Concerned nursery parent(38 Posts)
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This will be a bit of a long post but I want to try and paint as full a picture as possible and would be very grateful to hear the thoughts of more experienced parents.
My eldest son is 3yrs 9months (born May 2014) and started in the nursery class attached to the local primary school in September. I had a routine meeting with his class teacher yesterday and was expecting to hear all was well. The opposite was the case. I was told my son has trouble concentrating on the carpet and is slipping behind in his phonics and is now one of the bottom of the class. She also said he does not concentrate and often is reluctant to do the work. She said he needs to be more independent and is one of the only children who doesn't take his own coat, hat off and hang them up correctly. Most worryingly she said he does not seem interested in playing with the other children and is the only child in the class to make no friends. As you can imagine I was pretty upset by hearing this. It is an ofsted outstanding school in a deprived and very multicultural part of London. They get very good results but are quite academically pushy. He has not been invited on any play dates or to any birthday parties since September and I have no idea if other children have been doing this. I don't know the other parents as I work three days (teaching) and therefore only do two days pick up/drop off. The teacher suggested I initiate some play dates but I'm really not sure where to start. The parents are not unfriendly when queuing up to collect but they seem to be in groups that already know each other. I have no idea who is whose child and whether my son has any rapport with them.
To give some background on my son, he is very articulate with a verbal age well beyond his years and an incredible imagination but he has never sought out other children's company. He can be quite disruptive, at football he refused to play the organised games and just pretended to be a dog. At group swimming the teacher found him difficult as he just wanted to play his own games and wouldn't listen. He didn't enjoy playgroups, I took him to as a 2year old and he preferred to spend time with me alone. His old nursery also reported that he liked to play alone and didn't have a group. He does, however, have a couple of good friends outside of school who he plays with very well so I know he can play with others and he really values those friendships.
He currently is obsessed with the film Moana and wants to be the demigod Maui! Most of the time he is really only interested in playing games related to this and he is happy playing on his own.
My question really is, should I worry and what can I do to help? We are going to try and encourage play dates and work on his phonics so he doesn't fall behind more but, to what extent is his behaviour normal? The fact that he is the only child out of 30 who hasn't got any friends does alrm/upset me.
Thanks so much for any thoughts you may have.
My son was very similar. At the start of nursery he played alongside other children but not really with them. He was opposite to your little boy in the fact he did have very good concentration.
I have 3 children my little boy is the youngest and my eldest is 17 so I was quite shocked at the differences in nursery now. They seem to put a lot on them and expect them to be able to do a lot more than when my eldest was at nursery.
I would try and do things with him at home if your really worried you can buy phonics cards and stuff like that. Phonics fridge magnets stuff like that.
My little boy is in yr 1 now and he now plays with other children and has lots of friends.
When my eldest left nursery to go into yr 1 all that was expected of her was to be able to recognise her name and she was starting to write it. She passed all her GCSEs last year so not knowing a certain amount of phonics never did her any harm.
They do seem to have high expectations IMO.
He is only little.
6 months is a long time at his age, so in your position I would just encourage him to play with the friends he is happy with, do lots of imaginative play with duplo people or similar at home and read with him as much as possible.
All children are different.
The current trend in schools and nurseries seems to be a production line and a lot of box ticking.
Thanks for getting back to me. My instinct is that they are expecting a lot from such a small boy, but then again if all the other children in the class can do it surely he should be able to. We will do some extra phonics at home to try and get him back up to speed and concentrate on building his friendships both in and out of school. Luckily I think he seems unaware of how worried we are. I just wish we had a magic ball and could look into the future and see that he had friends and was happy.
Thank you for the reassurance, hopefully he will make more friends as he grows up a bit and matures. I do wonder if it's the right school for him?
All children develop at their own rate. If the child is happy don’t worry about it.
It's really not on for the teacher to compare him with other children in the class. It also sounds like the expectations are very high, apart from putting his own things away (which many children forget but it is frustrating when it's a routine every day) all of the other stuff he can't do is totally normal for a nursery child not to do. Would it be possible to move him to a nursery that actually allows children to be children and play instead of expecting him to do 'work'? If the expectations for nursery are that age inappropriate I dread to think what reception will be like.
They're 3, I wouldn't expect them to be making "friends" as such.
Children in Year 2 have problems sitting on the carpet. It's boring.
