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Parks, parents & settling in

 

It is always inspiring to hear of a setting delivering outstanding practice with their children and families. With this in mind I am pleased that Lotte Hunter, Operations Director of Building Blocks Nurseries in Wimbledon, has shared her setting’s stance on how to promote positive attachments between child and Educator during the settling-in period.

Lotte writes:

 

“A year and a half ago I attended a conference on attachment which inspired me to review our procedures. Forming secure attachments within the nursery is important for a variety of reasons:

 

  1. When a child feels secure he or she is able to freely and openly engage both with activities and with others in the environment.

 

  1. Strong attachments during childhood help form ‘attachment models’ in the brain that are called upon when children enter into relationships later in life. These models form the basis of a self-identity of someone who is loveable and worthy of care.

 

Our settling-in used to take place within the nursery: parent and child would come and spend time playing in the room; gradually the parent would remove themselves as the child felt more comfortable, first to the edge of the room, then popping out for a few minutes, then leaving their child for 45 minutes to an hour. This worked well for most, but some would become upset whenever left and ultimately took weeks to settle down. We thought this was ‘the norm.’ We had created an environment where children associated going to nursery as a place they would play with ‘mummy.’ On the flip side, we had children who were happy to just come in and ‘get on with it.’  Following the conference I was able to reflect upon and question what the children were gaining from our current procedure. It was then I realised our entire ethos around ‘settling’ had to change: what were ‘key workers’ became ‘key carers’, our procedure was re-modeled to allow those strong bonds between the key carer (KC) and the child to form away from the nursery setting.

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 Image copyright of Building Blocks

Our Procedure

 

  • The KC makes an initial call to the parent to introduce themselves and sets a date for the home visit. Meeting the child in their home environment is very important to establish a relationship of trust with the child.

 

  • At the home visit the KC goes through the ‘All About Me’ booklet with the parent to establish the child’s starting point and spends time getting to know both the parent and the child.

 

  • Two further meetings are arranged at a local park. Some children also have an additional session in the nursery. It is very important to us that our procedure allows for some flexibility, though, to meet the individual needs of the child and the parent.

 

  • On the child’s first day the KC is always present to greet their key child.  They inform the parent of their shift time so the parent can see them at the end of the day. If this is not possible the KC will call the parent to give detailed feedback before leaving.

 

  • The child arrives with their ‘All About Me’ Poster, containing pictures of close family members; it is kept where the child can access it at all times.

 

  • We always call parents once their child has settled, if there have been a few tears at drop off; comforters or transitional objects from home are encouraged to ease anxiety; parents know they can call us at any time, while our web cams offer additional reassurance.

 

It is just as important that our parents feel ‘settled’, as they are leaving their most precious possession in our care.

 

Feedback from parents on our new procedure has been incredibly positive.  One parent writes; “I really feel that the induction process worked well, as my child never associated the nursery with her mum being there and she developed such an affectionate bond with her key carer. The combination of welcoming the key carer into our house to see my child’s toys, followed up by the park visits, helped my child trust her key carer and get to know her outside of the confines of the nursery itself.” 

 

Another parent writes; “When my second son joined the nursery I was surprised that the settling procedure had changed and I was sceptical about this.  It surprised me how trusting my child was throughout the process and how happy he was to go off with his key carer. I wanted to ensure that my child had his last session in the nursery before starting in the New Year. He stayed for about three hours and it was a relief to hear he had an enjoyable afternoon. I returned to work in the January and despite not having seen his key carer for about two weeks due to the Christmas holiday, his first day was a huge success. I have no doubt that the reason why he settled so well is because of the bond he built up with his key carer in the weeks prior to him starting. My child has now moved from the baby room, but he still has a special relationship with his key carer, which is a delight to see.” 

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