Parenting: What it's like starting preschool during the pandemic - October update

After a few false starts (thanks lockdown and Covid) we are now a few weeks into starting preschool and I wanted to provide an update on our experience so far.

There are a few major differences in preschool starts at the moment that might be useful to know about. These include dropping them at the door and not going inside, no settling in sessions, obviously a lot of handwashing, no malleable play things and cleaning down of toys and shared facilities in between use. Snack and meal times the children are sat 2 metres apart from each other, and staff are wearing PPE during handover and close contact, but not when generally with the children.

I was worried about not being able to go inside and settle the Little Inspiration into preschool but after the first session which was a bit emotional, with a little coaxing about going to see some new toys, I'm pleased to say she has ran in every time with barely a backwards glance. The first few times there were a few protests to going beforehand but that has now stopped too.

She asked to stay longer by herself, first of all for morning playtime, then to stay for lunch and eventually until the end of the day. I have given her the full choice over how long she stayed initially and although I know that isn't always possible. I found after the first week she was asking to stay with her friends. 

It has been such a relief that it is something enjoyable and that she's settled so quickly (touch wood) and the staff are being very understanding about parents calling to check on their children, or staggering start and finish times. 

We were intending on blending childcare providers but at the moment that isn't possible because of the bubbles and actually the main reason was so that the Little Inspiration could get used to the school she will likely go to, but, it doesn't matter really if she's happy and we have time to move over before that becomes an issue anyway.

Getting information from the schools about open days before we have to make our selection has been tricky but they have a lot on their plates at the moment. 

So if you're considering letting your little one start nursery or preschool, I hope this puts your mind at rest a little. My top tips would be:

- Talk and read to your little one about it a lot beforehand

- Make a big deal of it being a positive move and all the excitement of it

- Have some nice treats afterwards in those early weeks, even going for a milkshake after or to the park

- I personally haven't made a big deal of telling her to stay away from people as I don't want to create anxiety around handwashing and germs. I will let the adults take care of managing the situation but not make a fuss.

- If you can, ask for a meeting / visit outside of school times for your child to meet their key worker but if they can't, in our experience, they soon get used to their key worker anyway and all of their friends will be in the same situation. It could actually be a good bonding experience.

- Go slowly if you can. Start with an hour, then two, give your little one the choice if they want to stay longer and the likelihood is they'll want to stay with their friends sooner or later.

- Call to check after an hour or so to put your own mind at rest. If they seem unsettled, don't be afraid to keep the session short and build up.

- Consider how to use your time, as it goes fast, especially with another little one to look after. I'm still figuring out Baby Inspiration's routine around preschool (even though its only a couple of mornings a week) and trying to make time to do something nice with him. Either having walks or playing at home, but eventually I may find a baby group to do.

How are you finding kids being back to nursery or school?

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