Transitions - from home to nursery
It is a very exciting time here at Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens, as we welcome lots of new smiley faces to the WOK team. Starting your child at nursery is a big step, and whilst exciting, it is also unfamiliar and can pose new challenges for both you and your child. Staff at the nursery are always keen to support children in any way possible and will always take a tailored approach to meet every family’s specific needs in any way that they can. Each child who starts WOK will have an individualised care plan and a personal profile on our Famly app to make sure every child is provided with the care and support that best suits them. At Woodland Outdoor Kindergartens we uphold a child led ethos and are committed to ensure that all children feel happy and supported at all times.
Within this blog I intend to use establish educational theories and explore them in the context of WOK children transitioning from home to nursery. I hope that this will illuminate some of the ways that both staff and parents can support children during their transition from home to nursery and will hopefully give you a quick introduction to some (super cool!) educational theorists.
Urie Bronfenbrenner was a Russian-born American psychologist who is most known for his ecological systems theory. Bronfenbrenner developed an educational theory in which he conceptualises children’s understanding of their environment by dividing the world around them into different ecosystems; Microsystem, Mesosystem, Exosystem, Macrosystem (pictured below). At this age, a child’s microsystem is comprised of the individuals who they are most familiar with and directly interact with on a regular basis. When a child first begins at nursery their practitioners are not yet part of a child’s microsystem but their mesosystem. Staff can be described as part of a child’s mesosystem as they have interacted with a child’s family and have thus created a connection between home and nursery. In time, a child’s nursery teacher will transition from being part of a child’s mesosystem to their microsystem. This is because children will begin to directly interact with staff on a regular basis and steadily become increasingly familiar and comfortable them. At WOK we take pride in the strong and close relationships that children build with staff during their time at nursery (I haven’t managed a nursery graduation at my time at WOK without shedding a few tears!!)
Vygotsky/ Bruner – Scaffolding
Lev Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist who contributed massively to educational theory in the 20th century. In terms of Early Years and transitions, Vygotsky is probably best known for his theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (pictured below). Vygotsky's 'zone of proximal development' is the distance between a child's current developmental level and a child’s potential development level that could be achieved through new experiences and challenges with appropriate adult support.
Jerome Bruner was born in New York in 1915 and made significant contributions to human cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology. Bruner was hugely influenced by Vygotsky and if we look at his scaffolding theory, we can find effective techniques to support our children during their transition from home to nursery.
Whilst beginning their journey at nursery is an exciting time for children, it is important to acknowledge that it may also be a challenging time for them as they forgo new and unfamiliar experiences which have the potential to feel overwhelming. A good way to support children at this time and to prevent them from feeling anxious or overwhelmed is to adopt what is known as the scaffolding technique. Scaffolding is an educational technique predominantly accredited to Jerome Bruner. Bruner built his theory around Vygotsky’s zones of proximal development and is essentially a technique designed to enable children to challenge themselves and therefore move between Vygotsky’s zones into the unfamiliar. Scaffolding refers to a process where a trusted care figure in a child’s life (this could be a parent or teacher) models the behaviour or activity that a child is aiming to achieve and then proceeds to slowly stand back, offering support and then decreasing these levels of support when appropriate. This helps children to gradually become more accustomed and comfortable with their new environment and the new activities they are engaging with. In the context of Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten these activities could refer to a child trying to pack their nursery backpack, managing their lunch box, making a new friend or even climbing a tree! Staff at WOK can frequently be seen practising scaffolding in a variety of situations and it can also be an effective process for parents to use at home with their children to help prepare them for the nursery day ahead.
Froebel – Transition Objects
Friedrich Fröbel or Froebel was a German pedagogue who was born in 1782. Many believe that Froebel laid the foundation for a variety of current educational theories. Froebel did lots of work surrounding both the early years and the importance of outdoor education; making his theories incredibly relevant to apply to the ethos of Woodland Outdoor Kindergarten. Last year myself and 3 of my WOK colleagues were lucky enough to attend a course on Froebel at Edinburgh University and learnt a huge amount about the importance of providing emotional support for young children during transitional periods.
When your child first begins attending nursery, you might find that there is a specific object they wish to transport with them from home to nursery repeatedly each week. This is something that Froebel refers to as a ‘transition object’. Froebel articulated that children find it comforting to consistently transport a specific object between home and nursery as this object can serve as a link between home and nursery and subsequently increase their level of comfort whilst attending nursery. During my time as a practitioner at WOK I have observed a variety of transitional objects ranging from a teddy bear to a hairbrush to a cereal box! Whilst we would not necessarily encourage a huge amount of small toys to be taken to nursery (things can get broken, lost and very muddy!!) we are very understanding if a child has an object which is facilitating their transition journey!
That’s it for this time folks! I hope that this blog has given you some insight into ways we can support children on their exciting transition from home to nursery. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any further questions of concerns!
WOK Lead Practitioner