When is the right time to start nursery?

Credit: to https://www.daynurseries.co.uk/advice

When is the right time for your child to start nursery? It’s a good question that many parents ask and a complex one.
It is different for each child. Every child and their family are unique. The right time to send your child to nursery is based on a decision that is right for both the child and parent.

What should parents consider before deciding when to send a child to nursery?

There are many factors for parents to consider when deciding when to send their child to nursery. A decision about when is the right time to start nursery is usually influenced by choice or necessity.

Factors for parents to consider include:

Family budget. Financial means play a big part in decision making about what age a child actually starts nursery.

Childcare availability. High quality nurseries often fill up quickly, meaning parents may have to make this decision when their baby is still quite young.

Maternity and paternity leave rules. Many mums and dads send their child to nursery after their maternity leave and paternity leave offered by their employer ends in order to return to work. They will then require a nursery during working hours. Many mothers tend to take maternity leave for six or nine months.

Personal wishes. Many nurseries do offer childcare for babies but for some parents if they can cope financially, their preference is to spend some of their child’s early years looking after them themselves. When you send a child to nursery, you may find when you go to pick them up at the end of the day, your child is tired after a day of playing and learning and may be grumpy so your time with your child won’t be as enjoyable.

Government ‘free’ childcare offers. This is linked to children’s ages and factors into their decision about what age they send their child to nursery. Three-and-four-year-olds in England, are entitled to 15 hours of free childcare per week. This increases to 30 hours if both parents work.

Child’s development. How is your child’s development? Do you feel they would benefit from early years education from trained professionals now and the chance to learn through play with other children? Some children are ready for nursery as young as six months. Some might need more time.

The selected nursery. Look at the age requirement set by the nursery you are looking at as this will inevitably influence your decision.

Child’s personality. Each child has a different character. For example, if your child is a confident, curious, sociable individual, you may want him or her to go to nursery earlier to benefit from the stimulating, social environment available there. If your child is more shy, quiet and reserved, he or she may benefit from one-to-one attention from for example, a childminder, grandparent or parent.

Child’s independence. How independent are they? For some children, nursery will be that first step away from home and going to nursery can be great for boosting independence and learning new skills. If you are worried your child is too dependent on you, nursery can act as an important transition period between home and school.

Routines. Is your child familiar with daily routines in their home life? Nurseries have routines that help children know what to expect. E.g. Snack time, lunchtime, playtime and naptime. This is normally at the same time each day. Try introducing some daily routine at home to get your child familiar with schedules.

Emotions. Many parents feel a sense of guilt about leaving a young child at nursery. Add to this the separation anxiety felt by children whose stress hormone cortisol doubles during the first nine days of childcare without their parents and it is clear that the decision about what age to send a child to nursery is fraught with emotion. Nurseries will have settling-in sessions to enable families to get a feel for the setting and see how your child will cope in a new environment away from home.

If you are rarely away from your child, a child might have a harder time being away from the parent, and may benefit from more time away from the parent before starting nursery e.g. in the care of a family member or childminder. (Please read the article ‘How do you help a child with separation anxiety at nursery?’ for tips to help children with separation anxiety and settling into nursery)

What is the best age to send your child to nursery?

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Quite simply, there is no best age to start nursery.

However young a child is when they start nursery, ensure you choose a nursery where the staff have the skills and experience to care for the individual needs of a child of that age.

Should a child start nursery from birth?

Most nurseries offer places for children aged three-months-old or older, however some do offer places for babies as young as six-weeks-old. At this age, babies need a lot of care and nursery staff that look after very young babies will be experienced in feeding them milk, changing nappies and giving lots of cuddles.

Is six months too young to start nursery?

Many parents decide to send their child to nursery after six months so they can return to work. Many nurseries take babies from as young as six months and these will generally be cared for in a different room to the older children, so the environment is age-appropriate for them.

Should my child start nursery at 1-2 years-old?

Toddlers aged between one and two will be keen to learn and eager to enjoy new experiences so this can be an ideal age for attending nursery where they can mix with their peers and learn to share and socialise.

Is 2-3 years-old an appropriate age to start nursery?

When children are aged between two and three, parents are often thinking about returning to work or ensuring their children socialise with others their own age.
Children learn a lot from each other and will be able to play with each other at this age. This can be a really good time to start nursery as they want to make friends and play and will learn through copying others. For this age group, nursery can be vital for learning good social skills.
Staff will be qualified in early years development and will know how to challenge your child and encourage them to develop a love of learning.

Is three years old too late to start nursery?

If your child is emotionally dependent on a parent, the parent might decide to wait until the child is three before starting nursery. Children this age are often able to eat on their own and communicate their toileting needs.
Some parents decide to send their child to nursery at the age of three to build on their social skills and education amongst other children before they start school. The nursery helps them prepare for school life, learn routines and be independent.
One mother shared her reasons for waiting until her child is three before sending him to nursery.

“My son just turned two last month and everyone keeps on to me saying he should go to nursery etc. With my first he didn’t start till he was two and half …but because money is tight and the cost of living going up etc. I would like to wait till he is three,” she posted on Netmums, the parenting website.
“Family and friends keep saying send him now…he’s bored, he’s too clingy etc and I feel a lot of pressure on me. I mean he won’t be this age for long so why can’t I have him at home till he is three and then send him? I have only started potty training him as well so that gives me a year to train him.”

Why should children go to nursery?

Nursery helps children achieve early years milestones. It helps children’s physical development, gives children a chance to interact and socialise with their peers, nurtures their emotional development, builds their immunity, helps them learn to take care of themselves, enables them to understand the natural world and gives them access to learning resources they don’t have at home.
Nursery prepares children for school and also gives parents a break from childcare.
Whenever you choose to start your child at nursery is usually the right time. This is because a parent knows their child best.
“I don’t think there is a ‘best’ time to start nursery. My son was 12 months old when he started,” a nursery worker shared on Netmums.
“From my experience of working in nurseries, I have found that most children settle in fine. My son is very clingy to me at home and I can’t even leave a room without him crying. He has always been like this but has settled very well at nursery. I know he is happy, he eats well, sleeps well and does so many wonderful activities that as parents we often struggle to find time to do.”

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