Settling your child into nursery

 May 3, 2019   |   comments

7 top tips when settling your
baby or toddler into a nursery.

I noticed last week a few parents on Facebook worried about leaving their children for long periods of time at a nursery.  I remember I felt the same with my daughter.  I used to rush back from work only to get to the nursery and she was happily playing. 

My daughter went to Cher Walker-Moore’s nursery 10 years ago.  If I am honest I was quite an anxious parent and not great at leaving my child. My daughter however thrived at nursery.

“Strong parent-key person relationships help children flourish in a nursery environment.”

Cher Walker-Moore,
Early Years Trainer

So I asked Cher Walker Moore – the co-owner and manager of BeBright Bunnies Sydenham what are the key things a parent needs to be aware of when settling in their babies and toddlers?

Here are the top 7 things she suggests:

Stay and play

1. Build Attachment – stay and play!

Attachment theory is a large subject area and we will talk in more detail about it in another post.  The key idea of attachment theory is a child needs to build a strong bond with an adult to feel happy.

Stay and play sessions are great at developing the key-person–child relationship as well as our relationship with the parent/carers.  For a child to feel comfortable at a nursery they like to see their parent relaxed.  That’s easier said than done – your child is the most precious thing in your life and to leave them tugs at your heart. 

“The way we do it at BeBright Bunnies is asking parents to come to the nursery as often as possible the month before starting and “stay and play” with us.“

Cher Walker-Moore, BeBright Bunnies Nursery Manager

Stay and play sessions are great for letting the parent see how the nursery works, who the staff are and what their child will be doing during the day.  They can see the nursery routines and how flexible they can be, to fit into the child’s routine.  Stay and play reduces a lot of the anxiety. 

Stay and play sessions are usually during the month before the settling in period. The parent stays with the child throughout the session, these are generally done in mornings for an hour. So the more you can come the better, as this helps your child become more familiar with the nursery environment.

Plan in some time to stay and play at the nursery.

2. Reduce time – gradually move away

Parent and baby need to feel comfortable

The settling in week, is an important time as during this week you will gradually leave your child in the care of their key person. You’ll get sense from your child when they are comfortable and you can move away.  This might be gradual:  nip to the loo or just stepping out the room for a bit.  Or you might not want to move away at all.  This, like all the work in a nursery will be child-led. 

Over time you will both feel more comfortable leaving.  This will also relate to the relationships and the bond developing between the child and key-person. 

This process can take as little or as long as you both need. 

3. Build the bond between key-worker and child

Build the bond between key worker and child

This bond is essential for the child to feel safe, comfortable and happy all day. 

From our point of view when we organise a new baby, toddler or pre-schooler we need to create enough 121 time with the key-person at the start. 

We do that by ensuring that staff break times are flexible to make sure that key person is available for that child. So a nursery needs to have a flexible structure and staff that understand the importance of it.

At this point we also build in the child’s routines.

Home from home

4. Keep the routine

A great start is getting the child to feel comfortable in the nursery setting.  One way we do it is by understanding the routines at home.  If we can replicate some of those routines that will help the child feel the nursery is a “home from home”. 

A great communication with parents helps us understand your routines.  If we understand them, we can keep to them.  A great start is to build in those routines to help your child feel comfortable and in control of their environment.

So think about your child’s routine and tell the nursery and key-worker what they are. Ask them how they can replicate it in the nursery.

The relationship triangle

5. Chat at the pick up and drop off – modelling great relationships

We love to feedback to the parents how the day has gone.  We even use an app that you can access during the day to see what your child is up to.  You can add any number of members to that app – one parent wants her mum in Spain to be able to check in each day! 

Even if you are aware of what has gone on, it is still important to show your child the great relationship you have with your key worker.  It doesn’t need to take long but a quick update at the beginning or end of the day is a great way to role model great communication. 

Also this conversation is key for us to meet your child’s needs.  We find out at these moments what your child needs that day.  How are they feeling, how did they sleep, what have they eaten? 

Then at the end of the day we can feed back how the day has gone and how those things may affect your evening eg sleep and snacks. 

These capture chats help us capture the key moments from the day and think about any adaptations we may need to do.  They can update us on any routine changes at home or in the nursery that we have observed. 

The whole curriculum can be built around their interests

6. Know their interests and resources

We use an “All about Me” book to make sure we know as much about your child as possible.  Different nurseries will do this in different ways.  We sit down and discuss with you, all the things your child likes, dislikes and care routines.

This helps us check that we have the right resources for your child and if we don’t we get them. 

Our approach is a child-led.  We can build so much development into a topic that interests them.  If they love dinosaurs we can count them, name them, make stories up about them, act out the movement of dinosaurs.  The whole of the Early Years curriculum can be built around their interests.

“Can I take my hat?”

7. Take their stuff to nursery – to create their space

A nursery should feel a confident place for them to move in.  When a child has their favourite toys to play with, or a snuggle blanket or teddy bear that helps them sleep, it builds their confidence in the space.  Not all children need this – some like the new variety of toys and opportunities for movement and games.

We encourage parents to bring in a child’s favourite toy or game – anything that helps them settle.

For sleep time you can even bring in their own sleeping bag, duvet or pillow to get them used to the new environment. 

Bringing in things from home helps settle many children.

“Sometimes they don’t need
their favourite blanket…
they need their cape!”


Choosing a nursery and the times you leave them for with other people is dependant on you, your child, their needs and the setting.  You’ve got to feel comfortable where you leave your child.  We hope these 7 key points to look out for are useful for whatever setting you choose for your child.  It hopefully gives you an insight into some of the things to think about before you bring your child to a nursery.  

There are lots of other wee things that can help, which we hope to share over time. 

In summary a great parent partnership is key to a happy key-person attachment and the more the key-person knows your child the happier and stronger that bond will be.  With that relationship comes the ability to chat about ‘home-from-home” routines and resources. 

The more you know the nursery and feel comfortable being in it – the more comfortable you will feel leaving your child there. Good luck with your settling in time and come in and see us at our Brockley Nursery or Sydenham Nursery if you want to know more or fancy a chat!