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Preparing to start childcare or school

So your child is about to start nursery, pre-school or school for the first time. You’ve known this moment would be coming ever since your little one was born and it’s here….just as fast as everyone said it would be. Where have the last few years gone??

Getting your child ready to start a whole new adventure can be emotionally tough. Preparing your child for nursery or school is one thing, but it’s a good idea to prepare yourself too!

So where do you start with getting prepared?

Your child

  • Have lots of conversations about school or nursery. Talk about and do the things they’ll be expected to take part in when they arrive. So practising quiet time, tidy up time and sharing is a great place to start. Nurseries and schools make learning fun and also make the chores fun too! Even if your child is very young, they will understand a lot.
  • Try and organise a visit to the nursery or school before your child starts so they can see where they will be spending time away from you. If they can see small things like the coat hooks or where they put their drinks bottles, they’ll feel more reassured about their new routines.
  • If your child is wearing a uniform, if they’re old enough, start practising putting on and taking off – as well as recalling their own clothes. We all remember those PE lessons where our clothes went missing and if you don’t want to spend hours in the lost property box, label everything twice! Teach your child where their name labels are and help them to spot their clothes in a pile of different clothes too.
  • Practice the routine – this will help the whole family. So from getting up and dressed to getting their book bag or school bag ready to go. Prepare the night before if need be but involve them in the process as they will begin to understand responsibility for their own equipment.
  • This should be a fun time too so do lots of reading, practicing letters and numbers, arts and crafts and singing. All in short bursts and as we said, encourage tidy up time and sharing at all times.
  • Get them used to set meal times and snack times and encourage healthy choices, with water being the main drink. If they will be using a water bottle, let them practice drinking from it well in advance. It may help to have 2 of the same bottle – one for home and one for school or nursery.


  • Practice the routines – as we said before, even if you are preparing the night before, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Know how long your journey should take. If you’re walking, add on time for your child to dawdle and look at every leaf they walk past. Arriving at school quite different to nursery as it is a lot more strict with timings, but allow time for socialisation with their peers before they go into class. Not being rushed will keep everyone calm and relaxed. If you’re driving or using public transport, make sure you have a back-up plan in case of buses being cancelled or roadworks causing delays... always happens doesn’t it?
  • Prepare yourself emotionally for their new journey. You know they’ll be away from you and you won’t know what they’re doing. Accept that. Put your trust in the teachers or key workers to tell you if anything is wrong.
  • Don’t push your child to tell you everything they did all day. You may find that your child won’t remember what they did, and they’ll probably be quite tired! Rather than saying “what did you do today?” ask them if they had a good time instead. They might find it easier to talk about what they did when there’s less pressure on them.
  • Get to know the parents in your child’s class. We found WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages really helpful as the years went on! If your child is starting school, you’ll all be in the same boat on the same day - arrange a coffee meet up with other parents on the first day if you can. It will help with the emotional turmoil you will feel!
  • Acknowledge your emotions. Don’t hide the fact you may be feeling emotional and overwhelmed. This is your baby after all and they are taking their first independent steps without you! Those tears will come and they may come every morning or afternoon for a while, but celebrate the fact you’ve managed to reach this milestone!
  • Communicate with your child’s teacher or key worker about anything that may affect your child – so from feeling a little unwell to a change in family circumstances. It is always so important to let them know what may affect your child at school or nursery.
  • Keep telephone numbers and email addresses up to date. If you change your number, let your school or nursery know. 

Nursery and school will be so exciting for your child and for you too. You’ve put lots of hard work into helping them grow – now is their chance to show you what they can do!

Enjoy the process, accept the change and prepare as much as you can in advance! See our other blogs on school readiness here.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has some great information on starting nursery.

About the author

Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare