Helping your child settle in

When your child is starting at a new childcare setting it is important to consider this transition and how you can help them settle in. We've put together a few tips to remember:

Before they start

Whatever childcare setting you choose for your child, it is important to allow as much time as possible for both you and your child to get to know the setting. It may be the first time your child has been away from you, or if they are used to being left with other people, they will be getting used to a larger group of people and a new environment.

These new experiences coupled with your own feelings about going back to work, or leaving the child in a new place, can be a stressful time in a family’s life.

Try to start establishing this connection before your child starts at the setting. If a child is starting a setting it’s useful for you to have a point of contact for any questions, home visits (when appropriate), and to arrange settling in sessions.

Childminders and Nursery settings in England and Wales must operate a key person approach. In England the EYFS states “The key person must help ensure that every child’s learning and care is tailored to meet their individual needs .The key person must seek to engage and support parents and/or carers in guiding their child’s development at home. They should also help families engage with more specialist support if appropriate.”  In Wales a similar position is reflected in the relevant standards.

Settling-in period

Each setting will have their own settling in policy, however we always recommend that there is a two- to four-week settling-in period.

In Nursery settings make sure the key person is available and not on holiday or attending training during the settling in process and the child’s first few days at the setting. When using a childminder ensure they have a back up childminder that the child is familiar and comfortable with, in case of holidays, sickness or emergencies.

Take your time to get to know the childminder/staff during the settling in period.

Ensure the introduction to the setting is gradual, starting with the child attending with you. Penny Tassoni suggests 5 steps to settling in.

Step 1

Child plays with key person while the parent is alongside. After a while, parent disengages from activity although is present.

Step 2

Child plays with key person with parent alongside. Then parent moves away slightly to pick something up e.g. magazine. 

Step 3

Child plays with key person. Parent is alongside at first. But then parent strolls in and out of sight e.g. gets something from a cupboard

Step 4

Child plays with the key person – parent pops out of room to collect an object e.g. sticker for the child Parent confidently tells child that they are going to do this and then goes. 1 minute absence

Step 5

As step 4, but increase length of time that parent is out of the room to 20 minutes

Eventually, build this up to the child attending for a full session or day. As part of the settling-in period, some settings carry out home visits to get to know the child in a familiar and comfortable environment and to talk to the parent in a relaxed way.

The setting will be able to stay in contact with you during the time the child is left even if you’re just available to answer the phone for a few reassuring words, or receive a text message or photo message showing how your child is doing. If your child is distressed and is unable to be settled, you will be contacted.

The setting will create a familiar routine so that your child knows what to expect when they are dropped off at your setting.

During the settling-in period the setting will find out:

  • Your child’s likes and dislikes
  • Their usual routine, especially if they are welcoming a baby
  • Whether they have attended childcare before, are attending any other childcare settings, or are used to being left with other people
  • Their favourite activities, toys or books
  • Whether the child has any additional needs, disabilities or developmental concerns that needs to be taken into account
  • Who, apart from the parents, may be picking the child up from the setting.

Greeting and saying goodbye

During the settling-in period, say goodbye in a calm and brief manner, and tell your child when you’ll be back. Staff should confidently greet and say goodbye to babies and children too. Your child might like to keep a favourite toy or cuddly with them to begin with as a transitional object.