Effective Transitions in The Early Years – a collection of case studies

Introduction – Jo Peters, Assistant Head of Hub 

When considering effective transitions there are things to consider which will help to support children and reassure their parents and care givers as these little ones start in a new setting.  Here we provide a series of case studies as examples to help you to review your own transition arrangements.

Lorna, a Childminding Mentor, and Linda, Childminder Area Lead, also share their views and practice, sharing practical tips to help illustrate what makes an effective and smooth transition from home to setting.  

Natalie Bignall, Head of Service and Development for Outstanding provider Kids Start provides her perspective of what makes an effective transition, taking into consideration the feedback from her families. In her Case study she shares her passion for home visits and the positive impact this can have on children’s development.

The experiences we are sharing here offer an excellent example of the expertise within the childminding and PVI sector.  

Case study 1

Settling In by Linda Bedson – childminder and Childminder Area Lead

Parents and children are invited to come and meet me in my home for an informal chat. This will give them the opportunity to have a look around my setting and see where their child will be cared for. Parents will be able to discuss with me their expectations for the care of their child and to ask any questions that they may have. I supply an ‘All About Me’ form to be filled in about the child’s likes, dislikes, and routine. If a family decides they would like me to care for their child, this helps me to personalise the care I give from the very first time they come into the setting. Further visits will be arranged where we can discuss the requirements for helping them and their little one smoothly transition into the setting, beginning by leaving the child with me for short periods before starting. We plan a settling in routine together and I will gather all the necessary information needed to give the best experience for all the family.

All About Me…

The all about me form is a useful way to tell me about the home routine and I encourage parents to monitor the routine for about a week before filling this in. I encourage parents to come in for the first visit for just 30 minutes with their child. Following this I ask them to leave the next session after a few minutes, assuming the child has relaxed enough for them to pop out, and return after about 20-30 minutes. I send pictures during the settling periods to assure parents their child is relaxed and content. If there is a need, I will continue these sessions for longer to accommodate the family where anxiety may be present. I usually find though that this approach means children and parents settle in quickly and the need is only usually for 1 or 2 settling sessions before full days commence. A copy of this document can be found here.

 Parent Comment

“We found the settling in process with Linda very smooth. Our daughter was 10 months when she started, with her being a little younger and never being away from the home before we were worried about how it would go. We had a number of settling in sessions both with and without us present. Linda was very reassuring and gave us lots of updates on her progress and activities, especially on the days she was upset at drop off – which did not last very long! Linda kept our home schedule to make for a smooth transition. It did not take long for our daughter to settle in and start coming out of her shell.” 

Case study 2

Settling in by – Lorna Smith childminder and Childminder Mentor

I think it’s important to spend time considering the best approach to settling into a childminding setting, as every child and family is different.  Generally, I invite the family round for a drink and a play on a couple of occasions initially, so that we can all get to know each other and share information.  I use an ‘All about me’ sheet with the family and learn about the child’s likes, dislikes, interests and individual needs and routines.  When the family are ready, I plan an activity or set up resources that I know the child particularly enjoys, and the child stays for an hour or two without their parent/carer.  The settling in process goes at the speed that suits the individual family so that everyone feels comfortable, and the child gradually gets to know the other children here too. 

Each child has their own coat peg with their name and photograph on it so that they feel like they belong here, as well as a communications book labelled in the same way.  I try to reflect the child’s normal routine as closely as possible here, so that the child feels comfortable, and they often bring a comfort item or familiar sleeping bag with them to use at naptime.  I think it’s important to establish open and honest communication with the family from the outset, so that all relevant information is shared to best support the child.

Family Comments

“I think I was a bit nervous about sending B to a childminder because he’d only been with grandparents up until that point and I think he had just turned 2 or just before 2 and we were trying to look for childcare for him. So that’s why we really liked the idea of a childminders rather than a nursery, so it’s like a home from home and so he’s used to that home environment and small groups and more intimate relationships with fewer children. I really liked the fact that he would be exposed to different ages of children, like the older kids that you get from school, and that he would have those interactions.”

“I think you made us really at ease with just coming round and having a brew. It was just like you invited us into your family and I think that’s what you said you wanted. It felt like a family, coming in, having a brew and just chatting to you, asking any questions. You just let us ask whatever and gave us really honest answers. B was able to play and run around as if you were our friend and we were just going for a play date, so I think that really helped him to get familiar with the environment. Then we left him for a couple of hours and that was really helpful for him to get an idea of what a day would be like, but also for me to just be comfortable as well, because it’s a big thing for me to like to leave him somewhere. I felt really confident that he was happy for those few hours and I felt good about sending him for a full day.”

“I think just really little things like when he was a bit upset about coming and not fully used to your house you would know the sorts of things that he liked, like trains and animals and you would put them in the porch window. As soon as I got him out of the car we’d be like ‘Oh what’s that? Come on let’s go and find what Lorna’s got out for you today’. And he would be really excited about the book or taking the train, so that was just amazing. I thought that was such a good idea. Also, the hooks and his photo. I remember him being excited about seeing his face on the hook and being like ‘I belong here and I have something here and this is my peg at Lorna’s house and I put my things here’. That picture is on the front of his little book too, which he got excited about. All those little things just really, really helped I think, just to make it easy.”