I find what the teacher has said to be very strange indeed. Did she really say he was "bottom of the class"? That's a real cause for concern. Not with him, but with the teacher.
Bottom of the class? Wow. Do they now have sets in nursery? What a ridiculous comment. Historically, I've found nursery the weirdest part of my kids' schooling. As a parent, it's the one year that's reduced me to tears and sadness. All three of my kids have attended nurseries attached to primary school and what I will say is that the actual school experience was a lot more down to earth and happier than nursery.
My two older kids are 16 and 7 (coming up on 8). My youngest is EXACTLY the same age as yours OP (May 2014).
Lots of kids still parallel play at this age. It's very common. DCs 2 and 3 totally parallel played in nursery. DC3 is still in nursery of course, navigating his way through its strange, intense terrain. I'm just so jaded. I've decided nursery is nothing more than a bizaare social experiment which allows me three hours to do as much laundry as possible and clean out the guinea pigs' cage.
Can I recommend an excellent buy? It's not only excellent for learning phonics but it's also good for gripping and coordination. www.thetoyshop.com/baby-pre-school/electronic-learning/LeapFrog-Fridge-Phonics-Magnetic-Letter-Set/p/519245
I agree they seem to be expecting a lot from a young child but there are a few things that you said that may mean he might possibly have some issues he might need help with.
My DS was diagnosed with high functioning autism at age 5. He is 8 now and doing very well at school and has a very happy life but does struggle a bit with making friends. It may well be the case that your son is just a 3 year old with no issues whatsoever and will mature in time but keep an eye on it - especially with what you say about his tendency to play alone.
My DS has also always been very articulate with an amazing vocabulary. My DS is very imaginative - much more so than the average child. My DS does have people he regards as friends and engages very well with them - but the other children have a deeper connection than he has.
I would not stress about organising playdates unless it is convenient. These were recommended for my DS from a young age by well-meaning teachers. It is difficult organising them if you don't know the other parents and if your children don't have a connection through being friends. The few times I did organise them, DS didn't bother interacting enough as he wasn't really friends with the other child and it was just a bit stressful. I was trying to push him to interact when he didn't want to and I was worried about the other child being bored.
I wouldn't bother teaching such a young child phonics or anything academic at all. I'm in Ireland so DS only started learning phonics at 5 and a half. He struggled to remember basic letter sounds at the start but at around age 6 he got it - and is now, at age 8, reading Harry Potter easily with very good comprehension. He enjoys reading now and it made no difference that he only 'got' phonics at age 6 instead of age 3.
He sounds just like my son. His first school kept banging on about how he didn't interact with the other children and played alone (he used to run around the playground pretending to be a train). He was bored a lot of the time in school and they didn't really 'get' him. Fast forward 20 years, and he's one of the most sociable people I know, huge circle of friends, and very successful in his career so far. As long as your kid is happy, ignore the nonsense, trust your own instincts and consider moving schools if they won't listen to you.
Behind with his phonics? At that age? They need to get a grip
He is 3 and in preschool / nursery school. I also have a 3 year old, 1 month younger than yours. He sounds very similar to mine.
Some of the other nursery children at my son's nursery are more able to do the things you describe above but they tend to be older / autumn birthdays and 6-8 months makes a big difference at their age.
I wouldn't be very impressed if the nursery spoke to me like that especially saying he was behind / bottom of the class.
Thank you all for your comments, i do so hope you're right. To be clear, the teacher said he was one of the four bottom children in the nursery at letter formation and sounds. He had started in a higher set and had been moved down as he doesn't concentrate/listen and soon he will be quite far behind! He's only three. I think he's clever enough and with some work at home we will hopefully get him up to speed. His concentration and stubbornness is a bit more problematic. If he doesn't want to do something he can be quite obstinate but he can't be the only 3 year old who would rather play than learn phonics. I have considered moving him but the other schools in the area are not very good and we didn't think much of the private nursery he attended before this one. The other option is to move house to a different part of London with more choice over schools. We have considered this but we have a good sized house in a not so nice area and could only afford a small place in a nicer area... and baby no 3 is due in 5 months time so we have quite a lot on our plate!
