Supporting your child’s emotional well-being on their return to Early Learning and Care

Here are some great tips for supporting your child’s emotional well-being as they return to childcare. These come from Barnardos and can be found on the website Let’s Get Ready – links below.

As Early Learning and Care settings reopen, you might be thinking about your child’s return to preschool, childminder or crèche. You may be looking forward to getting back to some kind of normality, but for your child the many weeks on pause will have become their new normal. There might be worries and concerns about the return to childcare and early learning. Many families have experienced and continue to experience stressful events and situations that may have been physically exhausting and emotionally draining on all members of the family. We know you want the best for your child. Below are some guidelines that may help you support your child through this important time.

Keep Calm

When parents are feeling anxious, children can notice this and begin to feel stressed too. Take the time to check in with yourself. How are you currently feeling about your child’s return to childcare? This may feel like quite a stressful time for many reasons. If these feelings are overwhelming, try pausing and taking a few deep breaths. If you can be mindful, and stay calm, you will be better able to remain connected to what your child’s needs are and be more able to respond to them. When you are calm you are more able to see the reasons behind your child’s behaviour and respond to the needs and feelings that are behind the behaviour. Ask yourself ‘What is my child feeling?’ and ‘What does my child need?’ Keep in tune with your own feelings and what you need too.

This is one simple exercise that you might find helpful:                                           

  • Pause
  • Focus on your breath
  • Breathe in slowly, right down into your tummy, then exhale completely
  • Take 5 more slow breaths, being aware of each breath in and each breath out

After several of these breaths, you will find that your heart rate has slowed down, your breathing is deeper and you feel calmer. It will relax your body and allow you to feel calmer and think more clearly. If possible, get support from your family and friends. Chat with other parents about how you and they are feeling. Try to keep up any hobbies or activities that bring you peace or that you enjoy. There are lots of great mindfulness resources and ideas on the internet that you might like to try. Having good, clear information and knowing what to expect can also help you to stay calm. You will find information and resources in the links at the end of this guide.

Communicate with your child

As their parent, you will know your child best and you are probably already aware of how they might cope with the return to preschool or crèche. Talk with your child about the plan to return and about the changes that will happen. Ask them about what they think and how they feel. Listen carefully and attentively to all they have to say and answer any questions they might have. If available, use photos of the setting and stories to help you talk about their return. Throughout the day, talk about the people from your child’s setting and the activities they enjoyed if they attended before. Join your child in play. Play helps children to make sense of what is happening in their world. Sometimes just watching their pretend play can give you an insight into how your child is feeling and what they are thinking about returning to their setting.

Communicate with your Provider and be prepared

Many children and adults find change stressful. However, as mentioned earlier, when we know what to expect, it can help to reduce this stress.

  • Talk with your childcare provider or childminder as there are likely to be new procedures in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
  • Ask questions about any changes that might impact on you and your child’s experiences, for example, new arrangements at drop-off time, reduced number of children and adults in the room, or changes to the room layout.
  • Help prepare your child by talking with them about these changes. Keep your voice calm and play out these new situations together in a relaxed and fun way.
  • If you and your child travel on public transport to get your childcare setting, it may be helpful to practice this journey so they become familiar with any changes such as passengers wearing facemasks or restricted seating.

Your provider or childminder will also be preparing for the return of children to the setting. To help them to support your child on their return, it is important that you share with them any information you think they should know. Tell them about what your child has been interested in during the last few weeks and what they’ve enjoyed playing with most. This will help the educators to provide some consistency, which can help reduce stress. Tell them about any stressful events in your child’s life, for example, the death of a grandparent, and discuss how your child has coped with being out of the setting and any ideas you have that will help them to settle back in. Remember, you know your own child best so keep communicating often with the educators, asking them how your child is getting on and letting them know what is happening for your child at home.

