This week, many early childhood education centres and schools return following the Christmas break. We will be seeing a new generation of children entering care for the first time, so how can we as educators help their transition to formal care happen more smoothly?
The first few weeks in a new centre is crucial to the long-term happiness of the child there, and can impact the way the child sees new transitions in the future. Yet not all children respond to a new environment in the same way. For some, they take to the routine like a duck to water. But for others, it can take a lot longer for them to feel safe and comfortable. Here are a handful of ways you can help the new child feel extra supported and welcoming into a new space during those crucial first few weeks.
If a parent is apprehensive about putting them into care, children can pick up on these feelings and will be nervous about coming to the centre. So as early childhood educators, we want to help families make the transition as smooth and as open as possible.
Ahead of starting at the centre, encourage parents to help lay the foundation for the child’s transition to formal care. This may mean bringing the child in for short visits before they commence, speaking positively about going to day care, and allowing the child to choose their own backpack and lunchbox. For many parents, leaving their child with someone else is an emotionally difficult time for them too, so they may also be feeling vulnerable. Take time to ask them how they are coping with the change.
Have activities already prepared in the morning when the families arrive. This can help facilitate no-tears drop offs when you can interest the child in activities that are already laid out. Alternatively, you can start a ritual, such as singing a song or a special handshake to welcome them to the class.
It must be said that open communication is critical in building relationships with the children, too. They need to be able to trust you, so it is of vital importance that you talk to them about what will happen throughout the day. When children know what is ahead, they will a feel a sense of control and it may relieve some of their anxiety.
Many early childhood centres now utilise technology (such as StoryPark) to help parents keep up-to-date with what their child is learning and experiencing in care. This makes it possible for parents to get real time updates throughout the day about their child. These new generation of tools can also relieve their anxieties and help foster a stronger bond between parents and educators.
Be fairly liberal with your encouragement of the child, such as when they follow instructions, share well with others, or produce a lovely painting. By making them feel seen and valued, it will help their self-confidence and make them feel good about their progress in the learning environment. This will also encourage them to moderate their own behavior and make good decisions.
Encourage introductions between parents
If you see certain children forming great friendships with other children, then see if you can facilitate the parents connecting outside of the childcare setting. When a child has strong friendship ties, they often feel more comfortable and it can help foster excitement when they visit the centre.
Are you interested in becoming an early childhood educator? Yorke Institute is proud to deliver a high-quality standard of training to our students. We offer a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care CHC50113 Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and Certificate III of Early Childhood Education and Care CHC30113 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care. Call us today on (03) 9042 0231 to speak to a course counsellor about our courses that produce nationally qualified and highly sought-after graduates.