To help children with a smooth transition back to nursery when they are able to re-open, our early childhood expert Sharron Fogarty has shared her thoughts and given her advice.
During the closure of the nurseries in the UAE due to the Covid-19 pandemic, children who are at home will have experienced a change to their regular routines and may be missing the relationships and adventures they have at nursery.
Regardless of how children have spent their time during the closures, they will need support to make the transition back into their regular routines.
Children’s experiences over the pandemic will be different. Many children will have had lots of learning opportunities and happy memories. Some children may not have had this and their experiences may have been chaotic and perhaps they may have not always felt safe. Whatever the experience it is important that the transition back to normality is carried out with as much time, support and nurture as possible - both for the child and the family, gradually supporting their independence and coping skills to feel safe and secure again in their nursery.
How to support children to feel emotionally secure when returning.
During this period, for those children staying at home some nurseries will have still tried to keep in contact with children and families to continue the great relationships they have, including sharing photos and activity ideas, delivering online stories and sending keeping-in-touch through emails, newsletters and social media.
These will all provide a great foundation to build on when children fully return.
Other ideas to help smooth the transition between home and nursery include:
Create a ‘welcome back’ scrap book to send home to families, prior to them re-joining, including pictures of staff, the environment and activities they can look forward to enjoying when they return.
Revisit children’s current learning journals, or send them home (where possible), so children can look at the happy times they had at nursery and what they enjoyed doing, playing with their friends etc.
Stagger start dates so not all children return on the same day. Having smaller groups will allow time to be spent re-building those relationships.
Encourage families to share lots of photos from home and display them in the setting for children to look at.
Allow opportunities for the children to talk about what they have been doing; find out about their current interests so they can be incorporated in to the nursery activities.
Contact parents beforehand so any worries can be discussed and staff can be prepared e.g. have children got particular anxieties or has anything happened that the setting need to be aware of including a death of a close relative?
Consider displaying visual timetables so children can see what they are doing next and when it will be home time.
Undoubtedly parents will have some fears and concerns about the safety of their child returning so it is important you keep them informed about how you intend to maintain minimal risk for the children.
Ideas for parent to support a smooth transition include:
Remind them to always say goodbye to children when they leave and tell them when they will be back, rather than just disappearing (however hard it may be).
Encourage families to bring particular comforters to the setting which may offer reassurance to the child.
Encourage shorter days to begin with for all age groups and then build up again to the full session.
Ask parents to share key milestones of what they have achieved (e.g. learnt to walk, say new words, learnt a new song) so these can all be celebrated.
The experiences you offer during this transition period should include lots of open-ended and sensory activities as well as lots of stories, songs and downtime.
Having cosy areas, tents and places to help the children feel safe and secure will all help them through this transitional time.
Focused activities around relieving anxiety including mind jars, rain shakers and sensory tubes may be helpful, as well as lots of activities where children can talk about and express their feelings.
A mind jar is a meditation tool to use whenever a child feels stressed, overwhelmed or upset. Imagine the glitter as your thoughts. When you shake the jar, imagine your head full of whirling thoughts, then watch them slowly settle while you calm down. All you need is a jar, glitter glue and food colouring.