’m my own person!”

Rather than losing touch with your tot, you’ll probably discover new things about her. “This is the time for you to find out more about your little one – her personality, her likes and dislikes as she explores a new level of freedom,” explains Richard. “Enjoy the experience. Don’t pre-judge how the day’s gone – be all ears about it.”

“I’m OK with being average”

“You want everyone to think your child’s as wonderful as you do – I’m the same as a granddad!” says Richard. “But at nursery your child might not be the cleverest, the best at something, or get on with everyone. If you’re worried, speak to staff, keep a dialogue going, but don’t overwork it or be a nuisance – try to categorise your questions or concerns and talk about the most important or recurring ones.”

“I’ve missed you, (but can I go back tomorrow?)”

It’s when you pick her up at the end of the morning or day that you can go all-out on the cuddles, Richard adds. “And remember to ask about her day, not launch into a commentary on Mummy’s. How were the toys, did she have fun, what did she do, eat, see or hear?” Knowing her feedback matters to you will round things off perfectly and set her up nicely with positive vibes for the next day.

Steps to enjoying the first day on your own

  •  Have lunch with mates. Or book a little beauty treatment – anything that puts a note in the diary to give you some ‘me time’.
  • Get chatting. Rather than sitting texting quietly, pick up the phone and have a good long chat to friends or family.
  • Tackle a recipe. And make sure your other half comes home from work early so you can all have dinner and finish this exciting new day together.
  • Have a sort out. This time’s all about new beginnings, so some toy arranging (along with your wardrobe) will feel like a positive thing to do right now.
  • Get active. That new gym class is all yours while your tot’s at nursery. Who knows? You might meet a new friend, too.

Mums’ stories

“You have to remind yourself why they’re going to nursery – independence from you as the constant carer, social skills and to give you time to work.”

Laura Jackson-Woods, mum to Scarlett, 2, and Heidi, 11 months, via Twitter@laurabizymummy

“My daughter ran in full of excitement and didn’t even look backwards to see where I was. So I was fine because I knew she was.”

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Denise, mum to Olivia, 18 months,via Twitter @justdresses

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