“Both of our children settled well, and it definitely helped that we spent some time playing in the house with them first. It felt like visiting a family friend rather than a new childcare setting. Short visits without me were very effective as well in getting to know Lorna and the environment before spending a full day.  I also think the coat pegs and the notebooks with their photo on are also useful.”

Case study 3

Supporting Effective Transitions by Natalie Bignall, Head of Service and Development at Kids Start

Kids Start had always valued the importance of a good quality transition into nursery and although prior to COVID we did not offer home visits, we did offer a flexible, child centred approach to transitions. We had previously looked at the benefits of home visits and had come up with lots of reasons why they would not work – staffing, limited time, parents may not want you in their homes, risk to staff were just a few of the barriers we thought about. These barriers still exist, but we have found that the benefits of the home visits and a flexible transition outweigh the logistical challenges.

“Parents and carers cannot praise the nursery highly enough. They talk about ‘being part of the Kids Start family’ – Kids Start Day Nursery Ofsted Report, 2023. Lockdown and the restrictions meant that we had to explore the way children were introduced to nursery. We used gardens to complete first gradual sessions and limited parents coming into nursery. We noticed an impact on the children and their families. Parents seemed to be more anxious and children were increasingly upset and some found larger groups of children overwhelming. A consequence of this was that children were taking longer to settle into nursery and staff were impacted by trying to support multiple children to settle into nursery.

Children that had already been impacted by COVID restrictions were taking longer to feel secure enough to start to play and learn. We continued to use the Leuven Scales of Wellbeing and Involvement and noticed that children were staying in “extremely low” or “low” states for much longer periods of time.

“Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nursery is providing children with even greater support in relation to their communication and language and social and emotional development.” – Kids Start Day Nursery Ofsted Report, 2023.

We decided to explore our transition procedure and evaluate the impact of this on children, families and staff. Firstly, we spoke to staff about what they found challenging, the changes that they had noticed since the pandemic and what they thought we should change. It was great to hear that our team were so committed to supporting children to settle into nursery. It was also very clear that staff found the current situation stressful and worried about the children in their care.

We also wanted to gain parents views and already had a parent representative group, Kids Start Connections. We held a meeting and discussed parents experiences when settling their children into nursery, the feedback was good, parents felt we were generous with gradual sessions and had a child centred approach. We were also able to discuss how parents felt when settling children into nursery after the pandemic. We introduced the idea of home visits and all parents seemed keen. We discussed potential barriers and how we could encourage families to take up a home visit as part of the settling process. During this meeting we gained some great ideas, offering familiar places outside of the home, sharing parent feedback and discussing benefits during the first nursery viewing.

“If community values its children. It must cherish their parents.” – John Bowlby

Since introducing home visits, we have continuously evaluated how they are offered and have developed our approach and practice based on this. We started by creating a robust policy and risk assessment and providing training to staff. We looked at the times that would be best to facilitate the visits and the logistics of staffing.

Picture from a home visit of a little girl that enjoyed playing with dolls, making lots of noise and drawing.

We make contact with the parent/ carer the day before the visit to check if they have any questions and most importantly to discuss their child’s interests. We fill a small basket with toys and resources of interest ready for the visit. A member of the management team and a practitioner from the child’s base room will attend the home visit. The Manager completes the paperwork, including a record of developmental “starting points” and the practitioner spends time playing and interacting with the child. They introduce all the exciting things that we have packed in the basket and spend time getting to know the child. The visit normally lasts around an hour and the next visit is arranged for the following day.

During the second visit, the child comes to nursery with their parent. The same practitioner greets them and has the same basket of toys with them. The parent will stay in the nursery room or gardens for around 40 minutes, before leaving for a few minutes. We then build on the time that the child is left. Every child is different, some need slow and gradual settle sessions and some are a little faster.

We do not put limits on the number of sessions that children have. Instead, we focus on the child and family, keeping them at the centre of what we do.

Jodie, Nursery Manager of Kids Start Day Nursery during a home visit.
Childcare Practitioner with a child during her home visit.

We have noticed a massive difference in the way the children have settled using this process. In addition to this, we have noticed that parents are much less anxious and they enjoy the process of their child settling into nursery. Staff comment on how changing this practice has reduced stress and children have been ready to play and learn much more quickly.

The feedback has been amazing from children, parents and staff. We have observed young children settling in much more quickly and forming relationships from the first home visit. Parents have been thrilled with the process and commented about the impact that it has had on their children. Staff have developed an understanding of attachment and they have enjoyed being part of the full settling process and feel this has helped them to get to know each individual child far better.

Staff feedback

“Having an hour of dedicated time with a child and their family is one of the most beneficial aspects of our gradual process. We strongly recommend them to each family before they sign up as it allows us to start building secure and positive attachments from the very beginning. We are in a child’s safe space, with their safe people whilst they are being introduced to the new faces that will be looking after them, as I watch one of the practitioners from the child’s new room sit and play, you can see a bond starting to be created, you can then see the benefits with of this when a child then attends their first session at Nursery, remembering and finding comfort from the practitioner they met in their home and often seeking them to explore a new environment with them. The home visits are also particularly important for ensuring we have every detail collected about a child before they start, being able to go through important aspects of a child’s routine, health, family details etc. without distractions enables us to ensure we have the smoothest possible transition for each child.”

Parent feedback

“An excellent induction for my little girl. She loved showing her toys. More nurseries should do this.”

“The home visit was great. So good for my child to meet staff in his own environment.”

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