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Early years transitions

When your child starts going to a new early years setting, for example, a childminder or nursery school, this is known as transition. During transition children might behave differently, and children and parents might have different emotions.

It’s important that early years professionals (for example, the nursery school teacher or key person) manage the transition period carefully and that parents prepare for it too. The best transitions happen when they are organised around the needs of the child and support is offered for continued learning at home. Good transitions will help a child adapt and handle change well. This is a valuable life skill for when they get older.

How much support do children need during transition?

Some children don’t need much support when going through change and take it in their stride. Other children might need a lot more support. Both responses are completely normal and nothing to worry about. If your child does need support it is important they receive it, so they thrive in their new environment.

If your child is starting at a preschool, a childminder or a nursery, the early years setting should make you feel involved. You can then help settle your child into their new situation. 

What should a parent look for?

Some things to look out for:

  • The new setting makes you feel welcome
  • You can share important information about your child, for example, any dietary needs, allergies, likes or dislikes, interests, cultural requirements and anxieties
  • The setting asks your views on your child's learning and development
  • The setting asks whether there is anything you think your child needs to develop
  • You are encouraged to ask questions
  • You are given information about what happens in the setting
  • The setting understands the needs, including emotional needs, and interests of your child and makes sure it provides for them
  • You are encouraged to visit and take part in settling in sessions
  • You will have the chance to get to know your child’s key person over time

The setting should make sure that they are ready to meet your child’s physical, emotional, social and learning needs.

What might happen as part of the settling in process

  • Your child might be able to bring a favourite toy or book from home to help them feel more secure
  • The setting may visit you at home, to get to know your child in a place where they feel safe
  • In a nursery or preschool, you will have a named key person. They will try to match the routines in the setting with the routines you have at home

Top tips for parent carers to help your child during transition

  • Talk about upcoming changes regularly and positively with your child
  • Try to keep to daily routines
  • Make sure you say goodbye when leaving your child in the setting and reassure them that you will be coming back at the end of the session
  • Show them that you are pleased to see them when you return
  • Be aware that your child might be anxious and more demanding, needing more affection and reassurance

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