tarting at an early childhood education service is a time of both excitement and nervousness for you and your child. This section gives tips to help settle your child.
Before your child starts at a service
Help your child prepare
There are many things you can do to ensure your child settles easily into the early childhood education service.
Help your child to develop social skills
- Teach your child how to get on with other people:
- let your child spend time with other adults and children while you are there;
- leave your child with other people sometimes, to get used to being away from you; and
- help them to cooperate, share and take turns.
- Provide your child with choices, and give them help when they need it.
- Talk to your child about going to the service.
- Tell your child that the service is a good place and they will have fun.
- Tell your child what will happen: how they will get there, who will meet them and look after them, when they will have food, when they will rest and when they will be back.
Help your child develop learning skills
- Provide your child with a variety of experiences.
- Give your child many opportunities to play, make a mess, explore and experiment.
- Talk, read and listen to your child. This enhances language development.
- Take your child for walks and outings to discover new places and broaden their knowledge of the world.
- Spend time with your child, talking and playing.
- Help your child see what they are learning to do each day.
- Encourage your child to try new and challenging things.
It can be a difficult time for a parent, leaving a child and wondering if they will be happy. If you are a working parent you may need to be flexible with your hours in the first few weeks. You can stay with your child while they are settling into the service.
You may also want to sort out some alternative child-minding arrangements in case you cannot be at home on a day when your child is not able to attend the early childhood service.
Remember that separations are learning opportunities
See this as an exciting time for your child. It is a time for them to grow and learn about the world.
Take your child to visit the service before they start
Take your child to meet the teachers and show them around. You may want to go several times before your child actually starts at the service. Stay there and join in the activities. Show them it is fun. Talk about this visit when you are at home again. Children settle better when familiar with new surroundings.
Make sure you know how the service operates
Find out about things like pick-up time, what the daily programme is, how long children have to stay away if they have a contagious illness, and what children can take with them to the service. Ask the questions on page 9, and any others that are important to you.
Prepare the teachers
Talk to the teacher about your child before starting at the service. Tell the teacher about:
- things your child can do well;
- things your child has difficulties with, including any special learning or developmental needs;
- what your child is interested in;
- what settles or comforts your child;
- things that are important in your culture, and
- any health problems.
Starting at the service
Some children will be ready to join in the programme straight away. Other children may take a while to adjust to being away from you and to feel comfortable in a new place.
You and the teachers may need to help your child learn how to cope with the changes.
- Babies may take some time to settle into their new routines.
- You might try staying a little less time each day and setting up a pattern of saying goodbye: for example give two kisses, then go.
- Tell children that you will be leaving them and that you will be coming back later. You could leave them something that belongs to you, to look after until you return. Talk about what they’ll be doing and who will look after them.
- Feel free to phone the service after you have left, to be reassured that your child has settled.
- If possible be regular in the times you arrive and go home – your child will feel more secure. If you are going to be unavoidably late, let the centre know so they can talk to your child and reassure them.
- Talk to the teachers about what upsets your child and how they can comfort your child.
All children respond differently to separation. Some children may show their feelings by reverting to baby behaviour. For example they may start to have bad dreams, or suck their thumb when they had stopped doing this. You can talk with the service about what might help with any differences in behaviour.
Your child’s health
When your child first attends an early childhood education service he or she may be exposed to a whole new range of bacteria and viruses. Be prepared in the coming months for your child to catch new illnesses. If you are a working parent you may need to be flexible with your hours or try to organise an arrangement with a family member or friend that your child could stay with on days they are unable to attend the early childhood education service.
Make sure you are familiar with the service’s sickness policy. It may affect the amount of time your child is away from the service after an illness.
After your child has started at the service
Take time to make good relationships with the teachers
- Set aside a time to talk to the staff about your child’s day, special moments and achievements.
- Tell the teachers what your child is doing at home.
- Let the service know if anything at home might be affecting your child.
- If you have a major worry about anything at the service, like safety or the quality of the programme, talk to the person in charge.
- Respect and comply with service requirements such as collecting your child on time.
Take time to make relationships with other parents
- Introduce yourself to other parents, inquire about their children, or share travel arrangements.
- Try to attend any social events that your early childhood education centre organises.
- Talk over any worries you have with other parents.
- If appropriate join the parent committee.
Check that your child is happy and learning well
- Drop in sometimes during the day to see how your child is getting on with staff and other children, and to see what they are doing.
- Take time out with your baby for play and cuddles after you get home. Make time to ask your child about their day. Share older children’s excitement about new friends and skills, and listen to any worries they might have.
Talk to the manager or a person on the committee or make a complaint if:
- children are not being supervised;
- adults spend a lot of time telling off, ordering, or shouting at children;
- adults are rough with children;
- the service is unsafe or premises or equipment is dirty;
- your child is unhappy about being left at the service, and this doesn't change over time;
- a child comes home injured, and the service cannot explain what happened; or
- children seem bored, angry or frustrated.