They no longer get enough stimulation from being at home with the family
‘The main focus in nursery school is social interaction, independence, and confidence building,’ says Debbie Edmondson, principal at British Orchard Nursery in Mankhool. ‘Nursery school provides a stimulating and interactive environment where children can express themselves.’
If your child seems to be lacking that stimulation, the structure and variety of activities provided at most nursery schools can keep them entertained and lay the foundation for learning.
Both you and your child can weather the separation
‘From two years onwards it is unusual for a child not to benefit from nursery,’ explains Edmondson. ‘I find it’s usually the mummy or daddy who isn’t quite ready!’ While some parents are more than happy to have some time to themselves, others can hardly stand to leave their child behind, even in the hands of very capable childcare professionals.
Feeling terrible because your child cries when you leave? Unless they cry all day every day, says Edmondson, don’t. ‘Kids may suffer separation anxiety; however, this is entirely normal. Most children settle well and will enjoy going to nursery after the first few weeks.’
You’ve started pulling out your own hair in clumps
At some point, even the most patient parents need a little time for themselves. While some parents have a hard time letting go of their children, others find themselves feeling frustrated and annoyed by the sometimes mundane – and seemingly endless – aspects of childcare.
‘If you find you’re not able to give your children the quality of attention they need, it might be a good time to consider sending them to nursery for a few hours a week,’ suggests psychologist and behaviour analyst Erika Ford. Those few hours may be just enough for a weary parent to regroup, recharge, and return to the children more able to give them the attention they need.
You find a really good nursery
If you find a nursery you think your child would enjoy, you should look into sending them there as soon as possible.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a nursery school; the British Orchard Nursery has developed its own list of 27 qualities to look for. Adapted from the Office of Standards in Education in the UK, this list includes having a qualified nurse on the premises at all times, and adapting the curriculum for children at different stages of development.
‘We believe that in order to learn, children need three things: to feel safe, to feel happy, and to understand what is being said to them. Only then can a child enjoy learning and begin to develop,’ says Edmondson.
They have had their third birthday
‘By the age of three, children have begun to consider the needs of others,’ explains Ford, who works through the Gulf Diagnostic Centre in Abu Dhabi. ‘At this crucial stage, kids need to learn the consequences of their actions, and they can only gain that experience by being around other kids.’
Even tots younger than three can benefit from some exposure to social settings. ‘Children must first go through the stage of parallel play – playing alongside each other and imitating each other – before they can begin interactive play,’ says Ford.
‘If they don’t engage in parallel play before the age of three, they are likely to catch up quickly, but they may be able to get that stage out of the way and be ready for interactive play when they turn three.’
Boohoo, or woo woo?
The pros and cons of using a nursery Making the decision to send your little ones to nursery can be surprisingly difficult. ‘My son Sean was nearly two years old when I first decided to send him to nursery school,’ recalls Jill Teesdale. ‘I was pregnant with twins and I wanted to get him settled before the girls were born.’
Neither Sean nor Jill, though, was happy with the decision, and both suffered massive separation anxiety. ‘He cried so much every single day. It wasn’t just Sean, though – I was such a mess that we finally gave it up. He was almost two-and-a-half before we were able to give it another try.’
Rebecca Harris remembers fighting the same battle with her emotions. ‘Bethany was fine, but the first time I took her to nursery, I cried the whole day,’ she says. ‘I must have called the school a hundred times those first few days to make sure she was OK – she always was, but I sure wasn’t!’
While some mums (and dads) bawl for weeks after putting their kids in nursery, Anel Dreyer had no such reservations. ‘I never had a problem letting them go to nursery,’ says Anel, mother of Luke, age four, and Laura, age two. ‘It was easy for me because my children love other kids. They’re little social butterflies.’
Plenty of mums, in fact, drop off their kids and find themselves dancing for the door. ‘I think I should miss them more, but I really kind of don’t,’ says Denise Keyes, mother of Jacob, age three, and one-year-old Nathan. ‘I really need that time to myself, not only to work, but also just to feel like a normal adult again. I only feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty.’
Necessity also has a role to play. ‘We had been sponsoring a nanny, but she left because we couldn’t find affordable housing for her and we didn’t have room for her in our own flat,’ recalls Hannah Barry, mother of Cooper and Conner, both age four. ‘Without a nanny, I had to either put the twins in nursery or quit my job.’
Unable to meet their own rising housing costs on one income, the Barrys opted for nursery. ‘I’m glad that the boys have adjusted as well as they have, but it’s not like I’m lounging around all day drinking coffee – I really don’t have much of a choice.’
Whatever the reason, though, it’s a rare parent who doesn’t have mixed feelings about leaving their little ones behind. ‘I had three small children and no nanny,’ recalls Helen Sundberg, mother of Josefine, age nine, Victoria, six, and Filip, three.
‘With my husband travelling all the time, I desperately needed some time to myself to get things done. But I still felt guilty and I missed them hugely.’