How to Survive Your First Day at Nursery

How to Survive Your First Day at Nursery. And I say “Your” because let’s be honest, depending on your kid’s age, it’s not likely they really understand what’s going on. Not on that first day. Although, the second day might be slightly different.

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You, on the other hand, do. And if it’s your first nursery experience then you’re probably pretty nervous.

It’s ok, you should be nervous. You’re essentially going against every maternal instinct you have as a mother.

You’re entrusting the care of your child to complete strangers. Yes, it’s what they do for a living but they’re still strangers. Once you turn your back, you have no idea how your little darlings day will go.

You’re going from overseeing and organising everything your child does; the food they eat, what time they eat, kids they play with, when they nap, where they nap, what toys they play with & nappy changes. You won’t be there if they fall over. You can’t kiss their “boo-boo” and make it all better.

I’m sure you see my point.

But this isn’t me trying to make you feel any more guilty about “shipping” your child off to nursery. Really, it’s not. What I’m trying to do is show you why it’s ok to feel worried or nervous about nursery.

You’re not some crazy overprotective and controlling mother who can’t “let go”. You’re a mother. Full stop. The child you brought into the world relies on you to care for and protect him/her until they reach an age when they can look after themselves. Even then you will still be there, protecting and looking after them in whatever way you can.

It’s a Big Step

For me, nursery was a huge step. My child had been pretty much attached to me at the hip (and the boob for a short time) since day one. And then, I had to detach her. It was bloody awful.

Those first few dreaded drop-offs were like ripping off a limb. I felt unbelievably guilty and like the worst mother ever as she screamed when I handed her into the arms of someone else and left her there.

But it was necessary. I work from home and need the time to get stuff done. Even when i don’t have work things to do, I just need the time.

We all just need time at some point. Being a mum is hard bloody work. Yes, most of the time it’s the best thing in the world. But sometimes it’s just a bit shit and emotional and tiring.

That being said, you might be the mum that finds it all quite easy and is currently reading this wondering what I’m talking about. You might actually have your shit together. If so, then that’s great, I’m thrilled for you.

I’m not that mum, I need a bit of time. Coffee, chocolate and wine too but mostly time.

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The benefits of Nursery

I now see how necessary nursery was for my monster. The pain from the first few weeks has all been worth it. She no longer cries when I drop her off but actually gets excited when I tell her we’re going to nursery. She thoroughly enjoys her time there and gets to play with other kids – something she doesn’t get a chance to do often enough.

Playing with other kids – This has its own benefits: learning to share, imitating older children, learning to make friends. Because most of my friends have older children, something I worried about was my little one not learning how to interact with other kids her age. Nursery has certainly helped in this area.

Confidence – The time spent independently away from their main carer will increase self-confidence. Especially as they learn to do simple tasks independently, like washing hands and holding pencils.

Social skills – Social skills are crucial for a child’s development. It teaches kids how to interact with other kids and adults. It allows them to understand other peoples feelings and empathy. In nursery, kids are around other adults a lot too. This helps them learn how to interact and built relationships with other adults who are not their immediate family.

Preparing for school – The routine and structure they have in the nursery will continue on to school. Knowing how their day will go will help school seem less daunting to a child who has attended nursery. Hopefully making the whole transition a lot easier.

Immune system – As we know nursery tends to be a sess pit for bugs. But research suggests the more illnesses now, means less later on (fingers crossed). It’s really crap for your child and for you but the more bugs they are exposed to now, over time will strengthen their immune system.

This is not to say those same benefits can’t be gained by not using a nursery. Maybe your planning to home school or use a childminder instead of a nursery. There are ways to create the same environment and the benefits of a nursery elsewhere.

How to Survive your First Day At Nursery

Surviving your first day at Nursery

So now we have covered the potential benefits of a nursery, let’s help you through your first day. It seems daunting now, and you might have a little cry but that’s ok, you will get through it.

