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am worried about my 1 year old's experience at nursery - can anyone help?

(21 Posts)
plumcake Tue 13-Oct-09 19:13:35

Hello - I'd really appreciate some views on this situation as I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to think (beyond gut instinct - keep him with me at all times!). This is a bit long, sorry.

My 13month old ds started nursery for 3 x 3 hour slots a week a month ago. To start with he cried when I dropped him off, then started playing, and after a couple of weeks this stopped, and now he even smiles when he gets into the building. He has become very attached to his key worker, and this - apparently - is the problem. Last week he was fine for the first two hours or so, then became very clingy with her - upset when she put him down / left the room etc. This week he's been like this for the whole session - today apparently he wasn't actually crying but just sort of moaning the whole time, and refusing 'to play with the other children'. When I picked him up the staff had obviously had a tough time with him, and seemed a bit exasperated - they sort of complained that he needed adult attention the whole time and was monopolising his keyworker, and wasn't interested in playing with other kids.

Now I can see how this must be difficult for them, and was actually really surprised they didn't call me to pick him up if he'd been that consistently unhappy - but I imagined that they would actively play with the little ones rather than expect them to get on with it by themselves? My ds is a very happy, calm little boy otherwise - he's going through some separation anxiety, but nothing extreme. I think he just hasn't clicked that he can't have all the attention all the time from the staff - but that's quite normal, isn't it? I'm feeling so confused about all this - whether they're not giving him enough input / expecting too much from him or whether this is a 'lesson' he needs to learn and he'll eventually get used to the situation? There are 3 staff for about 9 / 10 little ones btw. I spoke to the manager this afternoon who played down the problem, but the women in my ds's room seemed very concerned / exasperated.

Honest opinions / advice would be much appreciated!

VinegARGHHHtits Tue 13-Oct-09 19:18:31

How does his key worker feel? is she encouraging him to play with the other dc? tbh she should have enough experience of clingy children to know how to deal with them, my advice would be to stick with it, it is a phase that he is going through, the nursery need to be able to deal with it, thats what they get paid for

BornToFolk Tue 13-Oct-09 19:19:09

DS was the same when he started nursery, very clingy and it took him a while to settle down. He got attached to his keyworker too but she just gave him loads of attention until he properly settled in. I would get reports that he cried when she left the room but they seemd to treat him with more sympathy and understanding that your nursery is treating your DS.

Over time, he got attached to other members of staff (seemed to have a different favourite each week!) but when he got to know everyone, got a bit more settled, and also grew up a bit, he was fine.

At 13 months old, of course he's not going to play with the other kids! Sounds like he's behaving perfectly normally - I don't know what they expect!

Bicnod Tue 13-Oct-09 19:24:27

How old are the little ones? It doesn't seem like a lot of staff for that number of babies - considering how much one on one time tiny ones need. In the nursery DS will be going to (he's not there yet so I am not speaking from experience) there is a room for 3-18month olds and the ratio of adults to babies is 1:2, which seems about right to me. 3 staff for 9 or 10 babies seems too few... but then as I said I'm not speaking from experience so if this is standard then please ignore me.

plumcake Tue 13-Oct-09 19:29:24

Thanks for the quick replies! Well, last week his keyworker seemed good humoured about it, but today it all felt a bit different when I picked him up - as if she'd had enough of it too, although to be fair she was reading to him and a couple of others when I came in. I think my ds probably does expect a lot of adult interaction, but I'm surprised that they see this as a bit odd - like you I thought this was normal 13 month old behaviour! I realise the other kids need attention too, but I would have thought that if they saw this as an issue with my ds in particular they'd sort of pool their resources to give him as much attention as they possibly could...?

The manager is very approachable, so I'll keep chatting with her about it. But it's really interesting to hear your story BorntoFolk. How long did it take your lo to settle in the end?

TheWorstWitch Tue 13-Oct-09 19:30:16

I think it's a bit much to expect a 13 month old baby to play with other children.
Have the staff told you how they are dealing with it?
Nursery manager seems a bit off for playing down problem - if you're concerned, she should take your concerns seriously.

plumcake Tue 13-Oct-09 19:31:44

Sorry, Bicnod, I live abroad where the standard is different I think, but I agree, the ratio is low. The babies are all generally around 9-14 months, but that's purely by chance...

plumcake Tue 13-Oct-09 19:34:50

TheWorstWitch - yes, I did ask how they were dealing with it and was told they offered him toys to play with, but it wasn't clear whether they actually got involved and played with him or expected him to get into it by himself! My sense is that they're fairly passive to be honest - this was my instinct when I viewed the place, but ignored / suppressed it thinking that just being in a new environment with different toys and other children is stimulating enough. Now I'm not so sure though.

bibbitybobbityCAT Tue 13-Oct-09 19:37:34

It is not within a one year old child's makeup to want to play with other children. They are not sociable little creatures. They are much happier with a closer level of care and this is why the nursery vs childminder/nanny debate crops up regularly.

If you can I would advise you to find a nannyshare or childminder for him.

