There are many skills that children may find helpful to practice before starting nursery. A big one is self help skills.
Of course they should always be age and stage appropriate and it is important to remember that children develop at different rates, but some things they could focus on are;
- Social Skills
- Self help skills
- Time apart
- Giving simple tasks to do
Has your child been able to play with others before? Not all children are used to spending time with other children of a similar age. Some ways that they can experience this are by attending toddler groups or trips to a park or play centre. Do you have a friend, with a similar aged child, that you can arrange a playdate with? This has, of course, been extremely difficult with covid social restrictions and perhaps why some nurseries, like Apples & Pears , have seen an increase in children attending, merely for the reason that parents are concerned at their lack of social interaction, and nurseries are allowed to continue with this, within their risk assessed covid secure environments. Some social skills will help your child to fit in and develop friendships with others during their time at nursery. For example can they share toys and resources? Are they able to take turns? Are they happy to play alongside others and or will they let others join in with their play? These are all useful skills to prepare your child for nursery. They may even know someone who attends the nursery already. When social restrictions are relaxed, it may be nice to meet up beforehand so your child can see a familiar face when they are there.
Can your child express their needs verbally? Do they know how to ask if they want or need something? It can be a useful tool for your child if they are able to express themselves using language. You could model some social phrases such as “my turn please” “your turn now” or “shall we do this together” to help them to pick them up. Depending on the age of your child you could encourage the use of one or two word phrases or simple sentences and questions. When talking about the nursery give your child plenty of time to tell you about it and actively listen and match their enthusiasm with your response.
Self help skills
As with most of the ways to prepare your child, this should also be age and stage appropriate. Some skills that you could encourage are letting your child practice dressing and undressing. Can they take their coat off, or put it on; do the fastenings such as a zip? Can they feed themselves with a spoon, knife and fork? Drink from a cup without spilling? When toileting can they use a potty or toilet, pull up their trousers? These are all things you can practice to help them to develop independence in their self care.
Some children starting nursery may never have been away from their primary carer before, this can make it a bit of a shock when the time comes to be separated and can cause more distress. When Covid rules permit, It may be helpful to have short periods of time apart where possible, this could be as simple as being left with grandparents, while you nip to the shops or letting a relative or friend care for your child at your home. Children will usually be ok with this, if you can show that you will return when you say you will.
Giving simple tasks to do
During the nursery day there will be many times where children will be asked to help with different tasks, from handing out plates at mealtimes, to tidying away toys. This can be easier for them to understand if they are encouraged to help with simple tasks at home too. Children as young as one can help to put an object into a container making tidying up a great place to start. A slightly older child may be able to go and get the correct container before filling it with the toys.
A link to more information about the benefits of children helping with chores and a useful list of chores that children can help with at each age. It was written by Child and Adolescent psychologist Robert Myers PhD.
Useful resources to introduce your child to nursery
There are many resources available to introduce your child to the idea of starting nursery, such as books or even children’s television programmes that contain some of their favourite characters. A few examples are;
- Princess Polly; i’m starting nursery by Amanda Li
- Lulu loves nursery by Camilla Reid
- Busy Nursery by Angie Rozelaar
- Spot Loves Nursery by Eric Hill
- Hugless Douglas goes to little school by David Melling
- Goat goes to play group by Julia Donaldson
- Maisie Goes to Nursery by Lucy Cousins
Reading these together with your child is a lovely activity to help them to feel prepared for the upcoming transition.
Any new event in your child’s life could be daunting to them but it can also be an exciting time. Hopefully you can take some ideas from this article to help your child in starting at a new nursery. For some this may happen straight away, while others may take a little longer to settle. Either way, they will be ok, they will cope and will eventually love their new adventure.