Children experience many transitions in their early years. These can be characterised as crawling to walking, moving from a cot to a bed, nappies to underwear, potty to toilet, welcoming new siblings into the family or moving house, and all signify huge milestones for a child - behaviours or physical checkpoints that emerge over time in development as children grow and continue to learn.  Transitions in the early years can also refer to a child starting at a nursery, childminders or play group, moving from one room to another as they develop in age and ability across the nursery, and then moving from that early years setting to a foundation class at school and so on. These transitions are a significant time for young children and their parents or carers and signify an important step in a child’s development. Today’s children are busier than ever, their days packed with structured activities such as school, clubs and sports. As somewhere children and young people spend much of their time, prepare for their future and connect with others, schools are described as having an important influence on children's happiness. And it is for that reason we need to ensure that the transition that young children have from nursery, or their home, to school is a success and should be seen as central to a child’s early development and emotional wellbeing. 

It is also important to remember that parents and carers need support during these times. At Acorn, we work hard to embed our key person approach and build strong bonds with our families, sharing intimate aspects of family life in trusted relationships, and the emotional significance of ending these relationships can be just as distressing for the parents, as they signify an end to familiarity and a time to say goodbye. At Acorn we recognise that parents are transitioning right along with their children and appreciate the need for family readiness too. The involvement of parents and carers is key to ensuring families are ready to support a child before and as they transition. Transitions should be seen as a process, not an event, and should be planned for in advance and discussed with the children and their parents.   


(Photos from the leaving party for the Oaks children and their families at our Kents Hill nursery, July 2023)

At Acorn we are aware of the many transitional periods during the early years, and we aim to support all children going through these transitions taking into consideration the individual needs of each child and family. These times of change can be challenging for children and anxiety-provoking for parents/carers, particularly when a child is vulnerable. Neurodiverse and neurotypical children may have different needs when it comes to handling transitions, and early years educators need to be aware of this and understand that each child is different, and transitions can affect each individual differently.

Transitions are not linear, and when we really hold that at heart, knowing that children move fluidly through spaces and recognise that although they may physically move to another building, we know the transition is still not yet complete. We all have our little backpacks that we take along, and these backpacks need to be opened and shared so that the children can feel a sense of belonging by the schools welcoming what they bring and celebrating the things they stand for. It is about recognising the cultural knowledge, and existing repertoire that they can draw from and then building upon this as they settle into their next adventure.


(Photos from the graduation tea party for the Oaks children and their families at our Westcroft nursery, July 2023)

When a child transitions to school, advanced preparation is key. At Acorn we introduce ‘starting school’ into our role play, providing a variety of resources that relate to the school (such as uniform to dress up in, a role play area set up as a school classroom, photographs of the school, etc.). This helps the children to become more familiar with the school environment and aids the transition.  Where possible we also invite school representatives such as teachers and teaching assistants into the nursery to introduce them to the children for socialisation opportunities. We try to plan visits to the school and where possible the key person will go with the children. Each key person will talk about the school with their key children who are due to move to school and discuss what they think may be different and what may be the same. They will talk through any concerns the child may have and initiate activities or group discussions relating to any issues to help children overcome these. We produce a comprehensive transitions report on every child starting school to enable teachers to have a good understanding of every child received. This will include their interests, strengths and level of understanding and development in key areas. This will support continuity of care and early learning.

Getting transition right is vital for every child, it is not simply an event that happens. Even throughout our adulthood we transition through relationships, house moves and careers. Transitions do not merely come to an end when we leave school and therefore it is vital that we recognise them as an ongoing journey rather than a destination.


 Kim Langstaff