What are transitions?

Transitions are the ‘going from and to’ – another word for a change or shift, in activity, situation or environment. They might happen in small ways throughout the day for example going from playing to sitting down to lunch or be more significant e.g. starting nursery

More significant transitions – Milestone Events

Milestone transitions are the major changes that occur throughout a child’s life – family move, siblings born, starting nursery/school etc. These have an effect on the child, how children experience transitions lays the foundations for how positively children accept change throughout the rest of their lives.

The home:nursery transition is one which we consider to be a major transition for children, especially when they are joining us for the first few times. We often find children come to visit and get stuck straight in, their parents are amazed at how independent they are, climbing and playing in the space with barely a backward glance! In fact sometimes there are even tears when they try to leave! So there will be no problem on their first day then?

Handled sensitively and with kindness, transitions can be a smooth and positive experience, but it’s important to understand that it’s also normal for some children to find them more challenging.

Imagine going to an amazing place, you visit with your family & had the best time. Now imagine being taken there again, but this time your family don’t come in with you, they leave. You have no idea when they are coming back. You have no frame of reference and no experience as to how long you will be there or what will happen, maybe you don’t have full speech yet either. You might understandably panic.

This can be an emotional and anxious time for children and parents and it’s key that we get transitions right to ensure that the experience and process (because it is a process and not a one off event) are as positive as possible for children, families and practitioners. Preparing children for transitions at home and within nursery gives us the best chance of success.

Of course children are all individual and so the degree to which we need to support transitions will vary from child to child. The below list is our ‘toolkit’ whilst all of these will be utilised for all children, for how long and to what degree will vary depending on the unique needs of the child and family. 

How to we support children during Transitions at Stramash – Starting Nursery

  • Visits to nursery site with family
  • Key worker allocated and introduced to child
  • Settling in sessions with parent/guardian and key worker – opportunity to meet, play and hopefully bond a little with child while parent is still present
  • Marvellous Me form – completed and returned to nursery – giving in depth knowledge about the child (likes, dislikes, home life, potential causes of stress, what settles them/makes them happy) – see link to our MM form
  • Photos of the team who will be caring for the child available – either posted to the child or on the notice board and website for parents to access and discuss with their child ahead of starting nursery some of our settings send a welcome letter addressed to the child 
  • Communication – emails, facebook groups for each site and website detailing nursery info and inviting new families into our community – videos available to watch with children which show the site, a day in the life etc
  • Transition plans drawn up between parents and team bespoke to the individual child – sharing of information, what works/doesn’t any concerns raised at home, usual settling time etc
  • Joined up services – working with other heath/social service/education professionals working with a child if required

On the first day of drop off (and for as long as it takes a child to settle with us)

  • Child is welcomed at the gate by their key worker
  • Parents are welcome to come and hang up bags with the child and say goodbye, explaining when they will be back
  • Children are welcome to bring in a ‘transition toy’ from home while they are settling (blanket, teddy etc)
  • Child will be closely observed throughout session, with lots of support, cuddles (if wanted) and interactive play with their key worker and/or other practitioners
  • Open door policy – parents are welcome to return at any time – we respond with sensitivity and empathy when discussing any parents concerns
  • Texts/calls to parents to update them on their child’s progress if required
  • Feedback at pick up time as to how the session went for child – how long to settle, what they did etc
  • ILD – online observations for parents to access – settling days observations completed within first 2 weeks

Peer support and learning

It should not be underestimated what a gift our older children are when welcoming new members to our nursery family. Children greatly enjoy the responsibility of supporting their new friends and showing them ‘the ropes’ (sometimes literally!)

Supportive, friendly and helpful children are often less intimidating than us ‘grown ups’ and making friends always helps our new children settle in faster.

Resurgence of difficulty transitioning

Sometimes for seemingly no reason or perhaps after a holiday or break, children will start to struggle leaving their caregivers once more, after many weeks or months happily strolling through the nursery gate.

This is perfectly normal for some children. Getting to the bottom of any concerns is something we take seriously – has something happened in nursery? Or has there been a change at home?

Home is their safe place, parents are their safe space. Nursery (life outside the home) is effort, its positive effort but it takes energy and resilience and involves developing and challenging physical and social skills, sometimes that can feel overwhelming to a child. We all feel that resistance even as adults, we have just developed coping strategies…or else we wouldn’t be there either!

This empathy is our superpower. We get it, we care and we are ready to help our children and their families through managing this transition again.

Nursery:School Transition

This is the next educational milestone transition which children face, we’ll back with blog dedicated to this topic later in the year.

Further reading:





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