Category: For parents

How to prepare your child for the first day at nursery

Published : Aug 29, 2023
By Dr. Ana Aznar

The first day at nursery is a big day, not only for your child but for the whole family. In this article we give you seven tips to help you prepare your child for their first day. 

1. Talk positively about nursery: Walk past the nursery, attend an open day or an induction session. Establish that this is their nursery and talk about when they will join. Take some photos or look at the photos on the website together. Doing this helps your child to achieve a sense of familiarity with it. If your child is excited about it, keep on talking about it regularly, for example, you can count the number of sleeps. If in contrast, your child is anxious it is better not to discuss it too much to avoid building the anxiety. 

2. Talk about others’ experience at nursery: As a general rule, sharing your own or other family members’ experience helps your child understand that they are not alone in whatever they are going through. Ask them how they are feeling and validate those feelings. Try to avoid saying things like: “You will be fine”. Instead say things like: “I understand this is tough. I remember it was tough for me as well. Let’s see how we can help you to make things easier”. 

3. Organise playdates with future classmates: This is a great way for you and your child to build some relationships. 

4. Practice relevant skills: Sharing, turn-taking, putting their coat on (watch this video to learn the best method), taking shoes on and off, drinking independently from a cup…

A common question is whether children need to be potty trained before starting at nursery. This varies from nursery to nursery. Some will ask for your child to be trained before starting whereas others will support you in this transition. In general, it is best to wait for the child to be ready. If possible, do not rush to do it in the last few weeks before nursery starts. Consider that when they start nursery, children may feel uncomfortable asking a new adult to help them in the loo and may not ask, leading to accidents that will most likely upset them. Also, at the beginning they are more likely to miss the signs because they are in a new and stimulating environment. If your child is not potty trained at the start, allow them to settle at nursery, and once they are happy you can agree with their teacher on the best time to do it. 

Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash

5. Engage in role-play: If the nursery has a uniform or a bag, practice wearing it and role play going to school. This can be a great activity if another child you know is also starting at the same nursery. 

6. Remove their dummy or comfort object for periods of time: Try to remove them for the part of the day that they will be at nursery. Working on language and communication will be a priority at nursery, and this will be difficult using a dummy. Similarly, your child will be working on their fine (e.g., cutting, sticking) and gross (e.g., throwing a ball) motor skills and this will be difficult if they are holding a comfort object. Explain to your child that they will be kept safe at home or at nursery until they are finished. 

7. Work on separation: Arrange to leave them even for a short period of time with a friend or a family member. Be confident when you leave and reassure them that you are coming back. Depending on how they feel, start with a few minutes and build up to an hour or two. If they are sad, tell them it is OK to feel that way and remind them that you came back as promised. Stay positive, discuss the great things they did while you were away.

What happens if your child cries a lot when you leave them at nursery? By the time your child starts nursery, they will have established a strong attachment with you and other caregivers. So, leaving you will most likely upset them. Parents usually ask if it is better to stay with their child while they settle or to leave straight away. Consider that your child needs to establish a bond with their new teacher. Why should they even try if you are there, covering all their emotional needs? The best thing when you get to nursery is to explain to your child that you must leave to go to work or run errands and explain that you will return soon. Usually, there will be tears, but your child will eventually settle. The teacher will be able to support your child better once you are gone through fun and engaging activities. Do not however sneak off, it is much better to be honest and say you are leaving. Your child will develop confidence in you that way. 

If your child cries a lot, it may be a good idea to start with short sessions and gradually build up the time, keeping the separation routine consistent each time. For some children, it may take a long time but if they see that you are becoming anxious, it may be harder from them. Remember each child is different!

We hope your child has the best time at nursery! The information on this article is based on our masterclass: Choosing the right nursery for your child. Watch it here to learn more tips and useful information. If you have any questions, remember to contact your REC Parenting therapist or email us at: We are here to support you and your family!

Much love,


Dr Ana Aznar

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Dr. Ana Aznar
2024-05-17 09:55:58
Hi Donna,
sO great to have you here! Totally agree that Zara is great! What other topics would you like us to discuss?
2024-05-17 09:49:36
Love Zara’s ways of teaching for both parents & kids! Also so helpful. We want more!! (Please!) :D
Ana Aznar
2024-05-08 07:24:31
We are glad you found the content useful! Many thanks for being here.
2024-05-04 14:40:38
I couldn't resist commenting. Very well written!
2024-04-09 18:20:19
Great article!!!

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