Parents: Returning to nursery

Written by: Annette Rawstrone
3 January 2019

Returning to nursery after the festive season can be difficult for both children and parents, but there are a number of strategies that can help make the process easier.

The festive season is often very exciting for young children. The lead up to it can be a whirl of carol concerts, talk of Father Christmas and nativity plays at their childcare setting followed by the Christmas holidays with the fun of family gatherings and, of course, presents. This is all wonderful but it can also be unsettling for some children who often thrive off familiarity and routine. As a parent you can help ease your child through the festivities so that their return to nursery in the new year is more likely to be a happy one.

How can I support my child during the holidays?
Many nurseries and pre-schools close for up to two weeks over the Christmas period which can feel like a long time in a young child’s life. It’s a great opportunity to take time out as a family, if work permits, and have fun together. While enjoying this down time you can also carefully manage your child so that returning to childcare is not a big shock:

Consider inviting your child’s nursery friends to your home for a play date or arrange to meet them at a local park or soft play centre. This gives your child the opportunity to stay connected with their friends.

Think about what your child particularly enjoys doing while they are at nursery and try to replicate some of these activities at home, such as block play, painting or playing with trains. Refer to their childcare setting while you play and talk about particular members of staff and their friends by name. This can help your child to remember people and get excited about returning.

It is easy for routines to be forgotten during the Christmas holidays but for many young children routines are comforting and help them feel secure. Try to stick to your child’s nap times and bedtime routine as much as possible so that they remain rested during the holiday period and don’t return to nursery exhausted.

Don’t let the return to nursery be a shock for your child. Chat to them in the days leading up to going back about how they will be returning and what they will be doing there to help calm any worries about their return. Remind them of the routines in the setting.

Children are more likely to be anxious if you are so, even if you are feeling sad about returning to work and that the fun of Christmas is coming to an end, try to remain upbeat for the sake of your child.

What if my child doesn’t settle back at nursery?
It can be difficult for us all to settle back into a routine after a break and it may take your child some time. Make the rst day easier by being prepared for adjusting back into the morning routine – try to get your child to bed on time the night before, pack the nappy bag in advance, think what clothes you will all be wearing in the morning and prepare packed lunches if needed so that there is less stress when you wake up.

Don’t be surprised if your child cries at drop-off, even iif there’d been no morning tears for weeks, or if they suddenly start asking to stay at home with you. After lots of family fun it’s not surprising that they don’t want it to end. Reassure yourself that they have previously been happy in their childcare setting and will be again. Help your child by:

Being calm and telling them that you have to leave but that you will be back to collect them later.

Leaving them with their key person or a familiar member of staff.

Not sneaking out – this can lead to your child becoming more anxious. Instead give them a kiss and say goodbye.

Considering waiting out of sight in the reception area if you have time or phoning your child’s key person for an update later on. Often your child will quickly get distracted by their friends or the activities on offer and swiftly cheer up.

Sharing your concerns with their key person if your child doesn’t settle after a few days, and discussing what strategies you can use. Childcare practitioners are well practised at managing children’s transitions.

How can I beat the post-Christmas blues?
Returning to work and nursery after the holidays can feel dif cult for the whole family. Try to ease into the new year by having some fun things planned to look forward to, such as visiting grandparents, looking at winter light displays or organising snugly evenings at home sharing their new toys and books.

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