Keep to a Routine

A consistent daily routine is very important for children as it creates a sense of stability and predictability, and helps to reduce stress. This will be of particular importance when adjusting to the return to preschool or crèche. Consider ways to establish a new family routine that will work for you and your child as you move back to childcare. For example, set up a consistent time for getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. This may need to happen gradually if your child has become used to varied times. Ask the educators about the expected daily routine in the setting and share with them your child’s routine at home. This is particularly important for younger children as big changes to their normal routines are likely to lead to more discomfort and distress.

Be Understanding

Everyone has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in different ways. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the social and emotional effects of stressful situations in the lives of their families and communities, and rely on parents and caregivers to soothe and nurture them. When young children are overwhelmed by their big feelings, we typically see this show up in their behaviour. Your child might have separation anxiety and become distressed about being apart from you. They might appear withdrawn or angry, and they may also regress to a behaviour more typical of earlier stages in their development. These are normal responses to situations or events that children find stressful. Your child might not be able to put their feelings into words but it is important to reassure them that they are loved and help them to organise their feelings.

Signs of stress or trauma that you might see in your child’s behaviour and what you can do about it

Sleep difficulty (fear of falling asleep or staying asleep; nightmares)

  • Make sure there is a consistent and soothing bedtime routine (bath, reading books,
    dim light, cuddles and snuggling). Respond immediately to soothe your child if they
    have a nightmare.

Changes in how they eat (loss of appetite, refusing to eat, hoarding or hiding food)

  • Make sure meal times are calm and consistent, where the child is able to sit down
    at the table. Offer choices in foods. Don’t worry about any messiness.

Changes in toileting (constipation, stool holding, bed-wetting, ‘accidents’)

  • Reduce stress around toileting. Use books, games, or activities that are only for
    those times.
    Older children should go to the toilet regularly. Ensure that they have food that
    supports healthy digestion – fruits, vegetables, and grains for toddlers and older

Reappearance of behaviours common at an earlier age (bedwetting, thumb sucking, clinging to you, fear of strangers, baby talking)

  • Reassure your child that you are close and they are safe. Stay near. Tell them
    when you are leaving and when you will be back. If they are clingy, hold them for a
    little while longer. Encourage comfort items, like a teddy or blanket. Make sure
    there is a lot of sitting on your lap and spending time together. Encourage drawing
    or painting and pretend play as ways of expressing fears and emotions

Biting, kicking, tantrums, aggression

  • Provide safe and loving limits. Help give your young child the words to describe
    their emotions. ‘I see you are angry. You don’t want to come inside right now.’
    Redirect to a quiet area where they can calm down with you and organise their
    feelings. Read children’s books that help to show how to handle emotions.

Shows no emotion, no joy

  • Offer a hug and a sense of safety. Give your child your full attention as often as
    you can (for example, avoid being on your phone too much). Children learn by
    imitating adults. Even babies can mirror the mood of their parent. If you are having
    a lot of difficulty coping in these very difficult times, consider talking to your doctor
    about ways to support your own emotional health. You are not alone in this.

Difficulty concentrating, frustration, difficulty with changing activities

  • Reduce distractions. Set up a quiet area. Model how to calm yourself down when
    Help your child to take some deep breaths – ‘In your mind, count “1, 2, 3” for each
    breath in and “1, 2, 3” for each breath out.’ Pause slightly at the end of each breath



Adjustment to change is a process that takes place over time. Your child’s first few days back to crèche, preschool or childminder might go really well. However, keep in mind that sometimes a child’s stress will not show until a week or so into the new schedule, so don’t be too surprised if you see signs of stress start to show later on. It is important that you plan for your child’s return to childcare and early learning to reduce the worry and anxieties for everyone involved and to help make it a positive experience. Be sure to include your child in conversations about making plans. Above all, be kind to yourself. You can only do the best you can in whatever situation you are in.

Ask for help

Talk to your child’s educator about any behaviour that is worrying you to get support and to work together on things you can try both at home and in the setting.

For more resources and ideas see

You can also download the pdf of this article here


How do babies learn?

How do babies learn? Here is a piece from the Growing Child newsletter distributed by Lifestart which gives us some insight into that.

