Whether they are an only child or part of a larger family, every preschooler benefits from some nursery provision, which provides a combination of care, early learning and development.
Nursery is not a substitute for home. It is a link for a child between home and life outside home. It’s somewhere where a child starts to form friendships, make their own decisions and find their own interests. They also meet other adults and, in doing so, develop positive attitudes to others.
They play with other children and, through group play, they find out what things they can do together with others and what things they can do on their own and this all helps to develop their personal confidence.
Fear of missing out
The nursery environment gives a child access to inside and outside spaces, along with a range of resources and skilled help to support their learning. Nursery provision gives a pre-school child the best possible preparation helping them to become ‘school-ready’, independent individuals.
Like all children and young adults in education, preschool children have also experienced the effect of the pandemic on their education and development. Recent research undertaken by KindredSquared has highlighted some of the effects on preschool children, from the closure of nursery provision during the first lockdown and the lack of access to local childcare services.
Many children are not ‘school ready’ the research finds: ‘The number of children starting school without basic skills such as being able to go to the toilet unaided, put on a coat or respond to questions is at record levels because of nursery closures, according to research.’
Although many nursery providers are open during this third lockdown, the disruption continues with ‘bubbles’ and staff isolating, and temporary closures. Preschool children are missing out on much of the things I write about. Experts suggest that children will catch up when they are back in school.
State of independence
While many aspects of the nursery environment are not easy to replicate at home, we can encourage our preschool children towards independence. The nursery environment encourages each child to be able to dress themselves, change footwear, feed themselves and to go to the toilet.
I know that, for parents and grandparents alike, it often feels pragmatic to take the initiative and do what seems most expedient in the moment. We sort out clothes for our children, and then dress them. We get their shoes and coats on before we go out. We prepare all aspects of their daily meals, and resort to feeding them when they are too engrossed in play or a television programme.
Instead of always stepping in and taking over, now is a great time to step back a little, supporting and encouraging your child to ‘have a go’ themselves. It is too much to ask them to tackle all these little tasks at once, and as with many lockdown initiatives, if it’s too ambitious you may quickly find you lose enthusiasm and investment and revert to your previous routine.
For now, simply select one little job – one that your child can now remember is their responsibility – and gradually build on their skills. If you forget and start doing it again, you may even find that they remind you whose job it is!
You can start small – if they can’t quite manage to put their shoes on, maybe they can get them out of the cupboard – and add to the list over time. You can even encourage them to help out around the house, sorting the recycling, watering a houseplant, or pairing socks from a laundry load.
With encouragement, Daisy is now able to put on her coat, scarf and hat, and undo her coat. She is able to put her wellies on (not always on the correct feet, but that’s improving), and she has shoes with Velcro fastenings that enable her to be successful on occasion. After 18 months at her childminder, Daisy knows how to feed herself (albeit, slowly) and she has the confidence to pour herself a cold drink.
With support, all of these small skills can be improved at home. Many children may be unable to attend nursery or reception classes at the moment, but we can still use this time to support them and put them in the best position when the pandemic finally recedes.
Granny Smith says…
Gaining these skills means children start to develop their personal confidence, and will be better able to take inevitable future changes to their routines in their stride.