Cool as a cucumber

No matter how you’re feeling inside, keep as calm on the outside as you possibly can. Kids are great detectives and will sense your unease a mile away. As soon as they do, it will put them on alert and make them feel like there’s something to be worried about. If you feel the need to cry, keep that big happy smile plastered on your face in front of your child. Once outside, you can have a big old blubbery, snot dripping cry.

Don’t hang around

Every nursery teacher/assistant I’ve spoken to have all said the same thing. Even if your child struggles at drop off and cries after you, don’t hang around. Just drop and go. Your child is less likely to calm down if you’re there. Even if they do, when you eventually leave it will distress them all over again, therefore prolonging the process. It does get easier. They will learn over time that you will be back for them.

Sneaky Sneaky

Don’t try to sneak out. It will create a negative association you don’t want. If your child turns around and you’re not there, it may cause panic. They’re likely to cling to you more next time because they think you will vanish if they don’t.

If you say goodbye and reassure them you will see them later, they will eventually learn that even though you are leaving, you will return at the end of the day.

Comfort Blanket

If it makes settling in a little easier, let your little one take a favourite soft toy or even a Dummy (if they have one normally). You can always faze it out after a few weeks.

My little one has Flopsey which is a pink Jellycat rabbit that goes everywhere with her. I try not to let her take it to nursery now she’s used to it, as I don’t want it lost. But it came in handy on those first few days and gave her comfort when I couldn’t. Just let the nursery staff know if your child has a favourite soft toy with them and they will keep an eye on it. If it gets abandoned by your child during the day,  they will pick it up and keep it safe.

The worst is NOT over

I’m sorry to tell you, but if you thought the first day was bad, you might find the second or third is worse. By the second or third day, your child has generally well cottoned on to what’s going on. They’ve realised that once you both step through the door, they will be staying but you won’t be. They may not have clicked that you will return for them by this point so you may find your little one panics a little. Don’t worry, the nursery staff deal with this all the time and are prepared. They should be straight in there taking your little one from your hands to distract them with toys and things. You should keep to the same routine – say goodbye and leave.

Don’t dress in their Sunday best

Cheap or old clothes are best for nursery. They will be doing plenty of messy activities that mean their clothes may get covered in things like paint, felt tips, food, as well as dirt or sand from playing outside. I’ve found food is the one that tends to stain the most.

You will also want to give the nursery staff a change of clothes in a bag labelled with your child’s name just in case.


Depending on what age your child starts nursery, they may not need to remove their shoes. If they are under 2 years, they’re likely to be in a no shoe room. If you don’t want your kid running around in bare feet, make sure you take a pair of socks to put on after you take off their sandals or shoes.

Snack on the way home

Occasionally I’ve had terrible tears on the way home after I collect my monster. Usually, this is when she’s not had much to eat because she wasn’t keen on what the nursery had to offer. Once in the car and on the way home she’s no longer distracted by the other kids or toys, she’s tired after having an activity-filled day so she gets very wingey. Having a little snack helps keep them happy until you get home. And prevents you from wanting to bang your head against the steering wheel because they won’t stop crying and if only you brought those snacks.

So, yes, starting your little one in Nursery seems like a huge deal, and at the time, it is. But once you’ve got those first few weeks out the way, you will see how much your little one loves it. It will tire them out a lot more so will hopefully sleep better and you’ll get a bit of time to do whatever it is you need to do. Whether it be work or chores around the house or catching up with a friend for coffee or even just sitting on your own and enjoying the peace and quiet.

In my book, Nursery is a benefit all around.

Do you have a child starting nursery this September?

Share your experience of your first day at nursery in the comments below. I would love to hear them.




One Clueless Mum

Hi, I'm Alex, welcome to my little corner of the internet. I'm here to share my journey to motherhood and beyond. You may not find structured advice from a 'Stepford housewife' style mum, but you will get honesty & realism from a regular mum just like you. From IVF, women's health & being a redhead, to pregnancy, toddlerhood & life as a work-from-home mum, I've got it all. So stay and take a look around, you never know what you might find.

    • One Clueless Mum

      Oh no, I didn’t even think about the last day! I just need her to stop growing now.
      My teen is going into the second to last year of school too. I just can’t imagine her being old enough to finish school.

