Transitions can be very difficult for children in your nursery. Here are three ways you can make their transitions smooth.
It was time to promote Michael to the toddler room. His mom’s excitement was short-lived, though, when she discovered that not only did her son prefer to stay in the nursery but that her well-adjusted, “happy to go to church” son was now having severe meltdowns every time her car took the last turn toward church. Michael was devastated because the unknown threatened his basic need to feel safe, which is a need all babies and toddlers have.
Michael had been part of the nursery community since he was just 2 months old. At 14 months, he was the self-appointed “mayor” of the nursery. He knew where to go, what to do, and what to say. He loved his caretakers, classmates, and space. Michael hugged new babies and often attempted to share his pacifier and blanket to make them feel safe and loved. Michael’s familiarity with the nursery’s sights, routines, and smells evoked a strong sense of security. In contrast, the unfamiliarity of the new environment made him feel unsafe. Since God designed babies to experience love when they feel safe, what happened with Michael made us rethink how we transition our babies into the toddler room. Here’s what we learned.
3 Ways to Create Smooth Transitions in Your Nursery
Before Michael arrived, I took a few familiar toys from the nursery and placed them in the toddler room. When Michael arrived (kicking and screaming), I showed him the toys, which calmed him down. We realized that though it’s fun to equip each room with new toys and a different look, it doesn’t necessarily make little ones feel safe. Now we replicate some of the décor, storybooks, and toys to make the new room look like the old one. We also duplicate some of the Bible activities to avoid drastic changes.
As soon as Michael started playing with the toys, his mom left. When Michael realized his mom was gone, he had a meltdown. As soon as Michael saw one of our consistent nursery volunteers step into the room, he quieted down, smiled, and latched on to her hand. Soon he detached himself from her to participate, make new friends, and have fun. He highlighted his need for familiarity as he roamed the room to ensure that the familiar face was still with him. Now some of our consistent volunteers serve in both the nursery and toddler room, which has facilitated safe and happy transitions.
It’s important to partner with parents to learn how God has uniquely designed their toddler and to engage everyone in a transition plan. During transitions, we invite parents to visit us on a separate day to orient them and their toddler to the new room. I look forward to these sweet times when we get to know parents without interruptions, calm their fears, and pray with them for their concerns.
Kal Otis is the owner of Creative Ministry Group Consultants as well as the family and children’s pastor at South Park Church in Park Ridge, Illinois. She’s passionate about equipping next-generation leaders.