I don't know how to say this without sounding slightly off and I really don't mean to. The school he attends is catholic and I am a practicing catholic. The area is multicultural and I was pleased my family would be mixing with a variety of cultures and nationalities. The trouble is that at pick up all the polish people talk to each other, all the Portuguese know each other and so on. I think lots of the children knew each other before they started. We are white British and there are only a few other if the same nationality in the whole year group. I never thought this would matter, children make friends irrespective of colour or culture. However, now that i find he has no friends and i have not met any other parents I have started to wonder if it is an issue.... or maybe it is just that my son doesn't seem to make friends easily. Anyway, I hope that doesn't come across badly. It doesn't help that I can't make the coffee mornings etc as I work.
My son attends the (non selective) nursery of a quite academic prep school and they would never rank the children or say one was bottom of the class! He’s 3 and a half and they are just doing phonic sounds with letters and starting to introduce the idea of blending sounds to build words. At no point when speaking to his teacher has she said he was behind any other children (and I know he will be due to his age, August born, youngest in the class) because it’s HIS development and it isn’t to be compared to other children at this very young age. If he has issues with concentration it is again understood to be because he is younger than a lot of his class. I would say your child’s nursery has some incredibly high standards.
I think the teacher was really out of order the way she spoke about your son.
I can empathise with how you must have felt. When my ds started reception, I remember the teacher saying at his first parents evening that she couldn't work out if "he was all there, or not quite with it".
He started school reading fluently and she didn't even realise.
He ended up going to Cambridge University.
Enjoy your journey with your ds and focus on what he's interested in to encourage a love of learning. The rest will follow when he's ready.
I have worked in nurseries for the last 15 years!
At 3 yrs 9 mo I would be expecting a child to do exactly as you are describing.
A child of that age should not be expected to sit on the carpets, and it's (IMO) far too much to expect them to even recognise letters (other than those in their own name possibly) at that age never mind phonics.
In CfE in Scotland a child would not be expected to sit on the carpet for any longer than a story at that age. The way they learn is through play.
My son is now half way through P1 5yo and they are doing phonics and letter sounds now at school, he is picking them up easily as it's the right time (for him) to be doing so.
It worries me that a teacher of children at that level are putting that pressure on such young children.
Would it be worth speaking to the Head about how the teacher spoke about your child?
I am sorry OP, that meeting would not have been fun to sit through.
I have worked in Early Years for many years and I now inspect Early Years settings. I think how the teacher spoke to you and what she said is very unprofessional. I know that there is a real emphasis on early intervention in Early Years so she was probably trying to flag some things up but went about it in the wrong way.
The fact that he cannot sit still in the carpet - totally normal for his age, many older children can't do this. He is probably bored or not interested in the lesson.
He doesn't play or interact with other children - after the age of 3 children start becoming less egocentric and start showing more interest in social interaction. At 3.9 I would expect him to start making friends but all children are different. Not overly concerning at all but something to keep an eye on. If he has friends outside of nursery then don't worry too much. Do you think he feels happy and confident at nursery? That might be a reason why he is not making friends.
Behind with his phonics- wtf?!! I am sorry but that is ridiculous! At this age I would expect children to be able to recognise their name and begin to understand what letter the name starts with. They should be starting to hear the initial sound of a word. They should not be doing letter formation unless they want/are able to. Can he even hold a pencil with the correct pincer grip? I imagine the nursery are probably doing worksheets or work books. I have worked at settings like this in the past and it's soul destroying trying to get children to do this when they are not ready. In my experience it's more damaging doing this 'work' with children who are not developmentally ready for it, it just creates a mental block and lack of confidence which stays with them and creates problems later on.
Not putting his coat on or hanging it up - at 3.9 I would expect a child to be having a good go at doing this themselves. They will probably need help with zips/buttons though.
What can you do to support him?
- for me Personal, social and emotional development is the most important area of development at this age. I would arrange some play dates so that he can start to build some relationships and make nursery a nicer place for him to be. Just keep it low key and let the children play while you and the other parent chat/drink coffee. Perhaps meet in the park or somewhere where there would be less pressure. Try to invite a range of children rather than the obvious ones.
- activities at home to build his concentration. Puzzles, games etc. But try to make sure that he finishes his cycle of activity so ensure that he stays and finishes the game/puzzle before leaving it. Remember to make make this short and realistic.
