Preparing for nursery…

‘So how can I help prepare my child for starting with you?’

This is a question I am asked and answer frequently before the start of a new term.The key to a child settling in and thriving at nursery is feeling happy and secure. The staff including the child’s key worker will work with the parents, once the child starts to achieve this, but here are a number of ideas parents can do before the big day.1.       Visiting the nursery before the child is due to start.It is so much easier for the child if they have already met the teachers, know the layout and where their favourite activity may be when they start. Think about how much more confident you as an adult feel on the first day of a new job if you already have met some of the staff, know the dress code and where to go for lunch.

2.       Talking about the nursery.

Talking about the nursery will make it familiar and something comfortable to think about. This could be about who may be there, what they may do and the food they may enjoy. Talking could be prompted by driving or walking past it, perhaps doing trial runs to find out how long it will take to get there.

3.       Finding out about Montessori education.

The more you understand about what goes on at your child’s Montessori nursery, the more you can help your child and prepare them for their time there. It will also help when you talk about the day with your child. Young children benefit considerably from consistency between their various environments, so if parents can bring a little ‘Montessori’ into their homes it will help their children. Take the time to read information about what Montessori philosophy is all about and ask staff who can give you further information or lend you books. I would also recommend the book ‘Learning Together’ by Kathi Hughes which provides information about what ‘Montessori’ means as well as practical ideas of what you can do at home with your child. We do have copies at both Steventon and Overton Children’s Houses that parents can borrow, together with a range of magazines, leaflets and books. This site is also a great way to learn more about Montessori education http://www.montessori.org.uk/.

4.       Enjoying books and talking with your child.

If children enjoy reading stories at home, as part of their daily routine, they will be more interested in the literacy activities at nursery. It will help them to concentrate as well as encouraging them to learn the skills needed to read for themselves. As parents, your children will take their lead from you; if they see you enjoying a good book for yourself, they will want to do the same.

As part of our settling in process we do ask parents what their children’s favourite books or stories are. Reading a child’s favourite book to them when they come into the nursery often helps a child forget how anxious they were about starting.

Discussing the books and making time to chat with your child at meal times will help your child with their communication skills. Talking, learning to listen and expressing themselves are all skills needed for life, but will also help them make friends at nursery as well as giving them the confidence to talk to the teachers.

5.       Regular routine.

Establishing a regular daily routine will really help the child when they start nursery. Children thrive on consistency and predictability, it helps them feel safe and secure  and is an important aspect of the Montessori curriculum. A regular home routine will help provide them with a secure base from which to explore the world and their new nursery school.

A good bedtime routine, including enjoying a story together, will promote healthy sleep patterns. This will help them get up in the morning for nursery, build up their immune system, promote concentration skills and regulate emotions, all of which will help them at nursery.

6.       Let your child become more involved in day to day tasks at home.

Young children are driven by a need to be independent and they want to be involved in the daily rituals in their home. The role of the adult, both at home and in the nursery, is to support each child as an active learner to ‘help me do it for myself’. At nursery the children are shown how to do jobs to both look after their own personal needs and the nursery itself. These include activities from sweeping the floor to getting dressed. Independence and active learning is therefore supported.

The benefits for all children who are able to do simple tasks for themselves are considerable and are a subject for a future blog. Children gain confidence and self-esteem as well as skills needed for maths, reading and writing. Their co-ordination and motor skills are practised as they learn many valuable life skills. Imagine how a child will feel when they are able to help a friend zip up their coat or have laid the table for the family meal.

The sooner you as the parent encourage the child to do things for themselves, the sooner they will be able to do it well, without any help at all from you. It takes time and a lot of patience and the end result may not always be as you would do it, but the benefits are well worth it. If you do the tasks for your child that they are capable of, you may find resistance later on when you do need them to do it for themselves.

Ideas of things your child can do may include putting toys away, getting dressed, brushing their teeth, drinking out of a cup, dusting, sweeping, gardening, pouring drink, laying and clearing the table, washing windows and cooking.

7.       Visiting friends with similar aged children.

If your child is already familiar with another child who attends the nursery, it may help them feel more comfortable in the first few days. The opportunity to visit other children could help their social development too. Learning social skills are an important part of growing up, a life skill, and an important aspect of the Montessori curriculum. These include saying please and thank you, greeting people, learning to respect others feelings and desires, learning to consider others and learning to share. Children are all shown and encouraged to do these as part of their routine at nursery.

I am sure you may also have other ideas to help prepare children for nursery, so please feel free to add to this list.

I would also welcome any other comments, particularly about any other topics you would like me to write about.

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