Some key points to consider:
Separation from parents and carers
Children may find it especially difficult to separate from parents and caregivers following extended periods at home. This could lead to difficulties in emotional regulation and/or changes in behaviour; this a normal response and to be anticipated. Difficulties with separation could last for some time as children adjust to their change in circumstances. It is important to remain empathetic whilst providing warmth and reassurance; try to question what children’s presenting behaviours may be communicating. Alternatively, some children may not experience any difficulties separating from their parent/carer, this is a normal response too!
Behaviour is a form of communication
Observation will be a key tool in helping interpret how children are managing their transitions into education. Many EYFS children may be unable to verbalise how they are feeling but clues will be identifiable in their behaviour. Look out for behaviours that may indicate stress, anxiety or frustration. This can be facilitated by regular communications with parents and carers, as this will help identify which behaviours are typical and which might require further support.
Play is essential to children’s social and emotional wellbeing and is fundamental in supporting all aspects of child development. The benefits of unstructured, self-initiated, social play should not be underestimated, nor should such opportunities be reduced in order to ‘make up for lost time’.
Children learn when they are happy and settled
A key priority in EYFS settings is for children to quickly experience a sense of comfort and security within their surroundings. When children feel settled and secure they will experience the full benefit of the learning environment. Helping children to establish a relationship with a key person is crucial to this process as this will provide the continuity between home and their setting. It may be tempting for practitioners to attempt to compensate for missed learning by prioritising more academic aspects of the EYFS curriculum over the prime areas of learning. However this will likely be counterproductive; children’s personal, social and emotional development must remain a key priority throughout transition and beyond.
For further reading on ‘settling children well’ and the role of key person, see: The British Association for Early Childhood Education at https://www.early-education.org.uk/settling-children-well
Adopt a child-centred approach
Now more than ever it is important to lead from children’s interests and strengths as this will support their enjoyment of their environment and help them feel secure. In the likelihood of pre-transition visits being cancelled, practitioners may wish to use remote methods to gather information about children’s interests, likes and dislikes, strengths and difficulties.
NB: When gathering key information from parents and carers it is especially important for key staff to find out whether children have experienced any loss or bereavement so this can be factored into their care.
Transition into Reception
Reception practitioners need to remain mindful of children’s starting points. Many children may have experienced a reduced period of time in nursery (if at all) and most will have had reduced access to peer interaction through groups, play gyms and clubs etc. Thus Reception staff may recognise significant differences in children’s starting points than they are typically used to and considerations should be made towards planning and provision to accommodate this. For example, children may require a significantly longer period to focus on settling in, making friends, coping with feelings, playing with others, sharing adult attention etc. However there are many areas of children’s development that will have benefited from additional time spent at home with loved ones; it is important that these are recognised and celebrated.