Settling Your Baby or Young Child into Nursery

As your baby or young child starts nursery, Michelle, our Early Childhood Area Director, shares some top tips and practical suggestions to help you and your child get ready.

Leaving your baby at nursery can be an emotional time for many parents and it is understandable that parents may feel upset, anxious, and nervous. Some may also feel relieved and excited to be returning to work and are looking forward to being able to go to the bathroom in peace, or drink a cup of tea whilst it’s hot, but this anticipation can also lead to feelings of guilt. However you’re feeling, remember it’s a big change for you and your baby, and it’s natural that you may go through a roller coaster of emotions.

Acknowledge Your Own Feelings

Your child absorbs from you, so try to acknowledge how you feel and recognise these feelings. To be able to support your baby’s social and emotional development, the most important strategy is to take care of your own wellbeing so that you have the emotional resources to support children who may be feeling anxious or distressed.

Talking about your own feelings will help you, which in turn will help your baby or young child. Children will pick up on your feelings and cues so trying to make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and exercise will be a great help in creating a positive, emotionally safe environment. Talk to your child’s key person about worries or anxieties you may have.

Settling In

Every child is unique and the way they settle into nursery will vary hugely. Some babies and young children make the transition easily and happily, whilst others may become upset and cry, which can be just as distressing for you.

At Bright Horizons our teams are professional and experienced, and they understand what a huge life event returning to, or starting at nursery is for both babies and their parents. Speak to your child’s nursery to discuss how they can support you and your child during this transition.

Stay in Touch

Keeping in contact with your nursery will help reassure you that your baby is content, happy, and stimulated. At Bright Horizons we encourage parents to call throughout the day so we can share how your baby is doing. We can also send photos and emails as well as providing a daily communication record. Have a chat with your child’s key person before they start nursery and discuss the best ways to keep in touch.


Remember, even the youngest babies will pick up on your emotions. Try to be positive, upbeat and keep smiling when you take your child to nursery. Even if you’re crying inside at the thought of leaving them, try to make sure your little one doesn’t pick up on your distress.

Even though they may be very young, it’s still helpful to talk to your baby or toddler about the fun things they will do at nursery. Ask your nursery to share some photographs of your baby’s key person, the environments, and the toys which you can look at together at home. This will help your baby become familiar with the new faces and environments.


Share some photos of yourself and family members with the nursery, your child may enjoy looking at these throughout the day. Some children like to have a comfort object which can ease the transition, this might be a favourite blanket or toy from home. Speak to your nursery about how this might help.

Say Goodbye

Remember to always say goodbye. Although it may be tempting, don’t sneak out, your baby or young child needs to know that you have gone away. To the child, to suddenly look up and see that you are no longer there can cause more distress. Use a cheery tone to say goodbye, so your child is assured that there is nothing to be worried about. Children usually cry because you are leaving and not because they are unhappy about being at nursery. In the majority of cases, once the 'goodbye' part is over, your baby will quickly settle into an activity or cuddle with their key person or familiar member of the team. 

Picking Up Your Child

Talk to your nursery about the arriving and picking up arrangements that are in place so that you are prepared, know what to expect and can talk to your child about this.

Some babies and young children may get upset and cry when you arrive to collect them. This doesn’t mean they have had a bad day or that they do not want to go home. They may be feeling tired from all of the new sights and sounds, and just ‘letting go’ of emotions, because they are happy to see you again.

Back at Home

Don't be surprised if the nursery tells you your baby has been happy and content all day only for you to be faced with an evening of tears and tantrums when you get home. Playing and exploring a new environment is hard work and your baby or young child will probably feel tired at the end of the day. They might like some quiet, restful time with you when they get home.

When your baby or toddler goes to nursery, it may be emotional for both of you as your child may have spent most of their time exclusively with you. However you and your child feel about starting nursery, it’s okay. Be assured that things will settle down and you will both adjust to this new chapter together. Very soon, you should feel benefits for you both outweigh any worries or nervousness you felt at the start.

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