Exercises in Learning

Around her first birthday, what kinds of things is Baby now doing on her own? If you watch her carefully, you will notice she is likely to try to do something in a different manner the second, or at least the third time she tries to repeat an action. For instance, when she discovers the fascination of dropping objects, she doesn’t drop the same toy the same way each time. Instead she holds her arm in different positions She also tries out all possible surfaces for dropping.

This is quite a change from her younger months when she used to do the same thing over and over like banging an object or shaking her arms and legs to sway the bassinet. What has happened is that she is no longer so fascinated with the effect she can produce when she simply makes the same thing happen over and over again.

Her interest has shifted to the world of causes and effects outside herself. She is willing and able to make variations in her actions to learn about the nature of the objects themselves. She has now begun to sort and classify her experiences in a simple way.

Jean Piaget, the noted psychologist, divided a baby’s learning experiences into two categories.
First, she tries it out with a number of variations. She exercises the idea, so to speak. Baby’s various ways of dropping an object is not just a onetime occurrence but a predictable
happening. Then, along comes a situation where an idea doesn’t work. Let’s say that Baby is exercising the idea that she can put objects into a box through a hole in the top. All of a sudden, an object refuses to go through the hole—push though she will. Now comes a tiny crisis.
Baby’s idea, which had been so stable, suddenly becomes unsettled. She must either reconcile the idea with this new happening or give it up entirely.

Of course, Baby soon learns to modify her idea slightly. All objectswill go through the hole except those that are “too big.” Her process of adapting an idea to new circumstances is the second category of learning experiences and it is really the more important of the two. By this means, all of us have gained a more highly refined understanding of the world and its ways.



The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of: THE LIFESTART FOUNDATION,
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site:

Resources for parents to support their child’s learning and development

Support Materials for Parents

Parents are the most important people in their children’s early lives. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment has produced a number of resources that contain lots of ideas, suggestions and practical examples of how parents can support their children’s learning and development in the early years. These resources are available in Irish, English, Polish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Portugese and Romanian and deal with your child’s development at different stages from birth to eight years.

Click the link for information and to find the resources you need



Baby’s sleep needs at 3 to 6 months

Some more sleep tips from

By 3 to 4 months of age, babies begin to settle into a sleep and wake routine.

How much sleep your baby needs

Between 3 to 6 months, your baby needs between 12 to 14 hours sleep across the day and night. They will usually nap for around 3 to 4 hours. There should be 2 to 2.5 hours between naps – see below for more information.


Your baby may still go straight to sleep after a feed. They’ll then wake for a while before the next feed is due. By about 6 months your baby will stay awake for longer and be more alert between feeds.

Waking during the night

It is normal for your baby to wake briefly during the night. Avoid stimulating your baby if this happens. For example, by talking loudly or playing with them.

They may drift back to sleep or cry. Settle and soothe them if they are crying by talking softly and holding them. Feed them if hungry.

Difference between day and night

At this stage they are starting to identify the difference between day and night. A bedtime routine can help show your baby that sleep time is approaching.

Bedtime routine

You can build a sleep routine by:

  • having your baby out in the daylight early in the day and being active in the evenings. This helps them to make the hormone melatonin that helps them to go sleep
  • not exposing your baby to bright screens like a mobile phone, tablet or TV. This can make it harder for them to get to sleep.
  • having ‘wind down’ or quiet time in the hour before bed – use dim lights and a low voice in the evening along with relaxing activities like a bath
  • feeding your baby after a bath or after you change them into sleeping clothes – have 30 minutes between feeding and putting them to bed
  • putting your baby to sleep in the same place when at home
  • putting them into the cot while awake so that they fall asleep where they will be waking up.
  • avoiding feeding or rocking to sleep – otherwise they’ll always need this to sleep and if they wake up during the night

During the night

  • Use a yellow or red dim light when you feed your baby at night as a bright one may over-stimulate them – avoid blue lights and bright screens in the bedroom.
  • Speak to your baby in a quiet calm voice when you are feeding them at night – talking loudly may encourage them to stay awake.
  • Put your baby back into the cot drowsy but awake so that they wake up where they fall asleep.
  • Don’t change your baby’s nappy during sleep time unless it is dirty.


