Whether your child’s early learning journey begins at an occasional care service, long day care centre, playgroup, kindergarten or school, the transition to education and care outside of home and family can be exciting, significant and sometimes overwhelming.
It’s important to acknowledge that transition into early learning may see families, like their children, also experiencing some apprehension during this time. While there may be a few teary goodbyes to start with, children who feel supported and involved at their service will make friends, learn new skills and develop self-confidence.
Partnerships between families and the early childhood educators/carers can help families manage this period of change. An environment that is welcoming of families and encourages them to collaborate with early childhood educators is an important part of these partnerships.
With good information, preparation and support, all families can ensure the transition from home to an early childhood setting is a positive experience.
Preparing ahead of time
As a family, your child will look to you for guidance and support. You can help them transition into early childhood education and care by talking about going to the service and the things they will do there. Use a name for the service that will mean something to them and the whole family.
You might want to start a routine before they begin by packing a lunch box and choosing their clothes or even visiting the service with your child to let them become familiar with the space.
Talking with the educators at your child’s service allows you to understand how your child is going and what they have been doing. Getting to know the educators can build a sense of community and a strong sense of belonging for your child.
You can help your child feel proud of participating and encourage further learning by asking about their day, who their friends are and what they enjoyed the most.
Ask questions about games or something you know they did (what did you have for lunch? Tell me about the games you played today) to encourage your child to give full answers, not just yes or no.
It might help to talk about their day each day over an afternoon snack as your child might be hungry and tired by the end of their day.
Toddlers are learning about emotions and how to manage them. New emotions can be intense to begin with but you can help them learn emotional control and management by talking with your child about what they are feeling and why.
If there is something your child is worried about or fearful of, talk to them about it. It’s important to acknowledge their fear but let them know they are safe and supported and help them understand how they can face it.
Supporting a love of learning
Helping your child value education can be as simple as showing your interest in their learning.
Ask questions about what they did, who they played with and what they created.
Encourage your child to draw a picture or tell you a story about what happened that day.
As you collect your child from a service, you can speak to the educators to find out what your child did that day, this way you can ask them about it to start a discussion.
Getting involved in your child’s learning helps them feel proud and inspired to learn and helps you understand their progress and be a part of their journey.
Leading by example
You can help your child to understand how important learning is by showing them how the things they learn are useful in everyday life. Let them see how much you enjoy reading and how you use counting every day so they understand the importance of these skills. When children see you and other family members learning, reading and studying as a part of your normal life, they begin to see it as a part of theirs too.
Getting the family involved in talking about games, words, sounds and numbers at home shows your child that learning is fun and important.
Saying goodbye as you drop your child off at their service can also be a great opportunity for you to lead with a positive example. By saying goodbye in a happy voice and giving a confident wave, your child will feel secure that you are happy with them being there.
Resources for families and educators
Be You, in collaboration with Early Childhood Australia and headspace, has developed a range of evidence-informed resources for families and educators including:
Together, let’s make the big moves smaller.