We wanted to wait until Arlo was three before he started nursery. Little did we know that waiting until he reached his third birthday would mean that his first year of independence would coincide with a global pandemic. This year has been a tough one. Tough on everyone, including our kids. Their little routine has gone, they haven’t been seeing family and friends, going to playgroups, soft play or any other fun, social spots as much as they were probably used to. It’s safe to say that 2020 nursery starters have faced a really challenging time too. Starting something as daunting as nursery after spending all that time at home without really seeing anybody apart from the family who they live with, can be a lot for our kids and for us.
The good news is, kids are very resilient. I’ve noticed how particularly brave and adaptable my son can be during these last few months. Having gone from spending every minute of the day with me for the last three years to eventually getting to a point where I could leave him at nursery with complete strangers for a few hours. It’s when your toddler starts talking about those strangers using their actual names, that you know that they are starting to enjoy what they used to dread! Coming from a mum who shed so many tears, who doubted herself, who felt guilty, there is hope and your child will get there.
More so than ever, I questioned myself and whether I was doing the right thing starting him during a global pandemic. But in terms of how ready I thought he was for that social interaction with other children, for more stimulating, focused activities that the nursery could offer him – none of that changed. He was still my bright little boy, full of energy, full of personality who I believed was ready for his first stage of independence. I followed my decision through and although it was a bit different starting him with a virus on the lose, it was a decision I am glad I made.
Settling him in
Masks have to be worn during the settling in period. Some nurseries are stricter than others and many haven’t allowed settling in comfort inside the nursery. Some have asked parents to drop their child outside and be collected from a nursery teacher. In all honesty, if this was the case for us, I don’t think I would have been able to go through with it. Arlo was inconsolable at times, and if I didn’t have the option to settle him in the garden, wearing a mask, I don’t think I would be writing this post! Our nursery allowed me to settle him and comfort him inside their garden area. This worked ok, but for the first week or so I was still being called after then minutes of leaving to come and get him as he was just breaking his heart. After a good two/three weeks, things became easier and although there were tears, I got to the point where I could drop him at the gate and walk away. Be sure to double check with your nursery if your little one is starting in the new year about what the settling in process is like and judge whether you think that will be ok for you. I would say at least try it as your little one may surprise you.
Taking things into the nursery
I have heard stories from other mums on my Instagram that some nurseries/preschools are not allowing anything from the home to be brought in during the pandemic. From bottles of milk, to comforters, it’s important to get an idea of what your little one will be allowed to take in with them during the settling in period. They are bound to want that extra bit of comfort, Arlo did, and had his milk and a favourite toy with him. Our nursery was really accommodating and that definitely helped to settle him in.
My biggest piece advice if you are due to settle your child into nursery soon is try not to overthink it. Nursery/preschool is a brilliant place for our little ones to learn, develop and meet friends. By sending them, you are making the right decision for you and your family, based on your circumstances. Be kind to yourself because it’s a tough gig sending children to nursery for the first time anyway, let alone during a global pandemic. Have patience with yourself and your little one because you will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it takes a few days, a few weeks or a few months, your child will get there. You’ve got this mama’s!