Naps for babies and young children

It is important for your baby or toddler to take naps during the day. Children who are well rested find it easier to get to sleep at night. Children will usually continue to take naps until around age 3.

Naps can help their:

  • growth
  • development
  • health

When your baby or toddler should nap

Babies nap for between 3 to 4 hours per day. At 2 months of age, your baby will take around 4 naps a day. They will reduce this to 1 in the middle of the day at around 12 to 15 months of age.

You should space out the length of time between your baby or toddler’s naps.

A baby or toddler who naps frequently will not get the same benefit as one who has solid naps. Look at how long they have been awake and judge when they’re due to sleep.

Spacing out naps

  • Up to 3 months: there should be 1 to 2 hours between naps
  • 3 to 6 months: there should be 2 to 2.5 hours between naps
  • 6 to 9 months: there should be 2.5 to 3 hours between naps
  • 1 year or over: 1 nap a day
  • 3 years or over: phase out naps

Babies over 9 months of age should not sleep after 3.30 pm in the day. This is because it will cause difficulties with bedtime and may also cause early morning waking.

Older children should not have naps in the late afternoon. This is because it may also make it hard for them to go to sleep at bedtime.

Help your baby or toddler nap

Your child will find it easier to nap during the day if you:

  • have a consistent daily routine so that your baby or toddler knows when it is time to nap
  • do not let your child play or relax in bed. Your child’s bed should be for sleeping only
  • keep their room dark during nap time
  • take off your baby or toddler’s shoes and outer clothes so they do not become too warm
  • give them a special blanket or toy as a comforter
  • read them a story in a calming voice

It is better to let your child wake up on their own, as they will be in a better mood.

For more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development see

If you need some support on sleep issues with your child please contact your Public Health Nurse who has been specially trained. You can find contact details for your PHN on the Parent Hub Donegal Services page by clicking this link      Put in the region of Donegal you are in ( will help you) and click update.

Baby’s sleep needs 0 – 3 months

The website is a great source of information about all aspects of your child’s well being and development. Here is what they say about sleep in those early months.

Newborn baby’s sleep needs at 0 to 3 months

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven’t yet developed a set sleep pattern.

Your newborn baby will wake up regularly to be fed. It doesn’t matter if it’s day time or night time.

This can be very hard to cope with. It will get easier. Try to sleep when your baby is asleep.

From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than other babies.

Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce changes to bedtime at around 3 months of age. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.

It often takes several months for a baby’s day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to become settled.

How much sleep a newborn baby needs

Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours.

Your baby is unique and may sleep differently to other babies. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for short bursts. They will sleep during the day and night. They might sleep for anything between a few minutes to a few hours at a time.

Newborn babies don’t know the difference between day and night. Their sleep is more likely controlled by their tummies.

Waking up for feeds

Newborn babies will wake up to be fed. Your baby will sleep for 1 to 3 hours until their next feed. Their sleep time gets longer as they get older. Their tummy influences their body clock.

If their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.

If you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse

Putting your baby to sleep

Your baby may go straight to sleep after a feed.

When possible, put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake. This might help them fall asleep where they will be waking up.

Your baby will be awake for 1 to 2 hours between sleeps.

Signs your newborn baby is tired

A newborn baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for 1 to 1.5 hours.

There are signs that will tell you when they’re ready to sleep. Avoid stimulating your baby, such as talking loudly or playing with them.

Some of the signs are:

  • staring into space
  • fussing or grizzling
  • crying
  • frowning
  • arching back
  • can’t be distracted
  • jerky arm or legs movements

Keeping your baby awake

Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better at night.

If your baby is overtired it is much harder for them to get to sleep.

Where your baby should sleep

Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.

It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.

