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Settling your child into nursery

Settling your child into nursery

Nearly all children will have some difficulty settling in at first to Nursery.  It is common and normal for children to become a little bit upset when their parent or carer leaves.

What helps?

Some children are helped by a gentle start.  Stay with your child at first then gradually reduce the amount of attention that you give to them.  Perhaps sit and read a magazine or talk to other adults who are around.  When your child is settled and playing happily, say goodbye to them.  Remember to tell them you will be back.  The Nursery staff will happily suggest when they feel it is the best time for you to leave your child to benefit them.

For other children, a clean break seems to work best.  The following plan might help:

  • Tell your child clearly and positively that you are leaving for a short time but will be coming back.
  • It may help to tell them at what time you will return, eg when they have completed their activity/game or when the clock hands are at a certain time.
  • Leave when your child is busy in an activity.
  • When you return, say to your child that you have come back as you said you would.
  • Be sure to praise them for staying.
  • Be sure to tell Nursery staff your child’s favourite activities, this will help them engage with your child.


Start by leaving your child for short times, and then gradually increase the length of time you are away.  This will teach your child that the parent/carer is trustworthy and will return when they say they will.  The ritual of saying “goodbye” is very important.  It helps your child to learn what will happen next and to feel secure.

Going to stay with grandparents or to play at a friend’s house for a short period is a good first step.  This helps to prepare your child for transition to Nursery.  Similarly, Nursery attendance prepares your child for going to school.  Consistent attendance will enable your child to settle.

Remember the Nursery staff have lots of experience with this type of situation and will be able to offer you support and advice.  It is important for you and for Nursery staff to work in partnership with parents/carers.  No-one knows your own child better than you.


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