Tips for Parents Settling a Child Into Nursery UK
As with all things parenting, when you apply for nursery space, it’s a time of mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s great for your child to have new experiences, stimulation and friends – on the other, putting your baby in nursery comes with the realisation that they are growing up <sniff>. A child coming of preschool age, is a major milestone in any parent’s life, particularly when you enrol in baby childcare.
If you’re starting to think about baby childcare but worried about child starting nursery, you’re not alone. Thousands of parents put their babies and toddlers into childcare in the UK, with over 72,000 providers offering 1.7 million Osted registered childcare establishments in England.
Read on to find out more about starting your baby in nursery, preschool learning and nursery settling in, to ensure you’re prepared and ready for settling your child into preschool successfully.
When should I apply to put my baby in nursery or preschool?
First of all, let’s clear up the age-old question, what’s the difference between nursery and preschool? In essence the childcare is the same, the difference is that preschool tends to be attached to a primary school and occasionally may require a uniform. While a nursery is an independent private day care – both welcome babies and children of preschool age and younger.
It’s normal for parents to think about childcare options from as early as pregnancy. The short answer for those wondering when to apply for nursery in 2021– is as soon as you’re ready. Every baby creche, preschool, and nursery will have a waiting list – some longer than others. It’s not unheard of for parents to have a 12-month waiting list, especially at preschool age, so the sooner you can put your name down the better. Some preschool learning facilities will ask for a deposit, others do not, so it’s worth ‘shopping around’.
When in doubt, ask friends for recommendations and look at Ofsted nurseries which will give you a better idea of what’s right for your child. It is also wise to take a look around a few baby childcare settings in your area to see what’s right for you.
Best age to start nursery school UK?
There is no set age when a child should enrol into childcare, as this will be specific to every family’s needs. Working parents may enrol their baby in nursery from when they return from paternity leave, for others it will be three or four years old. Some nurseries and preschools will care for children as young as three-months, so it’s worth asking around.
In the UK, the government funds nursery places for kids aged between 3 and 4 years old. For this you will need a gov childcare account in order to redeem your 30 hours free childcare. The childcare grant payment service is widely used and accepted by a large number of nurseries and preschools, and some (but not all) individual childminders too.
It is perfectly normal to feel nervous about 3 year old starting preschool, and some of our tips further below might help. Also take comfort knowing that you’re not alone.
Whether your starting preschool at 2 or starting preschool at 3, you’re in good company. This week, Royal fans will have noticed that three-year old Prince Louis, the youngest of Prince William and Kate’s three children, started nursery. Sitting on his red Frog bike, little Louis was beaming in the photos taken at Kensington Palace, before his first day at Willcock Nursery near to the royal residence in Kensington.
What is a nursery settling in period?
A frequently asked question is ‘what’s a nursery settling in period and do you pay for nursery settling in sessions? This is an important prelude to starting nursery to help introduce your child to their new environment. Your childcare provider will decide how many nursery settling in days you need. It could be and usually you won’t have to pay for these, although do check as each provider is different.
The first sessions usually lasts about an hour and the parent stays with child. Nursery settling in Covid may have some slightly different protocols, so this is worth re-checking.
The remaining sessions tend to get longer and without parents.
Getting used to new schedules
Your childcare provider will have a host of preschool activities that stimulate and entertain your child throughout the day. They will also have a sleeping and eating schedule, which children easily get accustomed to. You might find they need to go to bed earlier, or eat at different times to reflect their new day.
It’s always good to be armed with after nursery snacks for your little one. A bar of Soreen, some sliced apples, or some raisins are always popular for the journey home. You might find mealtimes come earlier with a baby in childcare. It’s always worth investing in fun plates for your child, and looking at ways to make mealtimes enjoyable, as preschool age tends to coincide with fussy eating behaviours. If you have fussy eater toddler or picky eater pre-schooler, then learn more in our picky eater guide.
How to transition from home to preschool - six tips
If you’re one of the many parents sending your little one off to daytime childcare for the first time, it’s an emotional and anxious time. If you are worried about child starting nursery, we’ve put together six helpful tips, as part of our starting nursery checklist. These should to help ease the process during the nursery settling in period.
1. Nursery settling in days
We’ve covered what happens in a nursery settling in session for the child, but what about you? As a parent this can be an anxious time, so it’s wise to have something planned to occupy you during drop offs, especially if you think you might be tearful. It might be going to the gym, reading a book, or just having a coffee in the café next door. Be kind to yourself and have something that will occupy you, even a drink with a friend will make you feel a lot better about things.
2. Brief the team
Whether your little darling can’t be separated from their favourite teddy, or they have a particular food preference, it’s always helpful to give the nursery team a head-start when you start baby childcare. This will help to ensure your child has as much familiarity as possible around them, which can help with you’re making the transition to preschool.
3. Stay smiling
During nursery settling in periods, you might feel anxious or worried and there may well be tears on both sides. However, talk to your child about their nursery in a positive way and try to keep smiling at drop offs, so they see it as a positive happy moment.
4. Feeding hungry bears
Some kids don’t eat much at nursery until they feel settled, while others will eat whatever is on their kid’s bowl in front of them. Many parents report changing eating behaviours around nursery settling in. As such, it’s always handy to have a few go-to snacks and meals ready for ever-changing appetites. Quick and easy pasta dishes, as well as healthy kids snacks such as hummus and carrot are worth stocking up on.
(Above, the Hot Wheels Car plate)
You might find that your child makes friendships with other kids. A nice way of getting to know other parents, as well as keeping your child excited about nursery, is to host a play date for a friend, obviously within social distancing and Covid-safe restrictions.
6. Prepare them with books
And finally, there’s some great preschool age books worth stocking up on – not just for preschool learning, but also for introducing them to their new environment. These include; The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Kissing Hand, Maisy goes to the Library, Lllama Llama Misses Ma and The Night Before Preschool.
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