Littlefish Tue 13-Oct-09 19:37:38

Under 2, I think the ratio should be 1 adult to 2 children. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could confirm that. I think it is 1 adult to 3 children aged 2-3 and then 1 adult to 8 children for 3-5 yrs (in private day care nurseries) (ratios are different for 3-5s in LEA nurseries.

purepurple Tue 13-Oct-09 19:42:52

The ratio for babies under 1 is 1-3.
For 2 year olds it is 1-4
and for over 3 it is 1-8 (or 1-13 if an EYP is present)

Peabody Tue 13-Oct-09 19:43:45

AFAIK it's 1 to 3 under two years of age, 1 to 4 from two to three years of age, and 1 to 8 at three years plus.

purepurple Tue 13-Oct-09 19:43:59

That should read 'babies under 2'

Littlefish Tue 13-Oct-09 19:46:08

Thank you purepurple and peabody - my information must be out of date. I thought those were the ratios my former workplace worked to a couple of years ago.

cookielove Tue 13-Oct-09 19:47:24

missed out 1-2's which the ratio is also 1-3

BornToFolk Tue 13-Oct-09 19:53:12

He started last October aged 12 months, by Christmas he was pretty much settled but having a few days break over Christmas set him back a bit so we had a few unsettled weeks. By unsettled, I really mean crying at drop off. They assured me that he was happy after I left! But by the end of Jan, I really got the impression from everyone (DS and staff at nursery) that he was having mostly good days, and he rarely cried when I left him.

He's been going for a year now and is totally settled. Just moved up a room and they are all surprised how well he took it. He's happy to go in, they say he's happy and chatty all day, and gives me a big cuddle when I pick him up and tells me everything he's done!

TheWorstWitch Tue 13-Oct-09 20:02:13

plumcake, I'd have another chat with the nursery so you can be clear about what they are doing to help him feel a bit more settled.
If they are just giving your DS toys and leaving him to it, I wouldn't be happy with that.

FWIW, my DD was very clingy to her keyworker and so he just gave her lots of attention when he could. Often, DD would get jealous if he was reading to/playing with another baby, so keyworker would read to/play with them together. If keyworker had to leave room, then another worker gave her lots of attention.
Also, DD's keyworker would never seem 'exasperated' by her need for attention. He just said that some babies were like that and she'd need less attention once more settled ... and he was right!

My sister's DD also went through the same thing when she first started nursery at 13 months. My sister did consider childminder, but then her DD settled. (My sister is a MNetter too, so will email this thread to her and maybe she can post her experiences too).

HTH smile

plumcake Tue 13-Oct-09 20:12:00

Thank you thank you everyone - lots of food for thought and sage advice. I have to shut down computer now but will check back and post more tomorrow... I need to talk things through with dp and reflect a bit I think.

babyOcho Wed 14-Oct-09 10:32:56

DD stared nursery at 13 months and took a good 2 months to really settle, we were going to give it 5 months and then start looking for a childminder if she was still unsettled. Even now when we went away for a week in the Summer, she was unsettled for a couple of days when we got back.

Like your DS, she was ok but we never felt that she was totally settled and then things got really bad. She would cry in the day at times. She wasnt attached to one member of staff, and would be easily comforted by any of them.

I got quite upset by it all, but together with the staff we talked about what we/they could do to help. They said that there were a few babies moving up to toddler and there were a few that joined after she joined, so there were lots of new faces and old faces had moved next door. They decided to specifically give her more 1 to 1 time until we got over this.

DP was also away on business, and whilst I was not woeking she never really noticed, we do think that this also contributed to her being unsettled. (He picks and and drops off as well as me).

Also, she started at a time when there was lots of bank holidays (she goes Mon-Weds) and all this stopping and starting, I am sure, didnt help her to settle.

Something that my sister suggested was to take some photos of the room and the staff (they wont let you take photos of the other children). DD has this in her photobook and we look at them and she smiles. Also, we talk about the children and the staff, so that it feels more like an integrated part of her life.


What days does your DS go? Is it 3 days together? Will he eventually be going for longer that 3 hours a day?

plumcake Thu 15-Oct-09 08:59:41

Sorry not to have replied sooner babyocho - I wrote a long post yesterday but mumsnet stopped working just as I tried to send it! He could go up to 4 hours, but that's the maximum for a session - it's actually not a nursery as such, but somewhere where the children only ever do half-days (we live in France, where the set-up is a bit different).

It's really useful to hear about your experience. I actually spoke to a child psychologist who works at the playgroup we go to yesterday. She knows my ds really well (since he was 6 months old) and is convinced that he has the resources to cope with the nursery environment. She didn't seem to think that what I was describing was a major issue - in that he's not in despair, just very vocally not content - but that the question was really how the staff are going to manage it. In her view there was no instant solution, just lots of reassurance, explaining, and time - I think she's right, but the problem is whether the staff are really prepared to give him that. One thing we thought of was to suggest reducing the hours he spends there from 3 to 2, so he's only there when they're least busy (not trying to give all the babies their snack etc.) and most available and see if things improve. It might also be that he's going through a frustrated phase anyway - now I think about it we did have a morning at home about a week ago when he was undistractable, and complaining constantly. But then two days later two teeth appeared, so I put it down to that. Argh! It's so hard to know what to do! I think we need to stick with it for a while longer and see how things evolve, and keep talking to the manager. Thank you so much for all your advice - it's really helped me to look at things a bit differently.

plumcake Thu 15-Oct-09 09:02:07

just to add: he goes monday, tuesday and friday...

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