Settling In: How long should it take to settle into a preschool?

For many parents, just finding the right day care to register their child at is often only half the story. The second half is then settling in your child to preschool life and the challenges this can present.

All children have their own special way of finding their feet at preschool. There are many things that we do as a childcare provider to help your child settle, but there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

If you have never really been apart from your child since they were born or not used a childcare provider before, the initial separation can be hard on both of you. But that is why we’re here to help.

To give you an understanding of the settling in process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to provide you with reassurance and guide you through the process.

Every child will have a different experience when settling in at preschool. How long it takes to settle depends a lot on what their past experiences have been and whether they are already used to being apart from you. We have seen some children who settle instantly, but this is a rare occurrence. On average, we usually find that it takes children somewhere between 2-4 weeks to fully settle in.

At The Garden Preschool, Hayes, we offer parents 2 settling in sessions as standard practice, which are usually the sessions that your child will attend but more can be requested if needed. The first session usually lasts between 30 minutes to an hour, and we would ask you to stay with your child. The first session is about you and your child getting used to the preschool environment and getting to know the staff team who will be working with your child.

Settling in sessions are an opportunity for us to learn more about your child and what their interests and needs are. This allows our staff to understand how best to support them, during their time at preschool. We find this makes the settling in process much easier for both parents and children.

The remaining sessions tend to be longer to support your child in getting used to the preschool environment for extended periods of time. During these sessions, we would ask that you try to leave your child for as long as possible so that they become comfortable with being separated from you. Parents are welcome to keep in touch as often as they need to during this process, as we understand that separation can be difficult for you as well as your child.

It is a good idea to pack a bag full of essentials to help with your child’s first day. Bring a spare change of clothes for messy play activities. Plenty of nappies (if needed) and wipes should be provided and maybe a comforter. A comforter could be a dummy, teddy bear or blanket from home. We also find that family photos and important words relating to the child’s language help, we call this ‘The All About Me Box’ and discuss this with you prior to starting at the preschool, some children feel calmer and it gives them something to talk about.

If your child is old enough, then it is a good idea to talk to them beforehand about what is going to happen. Explain that you will be dropping them off to the preschool, what they will be getting up to and when you are coming to collect them. Sometimes, children will struggle if they feel that you have left them.

You may be feeling some anxiety about being away from your child, which your child may pick up on. Talking to your child regularly about the preschool in a positive way can be a big help. Try to talk about what they will be doing and what the day will be like for them.

Children who attend preschool frequently will settle faster as they become comfortable with being away from you. This also helps to embed a routine and your child feels some consistency. This is the reason for our minimum session requirement. Less than 3 sessions can often be unsettling for children if the time away from preschool between sessions is too long.

We know that saying goodbye is not easy for you or your child. Some children will be upset whereas others may quite happily stay with the staff (which makes parents upset!). The settling in sessions is a great support tool for reassuring children that will always return to collect them.

Preparing your child before a day at preschool about the fact you will be leaving them for a while can also help. Try to keep smiling as you are leaving so that your child does not see this as a sad moment. Try not to linger when dropping off your child, as sometimes the longer you stay the more distressed your child could become. Again, you are welcome to keep in touch with us as often as you need to, even if you just want to check on how your child is doing.

Our staff understand the emotion involved with leaving your child at preschool. Some of them are parents themselves and have been through the settling in process as well. No question is silly, and we encourage you to discuss any concerns you have with a member of the team.

Some children can take longer than others to settle; however, so long as you remain consistent, they should settle eventually. We will always be honest with you throughout the process and will let you know if your child is struggling to settle. If this happens, then we would normally offer some more settling-in sessions where you can help to support them. Try to avoid coming to collect them. If they think that you will come and collect them early if they are upset, then they will find it even harder to settle.

Our practitioners are always on hand if you need to talk to us. So please get in touch with them if you have any further questions about settling in