Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Nursery Diaries: It Didn't Work Out

A few weeks back, I wrote about how I was Letting Go and trying to be ok with the fact that my eldest son would soon be starting pre-school.

It was something I was struggling with a lot after having a lot of negative experiences with seeing what can go on behind the scenes of childcare environments from the point of view of a staff member.

I knew that I had to try hard to overcome my fears and anxieties as Tyne is such a sociable little person and I just knew he would thrive in a pre-school environment - he so wants to start learning and experiencing the world more, and I didn't want my own anxieties to hold him back or stifle him in any way.

So I made an appointment to try and visit some of our local pre-schools - there isn't a great deal of choice where we live, and the ones that I really liked the look of were already full until the next intake in September but I managed to find one local pre-school with spaces for the April term.

We went along for a visit one afternoon and I chatted with the staff and had a little look around - it seemed ok if a little untidy and chaotic, but the staff were very nice and Tyne seemed to like it.

So we decided to start him there and last week the first day rolled around ... he started pre-school.

I was happy that the pre-school were very laid back in their "Settling in" approach as I knew from experience as a staff member that many nurseries recommend the "Leave them at the door, tears or no tears" approach and I knew that was something that I would absolutely not be agreeing to - if my son was worried or unhappy I was going to stay with him until he felt confident enough for me to leave, and that was non-negotiable in my eyes (Of course every parent has a different way of approaching these things, and many people feel that leaving them to be comforted by staff is the best thing for them which is fine with me - it's just not my own personal approach. I understand completely that this won't be possible when he starts school, but that's over a year away and I feel that they are more developmentally able to be reasoned with and made to understand by then).

Thankfully there was no need for an argument as the staff were happy to let me handle "settling in" however I wanted I decided that for the first session I would stay with Tyne, and then for the next session he'd go alone.

The first session was last Tuesday - the pair of us went along, and Tyne spent the full 2 and a half hours there with me watching on - I didn't follow him around or interact with him much at all really as I wanted him to get used to being there without my help - I simply sat off to the side for the full session to observe. Every now and then he would come to speak to me, but that was all.

I really wanted to be happy with what I saw that day, but I wasn't at all...a few things happened which I won't go into, but I will say that I definitely wasn't expecting to have other children coming up to me and complaining about things the staff should have been taking care of but weren't...some of them quite dangerous things.

I was also shocked to see so many staff members sat stationery for the full session without moving or interacting with any of the children at all....I would have been sacked for that at any of the nurseries I worked in! They just really seemed like they couldn't be bothered...even with a parent there watching!

The entire 2 and a half hour session was spent outside - which is fair enough, it was a nice day - but the number of activities available was minimal and certainly not anywhere enough to keep 22 children entertained for 2 and a half hours.

There was a water table, a mat with some building blocks on, and then a trampoline, a slide and a see saw.

That was it...hardly much to fill 2 and a half hours with?!

For the first half an hour, Tyne was excited to play on the trampoline and go down the slide but after that he got bored...he kept coming over to me and asking if we could leave yet because there was "Nothing to do".

I encouraged him to try the water table and the building blocks, which he did, but after 20 minutes or so of playing with each of those he was complaining again of being bored.

I kept expecting the staff to change the activities over or engage the children in something else but they didn't...that was it, for the whole afternoon.

At snack time, I expected them to gather the children up and sit them together to eat...snack time being such a good opportunity to encourage social interaction between the children, engage them in conversations about food and health, and teach them basic hygiene like washing their hands.

Instead a staff member brought out a plate of fruit and dumped it on a table - nobody announced to the children that it was there, nobody gathered them together, nobody even encouraged them to wash their hands first.

Some children noticed the plate and went to eat, others didn't notice and went without any snack because nobody told them about it.

I told Tyne to go over and get some for himself, but by the time he figured out where it was (Because none of the staff showed him despite it being his first day) it was all gone.

So that was it....his first day. When we left I tried to keep him excited and asked what he'd thought of it, he said it was a bit boring.

I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt...maybe it was just a slow day.

So for his next session, Tyne went along by himself...I dreaded the drop off incase he got upset but he didn't.

He simply turned to me, said "Bye Mummy!", gave me a big happy wave and in he skipped.

When I picked him up that day and asked him how it was, he said ...again..."Boring".

Over the weekend there was no mention of nursery but starting last night, Tyne started to talk about it...saying he didn't like it and he didn't want to go again.

His next session was this afternoon, and he spent the morning crying...saying he "hated nursery" and he didn't want to go there because there's "nothing to do".

I said he had to try it once more.

When I picked him up, and asked him how it went he said again..."It was really boring".

I asked what they'd done today and he said "Just played outside but with no toys out" and when I asked what he'd had for snack he said "Nothing, it was empty when I got there".

I asked if he'd told the teacher and asked for some more, and he said "I tried to but she wouldn't answer me"

I'm so glad that I stayed for that first session myself as it's so easy to brush off what a child tells you as incorrect but given that I saw all of these things happen for myself that day, I believe him and I just don't think it's good enough.

I want him to go to nursery and enjoy it - to get something out of it, and do fun things like messy play and forest school - I don't want him to spend 2 and a half hours going up and down the same slide.

And I don't want to continue sending him to this nursery and allowing it to give him the impression that ALL nurseries are boring.

We have an appointment coming up to visit one of the nurseries that I liked the sound of originally, and although they don't have a space open until September I think it's better that we wait for that rather than keep forcing him to go to this one when I've seen for myself that it just isn't very good and could end up really putting him off nursery altogether.

In the meantime, I'm going to look into taking him to some kind of class/group instead so that he can socialise with other children his age (He does socialise with his cousins, one of whom is the same age as him so I'm not too concerned but really just to get him used to meeting new children) - I'm looking into things like Rugby Tots and he's actually been asking if he can go to a dance class so that's another possibility.

I'm really disappointed that our first nursery experience ended up like this and I just hope it hasn't put him off for the next time....fingers crossed that our next experience in September is much more successful!

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