How Can I Effectively Manage Children’s Transitions? (I hear you ask!)

So, recently I was lucky enough to be in the audience for a couple of seminars from Penny Tassoni. Penny is a leading expert in the Early Years field and she always has something thought provoking, informed and current to say on lots of issues. The one that really blew me away and made me stop and think was about transitions for children – a child starting nursery maybe or a baby in day care moving to a different group within the setting – and how important it is that these transitions are planned for and follow a clear policy. If any of you want to see Penny’s amazing 5 step transition plan ‘Helping your child settle in’.

It is brilliantly thought out, practical, do-able and relevant to any childcare practitioner, any parent, any carer… It made me (guiltily) think of my own son, who I handed over to the lovely nursery teacher after one previous visit of just an hour the week before, when he played happily (with me in the room). He screamed as I handed him over and they shut the door and I echoed that scream as I sat in the car outside, unable to drive away because of the tears! He cried every time I took him for about four weeks, then settled in.

Then came ‘big school’ where the pattern was repeated. I will NEVER forget (this was 23 years ago) one of the mums in the car park saying to me “I feel so sorry for the mother of that poor boy who screams every morning.” And me turning to her and admitting that I was that mother. I was a young mum, but I was also a SEN (Special Educational Needs) teacher – and I didn’t know any better! Penny’s talk brought back the guilt of that experience. Especially when she explained that if a young child has a bad experience of transition when young, all the processes in their brain are then wired to experience the same fear/panic/upset whenever a similar transition/change occurs again – possibly throughout their lives. And I did that!

As a nursery assistant, I have worked in settings where there was either no clear policy on transition or, if there was, it was not always followed or not do-able. This was usually because of a lack of planning by management or key workers (not enough time/not enough staff/having to follow a strict schedule/too many other children needing attention, etc.). I have been on the early shift, in a room full of 8 children under three, with four of them crying and needing one-to-one attention, while opening the door to parents and trying to keep a register. No – you are quite right – that should NEVER happen.

A good transition policy like Penny’s 5 steps would ensure that children come into the setting as happy and confident as possible. Other children then do not get upset seeing a peer so very upset and staff are able to give their attention to every child. Just as importantly – no parents crying in the car on the way to work. WIN WIN!

So – please have a look at Penny’s 5 step plan (see link above) and here are my 5 ‘Cut it and Keep It!’ tips (5 for parents and carers and 5 for practitioners). There is a link to download a PDF version of each. You can print this out and use it as necessary…

Parent’s guide to successfully managing transition

  1. Plan ahead – it’s never too early to start visiting and make sure that when you visit you have time to stay each time as necessary
  2. Ask about the setting’s transition policy, get a copy of it
  3. Make sure you are happy with it. Do you have any questions?
  4. Meet with your child’s key person and the manager to plan your visits
  5. Communicate any important information about your child, likes/dislikes/personality/routine/their ‘important people’ …


Practitioner’s guide to successfully managing transition

  1. Get a copy of your setting’s Transition policy/plan
  2. Make sure you understand it. Is it clear? Are there clear do-able steps?
  3. Plan so that you can carry it out successfully – what do you need? More staffing, less children, a planned activity that matches the interests of the child?
  4. Find out about the child –their personality/likes/dislikes/comfort toy …
  5. Make sure you know the needs and wants of the parent and that you have clearly communicated the transition plan. Are the parents clear and happy about their part in the plan?



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