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Early years training: Supporting transition to school

date July 4, 2019Beth Thomas

Children experience dozens of transitions every single day – even the smallest change from one activity to another calls for an interruption and change in thought processes. However, we often focus on the ‘big’ transitions like starting school because it is also a big transition for a parent. What we have to remember is that the effective management of those small transitions can help to build the resilience children need to be able to effectively manage their transition to school.

In this article, transitions expert Beth shares her insights on transitions in the early years and what you can do to support children during these critical times:

Whenever I talk about transitions, this is where I start. Because the subject of transition doesn’t start when the change happens; it starts a long time before that in the way that we nurture our children’s ability to cope with changes in general. There are two key elements to the nurturing of resilience through change and they are as follows:

Communication: A child who is part of the conversation is likely to be more aware of what is happening. We show this in small transitions like when it’s time to tidy up – we give a few minutes’ warning before it needs to happen. The same goes for starting school; we invite our children to join in on the conversation, give them opportunities to visit schools and help make decisions on where they feel comfortable. Being able to communicate thoughts and feelings is a huge part of the effective management of transitions and if the children feel they can talk to someone about any issues they might have, it will support them in getting themselves emotionally ready for the change that is going to occur.

Relationships: This ties in very closely with communication. Bowlby’s attachment theory teaches us about forming strong relationships with children from the start and these relationships then go on to be the foundation of children’s development. When children are secure in their relationships, they feel safer to venture out and explore new places. This is why parents are invited to bring children in to school for visits and stay with them for the first few times.

With these key elements in mind, there are additional resources and activities we can give children the opportunity to experience prior to starting school which might help support them.

  • Read stories about starting school – stories are a great way for children to see other people go through an experience and come out the other side – it can help them to feel empowered. If he can do it, then I can do it!
  • Take advantage of visits to the school – the more visits a child goes on, the more they will learn about the school environment and grow to be comfortable.
  • Practice wearing the uniform during the summer and changing into the PE kit – this will make it easier for when they do start, and not a stressful experience.
  • Find out who else is going to that school – this way, play dates can be arranged with other children who might be in their class so they start out with pre-made friendships.
  • Be positive – it can be a scary time for parents letting their ‘baby’ go, but when talking about school, it is helpful for children to hear and feel positive about it from adults around them.

Want to access more useful tips to support your early years’ practice? Try Kinderly’s new CPD platform Kinderly Learn so you can learn in a quick, interactive way wherever you are whenever you can.


About Beth

Beth has worked in a variety of early years settings over the past fifteen years; an out of school play club, as a teaching assistant in a Reception classroom, as a childminder, as a lead practitioner in a busy day nursery and as a practitioner in a pack away preschool. She also writes regularly for practitioner magazines.

Beth studied her BA (hons) Early Years with The Open University for six years before embarking on Early Years Initial Teacher Training at the University of Brighton. She continues to study and has completed a Master’s Research degree in Childhood Studies.

Beth’s main area of focus is childhood transitions. She has seen first-hand how children can struggle when faced with change and seeks to find out how to best support children in their unique situations. Her ‘Transition Story Books‘ range has been born out of this interest and each book was written specifically for particular children Beth was caring for at the time.