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.
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.
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.
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.