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Starting and Settling-In

“The service she is booked in for has a good reputation so I am hopeful it will be positive. I’m scared though.”

“It was hard to leave him with strangers initially. But he really enjoys going, so the decision is easy now.”

Ask to do some familiarisation visits with your child before starting. Families are not charged fees for these visits as children are not yet officially on the roll.

When it is time to start, you can expect to be asked to give your child a kiss or wave goodbye and leave your child with a teacher (nanny or educator) for 5 – 15 minutes. Your child may be upset (or not) to see you go, but by leaving for a short time and coming back, and increasing gradually to 1 hour and then longer, this will build your child’s trust that you will return.

While some children are fine to be left on their own from the first day, others are not.  Much depends on their age, if they have friends already attending, and how comfortable they feel in the setting (see p. 13 about connections). It can be difficult to know what to do when your child is clingy, sad, or does not want you to leave. The following may help:    

  • A teacher (educator or nanny) sees that you are about to leave and will approach and be the person to play with your child. Teachers find that taking the time to sit with an unsettled child, usually over a book or a quiet activity such art, playdough, or puzzles (whatever your child likes) can make a difference.
  • Ask if your child can bring something from home next time to help them to be part of the group, help to break the ice and get attention from other children (e.g., pet rabbit).
  • If your child has an attachment object, such as a teddy or blanket, ask that they be allowed to keep this with them.

It is natural for parents to feel tearful when leaving for the first time, or be worried during the day about what is happening for their child. Good practices at services are to ask parents what the best ways of communicating with them are, and to keep them updated. This might be by phone, text, email, or a secure online link to photos or video. It is reassuring to know that you will be contacted if your child is not settling-down.

Signs that your child is settled in the service are that your child:

  • is excited about or looks forward to going, and is happy to go through their morning routine getting ready to leave home;
  • is eager to get involved and happy for you to leave;
  • is pleased to see you at pick up time, but is also engaged and happy to keep playing even though it is time to go home;
  • talks happily about what they do at their ECE service, if they are old enough to communicate this, or maybe tries to recreate their experiences at home; and
  • has formed an attachment to a teacher and is happy to see them.