  1. Denise Lindsay

    These are really good tips. My son went to a childminder earlier this year as I went back to work two days a week. He was just coming up for 11 months and he wouldn’t settle with her and apparently cried most of the time there. He went for 5 weeks (10 days) and she told me that she was changing to part time hours as she was pregnant so couldn’t look after him anymore. She said to him before I left on his last pick up that “you’re one next week, you shouldn’t still be behaving like this!” 😡

    For this reason I’m dreading sending him to nursery in case he doesn’t settle again. He goes to one set of grandparents each of my working days.


    • One Clueless Mum

      Oh no, that sounds aweful.
      I’m really pleased with the nursery we use. They’re very reassuring and I think it helps that they have pretty much seen it all. Fingers crossed he settles well into nursery, hopefully it was a case of him just not liking the childminder.

    • One Clueless Mum

      I have found the same actually. Her speech and just general understanding of this has really moved forwards since being a nursery.

  2. Shelley Whittaker

    What a great blog post – I completely agree with everything you have said here. My daughter has been at nursery for over a year and it is of huge benefit to both of us. However there definitely have been tears, and lots and lots of germs!! I’m looking forward to both of our immune systems being rock solid, hopefully sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing #TwinklyTuesday

    • One Clueless Mum

      Ahh thank you. Oh man! The GERMS have been horrendous and of course what ever she picks up, we all do too. I’m still waiting for our immune systems to adjust. Maybe you should let me know when yours finally does and it will give me some sort of time scale to work with 😀

  3. Tracey Carr

    My daughter started pre-school last week and it has been absolutely fantastic for me. She only goes in for the mornings but just getting those few hours to myself has been bliss. I know exactly what you are talking about in this article. My daughter cried nearly every day last week going in but I did what her key worker advised and left pretty swiftly, after promising her I would be back (that reassurance is very important to her). They told me afterwards that she stopped crying within two minutes of me leaving! It’s hard to do but it is necessary. Oh yes a tumultuous time for both mummy and child! #mmbc

  4. Kirsty

    It is such a big day when they start nursery. My twins just started school today which is another huge adjustment for them and me! They are my youngest so this will be the first time I am home without kids for 8 years. I am slightly sad, but also excited for the future for us all. Thanks for joining us on the #DreamTeam

  5. twicemicrowaved tea

    I’m a SAHM so my little girl was at home with me until pre-school. She settled really well, but while she found it easy to adjust, I found it really hard because I was so used to having her around and I was so nervous at the thought that someone I barely knew would be looking after her. She’s just started school this week and again, she’s enjoying it, but I’m a mess! Thankfully I still have my little boy at home to keep me busy. In my case, I’ve found the transition to pre-school and then to school so much harder than my daughter has! #dreamteam

    • One Clueless Mum

      I agree, I definitely think its harder on the parents. Kids tend to find it so easy to adjust, us on the other hand, not so much. I’m dreading school!

  6. loopyloulaura

    My son goes back to preschool this week and I am hoping that he adapts quickly as sometimes the holidays can be unsettling. I am looking forward to cleaning the house properly for the first time in 6 weeks (not that it is THAT bad 🙂 ) Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

  7. Catherine @ Story Snug

    I hope your little girl is enjoying nursery now, it’s often harder for the parents than the children but as a teacher I can honestly say that a lot of the tears are for a parent’s benefit and they soon dry up once the parent is gone. It’s often just getting used to the fact that a parent will be back later to pick them up.


    • One Clueless Mum

      She is, thank you. She’s going into the next room up on Friday, I’m interested to see how she handles it as everything and everyone will be new again.
      I completely agree, the tears are definitely for the parents benefit. Much better to just drop and go.

  8. 8 Tips for Working from Home with a Toddler -

    […] We also use a local nursery one morning a week. If work is quiet I usually use this time to get as much child-free housework done as I can. There are added benefits of using a nursery, even for just a couple of hours a week. Tips on how to cope with your child’s first day of nursery and the benefits of using a nursery here – How to Survive your first day at Nursery.  […]

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