How My Daughter Finally Settled At Nursery School

How To Help Your Child Settle At School

I probably shouldn't tempt fate with this post incase I jinx it but… *whispers* my three-year-old seems to have finally conquered her fear of going to nursery.

I've written about being the mum whose kid won't settle at nursery and every word was painfully true at the time. While the true extent of the stress of those nursery-hating days are already fading into a dim and distant memory (thank goodness), I know that it was pretty much the toughest thing I've encountered in three years of parenting my daughter.

That first day that she howled and tried her darnedest to escape the clutches of her unsuspecting teacher, I spent the entire 'settling in period' howling too, albeit in the nursery car park.

But almost four weeks into the new normal that is our daily nursery routine, my daughter is finally skipping through the door without a backwards glance. I thought this day would never come.

What changed?

Well, partly, I think she's just grown in confidence and come to accept that we're not trying to palm her off onto the nursery staff on a full-time permanent basis. The way her face lights up when she sees me standing at the nursery door at pick-up time persuades me that she's simply got to grips with the fact that she isn't going to be abandoned at nursery for good.

But what really helped my daughter settle at nursery was a strange little trick that I didn't actually put any thought in to - which is ironic, really, given that I've spent a good chunk of the past three weeks googling 'How to get a three year old child to settle at nursery'. I've tried every tip and trick I've found, but this one just came to me – almost as an after-thought – as we were getting ready for nursery one morning.

Whilst helping my daughter get dressed, I planted a big kiss on her tummy and made a big game of 'trapping' it safely underneath her vest. We talked about how she could keep that kiss with her all day long and carry it around inside her vest without anybody knowing it was there, and how, in a way, that would mean she had a piece of me right by her side all day at nursery.

Now I'm no developmental expert so I can't explain why she seemed so soothed by that. Suffice it to say that something just seemed to click for my daughter that morning. It was as if she grew a little in confidence right before my eyes, assured of my love and commitment to her at a time that her growing brain just naturally seemed to be calling that into question.

On our way through the nursery doors I joked about how tomorrow I could hide a kiss in her coat pocket, or one inside her sock. She laughed uproariously and then sauntered through the nursery door, pausing only to give me a knowing look as she patted the kiss tucked safely inside her vest.

Every day since then I've had to hide a kiss somewhere about her person, of course but - touch wood - we haven't yet had tears at nursery drop-off.

Having a little physical connection to me that she doesn't need to explain, justify or worry about having taken off seems to have given her wings. And as the saying goes, our job as parents is to give our kids roots and wings. I think her roots ran so deep that they held her back from throwing herself whole-heartedly into starting nursery school and now she's got a daily dose of wings to balance those roots, she is quite literally ready to fly. Watch out, world.

And yes, as much as I have longed for her to settle into nursery without crying every morning, I'll admit that I still shed a tear or two that first day she sailed through that door without needing me quite so much. So if you're still in the throes of screaming at the nursery door, take comfort in the fact that these days will eventually pass. And remind yourself that, against all odds, you'll actually miss them just a teeny tiny bit.

TOPICS:   Parenting Tips


  • Samantha W.

    Brilliant, I'll be trying this :slight_smile:

  • Vikki R.

    I'll try it too. Week 6 and having more tears now than when we started! :worried:

    • Kate M.

      Your not alone ladies. Good luck to you x

  • Victoria B.

    This is so gorgeous... love this idea xx

  • Mabz H.

    Another thing we find that works with children who find it hard to settle at our setting is 'chatter box'. It's a shoe box that the parent and child decorate at home and then fill it with family photos, favourite toy, favourite book and any other objects that might be important for the child. The box is kept at the nursery and easily accessible for the child to go to when they are upset, share with friends and key person.

    • Louise B.

      They do this at my son's school. Call it a happy box. We bring in a shoe box and things to put in photos fiddle toys and small cuddly toys. And they decorate it.

  • Gemma R.

    Lovely idea :blush: what seems to have worked for us is validating my 3 year olds feelings - telling him it is ok to be upset, it's ok to miss mummy because mummy misses him so much too and can't wait to finish work to come and pick him up. Touch wood, no tears for a couple of weeks now x

  • Emma D.

    We're 4 weeks in and still tears everyday :cry: I'm going to try a big kiss tomorrow and see what happens!

  • Sarah M.

    Love this, thank you! :sparkling_heart: xx

  • Claire W.

    This is lovely... 5 weeks into reception and we still have tears, upset tummy a and A very anxious 4&1/2 year old! Gna give this a go!!!xx

  • Lisa K.

    Nope never had a problem with either of my kids. As hard as it is you just have to hand them over and go. Parenta hanging round will only make the child worse.

  • Sarah L.

    I tried my 1 year old at nursery but he didn't settle after 4 visits so they gave in. Told me to take him to more parent and toddler groups :confused: my husband is disabled and I care for him 24/7 and wanted a few hours just 1 morning a week to get housework done and maybe a dentist appointment and stuff like that doing.

  • Lauren-Marie C.

    That's wicked wouldn't think something so little had a massive improvement

  • Nikki S.

    My 2yr old girl is very clingy to me and not good with strangers so on her 2nd day at playgroup she surprised me by being completely fine without me there x

  • MrsA

    I'm really sorry, people probably aren't going to like this. I'm absolutely loathed to say this but I'm a social worker working in a busy child protection team. A lot of the work I do is around sexual abuse of children and the main factor we find is when secretive behaviour is normalised. 

    For a child to "carry" a kiss in a pocket is fine but for it to be under clothes or anything secretive makes me really nervous. We know that when children are asked to keep secrets at home it makes them more vulnerable to abuse, as they already understand that they are allowed to keep secrets.

    I'm so sorry to say this and don't want to bring anyone down. The idea of it being in a lunch box or pocket and not

    a secret sounds lovely though 

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