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There are many aspects of early years centre preparation to consider as the summer holidays draw to a close. This can be a very busy time of year for early years centres and it is important that all the proper steps are followed to ensure children return happy, safe and well cared for.


Why The Start of The New Term Is Crucial


Many children will be returning to your early years centre, whereas some will be brand new as they reach the appropriate age. In all cases, anxiety will be a common experience for children as they separate from their parents and enter a setting they’re less familiar with.

Getting off to a good start will help the children settle more rapidly and alleviate anxiety quickly. This can be achieved by setting healthy, consistent routines that are implemented from the start and offering settling-in sessions for brand new children and babies. These steps will also benefit staff, visitors and parents.
By putting effort into ensuring effective early years centre preparation, you can provide children with a nurturing, safe environment that they look forward to visiting for the rest of the academic year.


1. Create a Friendly Environment


The physical space of a nursery or early years provision plays a significant role in setting the tone for children’s return. Try to organise the space to accommodate opportunities for new learning. Create play areas that align with the curriculum goals for the academic year, and that will keep the children interested. You can also update the displays to reflect seasonal changes and new learning themes. By giving the children a fresh and inviting environment, you can instil excitement and curiosity, helping them to feel happy about returning to your childcare provision.

Also, remember to smile as the children enter. They haven’t seen you for a long time. Make sure you are also friendly towards the parents, reassuring them that their child will be fine - sometimes the parents can be even more anxious than the children!


2. Re-establish Routines


Children enjoy predictability and structure. After a relaxed summer, where routine may have completely gone out of the window, it’s important to gradually reintroduce familiar routines and schedules. You could begin by creating basic daily routines, such as breakfast, circle time, storytime, and outdoor play. Doing this will give children at your provision a sense of security and help them understand the expectations of them while in your care. You could create a visual timetable, map out the day, or use a visual clock to represent different chunks of time. This can be helpful for younger children who may not have a good understanding of time or who become anxious easily.


3. Create Engaging Activities


Effective early years centre preparation should centre around providing excellent activities for children. If children are returning from having stayed with you the previous year, they will want to see new activities, new toys and new games. Try to plan engaging activities that encourage children to connect with one another and explore new concepts. Incorporate activities that stimulate their creativity, motor skills, and cognitive development. These could include art projects, group games, and hands-on experiments. Make sure that activities cater to all abilities and backgrounds and that you document the activities for the children’s parents.


4. Promote Well-being


Going to preschool for the first time, or returning after a long absence can be very daunting. Remember, while a 6-week holiday is a short period of time for an adult, it is a very long period of time for a child.

Returning to a nursery or early years provision can evoke mixed emotions in children. Some might feel excited, while others might experience separation anxiety. It’s crucial to create an emotionally supportive environment that supports the individual child. Spend time asking them open questions about their experiences, be patient with them if they are reluctant, and reassure them of the routine. Team up with parents to gather insights into each child’s emotional state and tailor your approach accordingly. You may want to offer supportive meetings with families when a child is experiencing high anxiety or seems withdrawn.


5. Use Open Communication


The communication you have with parents in the lead-up to the beginning of term is important. Ensure that parents have all the information so that they can prepare their children before arriving at your centre. Remember, early years centre preparation can begin while the holidays are still in full swing. Effective communication with parents is instrumental in facilitating a successful transition. Share details about the upcoming curriculum, activities, and any changes to the daily routine. Collaborate with parents to understand their children’s interests, strengths, and areas of growth.


6. Professional Development


As educators, it is vital to stay updated with current teaching methodologies and child development practices. If you can find any professional development opportunities that equip you with fresh insights and strategies, you should take advantage of them. You can attend workshops, webinars, or conferences that focus on early childhood education. The more equipped you are, the better you can prepare your early years centre ahead of the start of term.


7. Celebrate Summer Achievements


The children may have achieved something during the summer holidays that they want to share upon arriving at your centre. Ask parents in advance via email whether the child would like to share anything. This gives the children a nice opportunity for ‘show and tell’ upon arrival at the centre. It also helps you to get to know the new children better and engage with them in a way that builds trust.

Careful early years centre preparation does not have to be complicated. It is, however, very important to not overlook it. By ensuring that the children have a nurturing, exciting, safe, routined environment to return to, they will be more likely to thrive within your setting.

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