Transitions: The big move. Advice for Early Years Practitioners

This transitions blog has been supplied by EYR partner PACEY. In this blog, former childminders and PACEY advisors Pat and Anne discuss their experiences of children in their care transitioning to primary school. They share copying techniques and methods to support not only children, but childcare providers and parents alike. For more information about PACEY then head to their website here.

The summer holidays are finally here, and you may be thinking of the next big transition that some of the children in your care are about to make as they move on from your childcare setting and start primary school. This is a major change for many children. It means they are now part of a bigger classroom, with more children and perhaps more routine than previously.

Early years practitioners are ideally placed to help ease these transitions and can help ensure that children’s feelings of anxiety or apprehension are explored and managed before starting school. This can be done in a number of ways including active communication, play and helping to support parents.

Supporting children in their transitions

Starting school is a big step and can be a daunting prospect, so it is natural for children to have some anxiety around it. As a practitioner there are a few things you can incorporate into your practice for the children who are approaching school age.

  • Communication: talking about the upcoming transition can often help put a child’s mind at rest. Asking open ended questions about what they’re looking forward to – or are nervous – about school will allow the child to express and explore their feelings
  • Play: Children learn through play and doing fun activities together and creating school-centred activities and invitations to play can help remove some of the nerves.

“When children start at my setting, I know that they will be moving on to school in the future so right from the start I begin to build the skills they will need to move on to school and beyond. These skills cannot be mastered within a few weeks and need to be fostered over time.”

Anne, PACEY Advisor and childminder for over 20 years.

Activities and Communication

Designing activities around the upcoming transition can be particularly beneficial.

“When children are nearly starting school, I make them a chart with everything we have been working on together. We put it up on the wall at child height so that they can tick off skills mastered for school. As part of the journey we will use the PACEY school ready toolkit such as colouring the school uniform in the colours of the school they will attend,”

Anne also mentions.

Communication is key, simply talking to children about their school transition can often put their minds at rest. Asking open ended questions allows children to discuss their anxieties freely. It can also give you some insight into what they are worried about in particular. Many young children may find it hard to fully express their concerns so a patient, gradual approach may be necessary.

Supporting parents during a transition

Often we become so focused on helping the child, that we forget starting school can have an impact on parents too. Feelings of anxiety and even guilt can return. So it is important to let parents know that you are there to support them as much as their child.

“Parents can often see their childcare practitioner as the expert and look to you for advice and help. Particularly if their child will no longer be coming to your setting. I found this is where I saw my role as encourager and advisor when asked.”

Pat, a former childminder, and PACEY Advisor.

Pat also suggests that both parents and childcare practitioners familiarise themselves with their child’s school beforehand. It’s helpful to know how the local school works. This way, you have relevant knowledge to be able to support the parents. Ask parents to share any transition information the school gives them. This way, both you and the parents are being consistent in giving the same information and support. Encourage parents to attend any events the school is hosting as well. So they begin to feel part of the school community, too.

Saying Goodbye

As a practitioner it is natural to have formed a bond with the child(ren) who are getting ready for school. It is important to accept that feelings of sadness or anxiety are normal for you too. Especially if the child has been with you since babyhood. Both Anne and Pat suggest trying to see this as a positive.

“Remind the children and parents that they can stay in touch and this is a whole new adventure for them. Try to stay positive in front of them as children are so good at picking up on emotions. Let them talk about going to school, what they have done or seen on transition visits and being as excited as a child is”

Anne agrees, adding as a childcare practitioner you have helped the child to develop into the person they are now, ready to take on the world and we should take great pride in that. “I always give the children a small gift and attach a label to it with a written memory for them to treasure. Of course, I always ask them to come back in their uniform and tell me how it is all going. This gives me great pleasure when they tell me all about their new adventures at school.”

We hope that this blog has helped to alleviate some of your concerns or worries regarding the upcoming transition. If you would like more insight or information then please check out our transition blog series where we cover a parent’s perspective and tips as well as industry expert advice and information:

  1. Understanding Transitions
  2. Supporting Positive Transitions
  3. Getting School ready: a Parent’s Advice

As well as this, PACEY have a wealth of childminder specific information and resources on their website, from webinars on industry topics to discounts on exclusive resources to support transitions. Head to their website for more information!

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