Settling in transitions 

                     Early years practice procedures

                   Prime times – Settling in and transitions

To feel securely settled and ready to learn, children need to form attachments with the adults who care for them, primarily a key person, but others too. In this way they feel part of a community; they are able to contribute to that community and receive from it. Very young children, especially two- to three-year-olds, approach separation from their parent with anxieties, older children have a more secure understanding of ‘people permanence’ and are able to approach new experiences with confidence; but also need time to adjust and feel secure. It is the entitlement of all children to be settled comfortably into a new environment.

1.     young children feel safest when a familiar adult, such as a parent, is present when they are getting used to new carer and new surroundings. In this way they can become confident in engaging with those experiences independently later on.

2.    Because the initial need for proximity of the parent has been met, babies and young children gradually begin to feel secure with a key person in a new surrounding so that they are able to participate independently for small periods of time.

3.     young children are able to separate from parents’ and main carers when they have formed a secure attachment to their key person who knows and understands them best and on whom they can depend for their needs to be met.

The setting manager and key person explain the need for settling in and agree a plan with the parents. This involves setting a start date and a home visit after the initial visits to complete paperwork and meet the key person. then there will be an agreed amount of settling in before the start date. If the child is unsettled, we will plan to reduce times, change arrival and leaving times, and parental support.

Two-year-olds starting a setting for the first time

·         A two-year-old may have little or no experience of group care. As part of gathering information from parents, it is important to find out about the child’s experience of non-parental care, for example grandparents, or childminder; this informs staff as to how a child may respond to a new situation.

·         After the induction meeting with the setting manager or deputy and key person, a settling-in plan is discussed and where possible, a home visit is carried out for the same purpose.

·         To settle in a two-year-old, we will go through the same process of gradually increasing the time a child attends with a parent/carer

·         On the first day, the parent attends with the child, and stays for an hr to complete paperwork and a play. Several dates are confirmed for further visits, before the agreed start date.

·         It is evident that the child is developing a sense of secure base when he or she shows interest in activities and begins to engage with the key person and other children. Then the parent/ carer may gradually start to spend short periods of time watching to see how the child responds, this time increases until the child can manage a whole session without the parent.

·         Separation causes anxiety in two-year-olds, as they have no concept of where their parents have gone. Parents should always say goodbye and tell them when they will return. Patience with the process will ensure children are happy and eager to come to play and be cared for in the setting.

Three- and four-year-olds

·         Most children of this age can move through the stages more quickly and confidently.

·         Some children take longer, and their needs for proximity and secure base stages should be accommodated as much as possible.

·         Some children appear to leap to dependency/independence within a couple of days. In most cases, they will revert to the need for proximity and secure base.

·         After the parent attends for an induction meeting with the setting manager or deputy and key person, (or in some circumstances a home visit), a settling-in plan is discussed.

·         On the first day, the parent attends with the child and stays for an hr (less if the child becomes tired), several visits are arranged including a home visit, and time is increased and parents are encouraged to step back a little.

·         If the child shows interest in the activities and is beginning to engage with the key person and other children, the parent spends time at staff table to see how the child responds.

·         Parents are encouraged to explain to their child where they are going, and that they will return to play soon.

·         Once a child has a start date, parents can arrive and/or leave at flexible times to help settle their child during difficult transition times. We never allow a child to become distressed and will always contact the parents to continue with and readdress settling in.

For children whose first language is not English

·         For many children learning English as an additional language, the stage of proximity takes longer as the child is dependent upon the parents’ input to make sense of what is going on.

·         If the parent does not speak English, efforts are made to source an interpreter for induction.

·         The settling-in programme is explained to the parent, and it is emphasised how important it is that they stay with the child and talk to him/her in the home language to be able to explain things.

·         Through the interpreter, the key person will try to gauge the child’s level of skills in their home language; this will give the key person an idea of the child’s interests and levels of understanding.

·         The need for the parent to converse in the child’s home language is important.

·         The key person makes the parent feel welcome using smiles and gestures.

·         With the parent, make a list of key words in the child’s home language; sometimes it is useful to write the word as you would pronounce it. These words will be used with the child and parents will be addressed with ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in their language.

·         The key person prepares for the child’s visits by having a favourite toy or activity ready for the child to provide a means to interact with the child.

·         Children will be spoken to as per any other child, using gestures and facial expressions to help.

·         When the child feels happy to spend time with the key person (secure base), the parent should spend time away from their child.

·         Progress with settling in will be done as with any other child; it just takes a little longer to reach dependency/independence.