Listening to children and transitions into new schools / rooms

By Sonia Mainstone-Cotton

10th April 2019

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The term after Easter is a time when many of us start to plan for transitions e.g. starting school or children moving into a pre-school room in September. Although September feels a long way off, I always start to think about these transitions and start to plan for them once I return after Easter.

I spend most of my year working with four year olds in reception classes, and then from May I pick up the new children from nursery that I will support in school. One of my main aims is to listen to the children’s thoughts and feelings about the move and involve them and their ideas. This article has a few suggestions on how we can do that in the transition to new settings or rooms.

Photo project

This idea is largely influenced by the mosaic approach (Moss and Clark 2001). This is an activity I do with my four year olds each year.

Get the children to take photos of things they enjoy doing in the nursery – it can be a good idea to limit this to 8-10 pictures. Explain to the children you will use these pictures to show their new teacher/key person what they like and enjoy doing.

Ask the children about the photos, why they chose the image and write up their words. Print the photos and words and put them into a small booklet.

Pass the booklet onto the new school/ room, explaining to the staff that this is what the child enjoys in nursery and these are photos they wanted to share.

This exercise is very simple – it allows the new staff to see and hear a little about what the child enjoys, and can help new staff in their preparation to welcome the new child.


Children have the best ideas about what new children need to know. A lovely project to do with your current group of children is to make a booklet for the new children arriving.

  • Explain to the children your idea.
  • Ask the children what they think the new children need to know about the room/ setting.
  • Get the children to take photos – look at these together and ask the children about them and why they are important.
  • Put together the photos and children’s words into a booklet. Pass on the booklet to every new child.

This activity enables staff to hear what is important to the children and helps to aid new children in their transition. I have used this many times, and it has given me insight into how the child sees their world. I once discovered how some children were initially frightened by the noise the toilet cistern made; this enabled me to pass this information onto the new setting, but also to remember to be aware of that issue with new children.

For more ideas, read Sonia Mainstone-Cotton’s latest book, ‘Listening to Young Children in Early Years Settings: A Practical Guide’, which comes out on 18th April 2019.

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