Background noises

Background noises such as music or children playing may not wake them but a sudden loud noise might.

Your baby’s sleeping position

Always put your baby to sleep on their back with their feet touching the end of the cot.

Do not let your baby sleep while lying on their tummy. Babies who sleep on their tummies have a higher risk of cot death. You can give your baby some tummy time’ when they are awake.

If your baby always lies with their head in the same position they might develop a ‘flat head’. This is called plagiocephaly.

You can help prevent this when putting your baby down to sleep on their back. When they are lying flat, you can alternate their head position so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.

Related topic

Safe sleep practices for your newborn

Coping with disturbed newborn sleep

Your baby’s sleep pattern is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

Some things that may help:

  • if you have a partner, ask for help
  • ask family and friends for help with chores so you can take a nap

Breastfeeding and caffeine

If you are breastfeeding, caffeine may affect your baby’s sleep. The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have one cup a day.

For lots more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development see

If you need some support on sleep issues with your child please contact your Public Health Nurse who has been specially trained. You can find contact details for your PHN on the Parent Hub Donegal Services page by clicking this link      Put in the region of Donegal you are in ( will help you) and click update.

Meal time, nappy time, sleep time – babies are learning all the time

Even our ordinary everyday routines of meal times, nappy changing and sleep times can give babies and toddlers opportunities to develop their communication skills as well as feelings of security and confidence. These tips from the First 5 website are written with childcare workers in mind but are really useful for mums and dads at home too.

What are care-giving routines?

Care-giving routines are repeated, predictable moments in a child’s life around bodily functions
such as nappy-changing, sleep-times and meal-times. You can create a predictable routine for babies and toddlers to match their individual need for sleeping, eating and nappy-changing.

Routine gives babies and toddlers a sense of security by knowing, I will get something to
eat when I am hungry and My nappy will be changed when it needs to be. A predictable
routine means that the child knows in advance what to expect giving them a feeling of safety and
trust. Develop care-giving routines that allow plenty of time for babies and toddlers to connect
and co-operate. Babies who are rushed can become frustrated, find it difficult to co-operate
and may not build the social skills necessary to manage within a group.

Care-giving routines provide valuable opportunities for some one-to-one interactions. They are positive experiences for babies and toddlers when they are respectful and carried out in a spirit of care and partnership and at a pace that suits the child.

Find out more here

Just click on the images for a better view or you can download the PDF here tip-sheet-birth-3 care giving routines

For more information and ideas about supporting your child’s learning and development see the First 5 website


Information for parents on supporting your baby’s learning and development

Here are some great ideas from the First 5 website to help you support your baby’s learning and development

Click on the images for a better view or download the PDFs by just clicking the link below


Tá an t-eolas ar fáil  anseo i nGaeilge fosta leidleathanach_thuismitheoir_babaithe 

For more information from First 5 on supporting your baby/toddler’s learning have a look at the website


Fifty Key Messages: Baby see, Baby do

Playing with your infant

Parents of children aged birth to 3 years:

Put some time aside to play with your child.  Your child will move from ‘exploring objects’ to imitating you, to pretending to be you (Baby See, Baby do – this is role modelling).  This is a great step forward in your child’s development as it indicates that they recognise you as somebody separate from themselves and somebody important that has separate feelings and thoughts about things.


  • Play ‘copy my face’ with young babies. Babies only a few hours old will try to copy some of your actions like sticking out your tongue.
  • For a younger child, hold a mirror in front of their face and watch their reactions.
  • For an older child, give the mirror (preferably a light plastic framed one) and watch how they view themselves.
  • Get close to a younger child – Play ‘clap a clap a handies’ and watch baby’s attempts to copy you.
  • Put some time aside to play with your child. Role model building blocks and other games, but do not ‘correct’ the child if they cannot do exactly like you. It is important to let them learn at their own pace, but role modelling will help them develop.
  • Use correct names for items, such as soother, bottle, etc – this will promote language development.

To find out more about the Key Messages to support your parenting see