It is perhaps the most bitter-sweet feelings of all, letting your child move on to the next stage of development. Moving up from school to school soon becomes a natural thing, but nothing quite beats the trepidation you feel when your baby is ready to start nursery and embark on his or her academic career.
The best way to prepare your toddler for nursery is with a slow settling in. Start by talking about nursery and, perhaps, getting some books about nursery that you can look at together. You can use this as an aid to explaining what nursery is all about. If you can, walk by the nursery on a regular basis and make throwaway comments such as, “That’s where you’re going to nursery soon!”
A good nursery will offer a settling-in period that will involve a series of brief sessions allowing your child to slowly become familiar with his or her surroundings. They will be able to provide you with daily updates as to his or her progress, and you may find it a relief to know that children who cry when their parent first leaves almost always settle in right after and still have a fabulous time learning and playing at nursery despite the initial dramatics.
If your child has a comfort object, such as a blanket or a soft toys, letting them take it into nursery will help them feel at ease. Most nurseries cater for these, and should be able to help you phase the comfort object out towards the end of the year so your child is prepared for Reception where such things are not usually accepted.
At nursery, your child will have messy play and arts and crafts such as painting and drawing, which are good for markmaking and help to provide a basis for learning to write later on. Some of the items you should purchase before your child starts nursery are stain removers and washing powders, as well as a full complement of clothes.
You’ll want to be sure you have plenty of clothes for any weather, as you don’t want to send your child to nursery wearing clothes that turn out too warm or too cool for the weather.
A little backpack belonging to your child can help them feel grown up and mature for going to nursery. They are available at any major supermarket, or more specialised places such as Toys ‘R’ Us. Fill them with a set of spare clothes (including socks!) in case of accidents – even the most fastidiously potty-trained toddler can spill juice or water on him- or herself! Some baby wipes provide an easy way to clean up without any risk of allergic reactions as you know which brand works for your child, and this allows you to clean their face and hands if you need to on your way to or from the nursery itself.
Of course, you’ll have to make sure there’s a pocket Teddy can fit into! Buy the backpack ahead of time and discuss the ways in which it belongs to your child. This provides another road into talking about nursery. Remember to paint it as a positive thing, but don’t overdo it – if your child senses a falsehood about your words he or she may get anxious about what you’re hiding.
And finally… Get some tissues and a box of chocolates to keep in the car when you first take your baby to nursery. You can prepare your toddler, but preparing yourself can be a bit more of a challenge!