- phonics. Please don't worry and do too much or buy any specific phonics activities. The most important skills a child needs to be a fluent reader later is rhythm, rhyme and alliteration. Keep it low key, while you are together at tea time and talking about your food you can say ' look, a carrot, carrot starts with c. I wonder what else starts with c'. Play games like this, play eye spy. Buy a sound lotto game to practise his listening skills, he will need good listening skills to hear sounds. Do activities to build his pincer grip and muscle control so that he can later hold a pencil and form letters. Activities like using tongs/tweezers to move dried pasta/beans from one container to another, slowly increase the complexity using smaller tongs/ tweezers. Do lots of big mark making activities such as large chalk on outside walls or on the ground. Painting with large brushes on an easel or outside wall. (Large brushes and water on an outside wall is fab in summer!)
- help him to be more independent with dressing himself. Google videos how to put a coat on by flipping it over your head. This is the easiest way for children to put their coat on. Get him to have a go with putting on his own hat and gloves before helping him.
I am so sorry this is such an essay and I hope it hasn't come across as preachy at all. I just get so upset with settings such as this who think they are doing a great job being so advanced but in reality they are doing the opposite. I would really have a good think if this is the right place for your son.
Thank thank thank you thank you puffermunkin (and everyone else) your reply is SO helpful and crystallises some of the thoughts buzzing round my head. It so helpful to hear from someone who knows the expectation and setting of nurseries too, I am completely clueless in this area.
What you said is what I already sensed. He doesn't seem overly interested good at making friends although he often talks about me or the nursery assistant being his best friend and he really does play well with some children outside school. He doesn't love going to nursery and I have to coax him in but it is a big improvement on his last nursery where he howled every morning when I left (he only went there 2 days a week, this is five days 9 -3). We are going to try to organise some play dates and over come my own shyness in approaching people I don't know! The teacher says she is surprised he isn't more sociable given his confidence and verbal ability.
Those suggestions regarding getting his muscles stronger are very helpful. He does use the pincer grip, the school insists, but she did say we need to build his muscle control. I really like the idea of having some fun whilst learning and not just doing the endless worksheets he gets sent home with
I think I have been a bit remiss in getting him to be more independent, i.e. Putting his own coat on etc. It is very much in his character to want me to do everything for him, I only now see to what extent as I compare him to his 14 month old brother who is fiercely independent. I will focus on this.
In terms of a different school for reception, I will see if I can change my application to a more relaxed school in the area as I think it would suit him more.
Thanks again for all your help, it truly is appreciated.
I hope it all works out for you. You are aware of what needs to be done which is brilliant. He might also be a very different boy in a few months time, he may just need a few months more to mature and be absolutely ready for school. A few months make such a massive difference at this age.
That pre school sounds academically pushy.
DD is 2 months younger and at nursery in a preschool room. They do phonics and stuff but we don't get worksheets sent home. They send an email once a week explaining what they are learning and how we can incorporate into play at home but aside from buying lower case foam letters for the bath I haven't done anything. Because shes 3.7 years old ffs.
We have done a few playdates but they are easier to organise because my DH is a friendly chap and he does all the pick ups.
I would be more concerned about being able to dress and do zip etc but you have 7 months until reception starts so plenty time to work on that.
Please don't worry too much.
Have you seen this piece by Michael Rosen about the current trend of for labelling children as “behind”?
I would agree with PPs that you do not need to worry - ‘normal’ is a broad spectrum, especially as the age gap between the oldest and the youngest in a nursery class can be more than a quarter of their lives.
My child was ‘behind’ in fine motor skills. I didn’t appreciate the language, but the consequence was that one of the teachers offered additional activities before school one day a week to help build control for him and all the others in the same boat
who just happened to also be summer born boys.
Thank you agin for your replies, all very helpful. Can I just ask one last question? I tried to get a class list today from the school office so I could talk to my son about the children in his class but they said they couldn't give them out. I then asked the teacher if she could recommend any children who would be suitable to invite for a play date as I intend to write a card and ask the teacher to give it to the parent. Anyway she said she couldn't do that and it had to come from my son. What the hell? Is she deliberately making this upsetting situation even more difficult?!?
I think the teacher is being difficult . I have always helped parents with this and given out class lists for this reason!Have a look at the name tags on the pegs where they hang their coats and bags and make a note of the names. Drop a few of the names into conversation with your son and hopefully it will give you an idea on who to invite.
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