Starting Nursery at 2, and highly sensitive children

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For those that follow our Instagram account – you’ll know that Grayson has recently started Nursery. Starting Nursery is something that has filled me with anxiety, for several reasons. So, I thought I’d share those anxieties, and let you know how Gracie has been getting on since starting Nursery.


We’ve spoken previously about putting Grayson in to Nursery – it’s something that we have both been quite anxious about, for a few reasons, which I’ll go in to in this post. We’re lucky, we have amazing Childcare around us in the form of Grandparents, so Grayson hasn’t needed nursery care, but Ashleigh has just started working 5 days a week, part time hours, and we didn’t think it fair to call on Grandparents for every day. So, we bit the bullet with starting nursery, and made the first steps.

Highly Sensitive Children

Grayson is a very sensitive child (probably even categorised as “Highly Sensitive“) – I’m not just saying this because I’m his Dad, or to boast in any way – but G is an incredibly bright two year old. He holds full, coherent conversations. He knows his colours, his numbers, his alphabet. He’s funny, quick witted, and cheeky. He’s incredibly compassionate – he wants cuddles, he’ll tell us he loves us, he’s very aware of when we’re off to work and won’t be around etc. Basically, he’s very tuned in to his lifestyle and surroundings.

Coupled with this – he is incredibly shy around new people, or in big group situations. He often won’t leave our side for a few minutes at family events, whilst he takes his time to process all the people around. Once he’s ready, he’ll tell us, and he then goes off and runs around and plays like a mad man for hours.

One thing we’re lucky with, is that Grayson rarely has your typical tantrum – he’s more likely to simply sit and be quiet, or come for a cuddle and cry than to have a drop-to-the-floor meltdown.

We knew starting nursery was something that we knew might be a struggle for Grayson to adapt to.

Our Nursery Concerns

Because we know how Grayson is, and we know what might be an uncomfortable situation for him – we were quite apprehensive about watching him go through the doors for the first time.

From a Dads perspective, I was incredibly anxious about leaving him on his own with people he’s never met before, around children that he might not be overly keen to interact with. We were keen to find a nursery that was small, and local enough that it didn’t involve too much of a commute to get there (thus adding to the time to build up the anxiety all round!). Thankfully, we found one that’s 5 minutes away, and they invited us in to come and have a look around.

Starting Nursery

We first went one evening, when the other children had gone (because, Covid, we’re not allowed in to the room when the children are there at all). Grayson soon acclimatised to the surroundings, and found the trains and play kitchen. He was quite happy around the staff members that were there, and all in all, it was a great experience for us all to calm the nerves (obviously, we try our best not to show G that we’re anxious about things, because he’d pick up on it quite quickly!).

As a follow up to this, we had a one hour session where we left Grayson there to have a play with the other children around. I dropped him off for this, and whilst there were tears from him, the nursery staff carried him in to the play room, and within minutes, he was in his element playing.

I went to pick him up after the hour, and he didn’t want to leave! It was lovely to see that he’d had such a good time, quite heart warming really.

We decided that we should push ahead with longer there, so the next week, he went for his first proper session, 8am until 1pm. He was excited, and we dropped him off without much fuss. Come 1 o’clock, I went to pick him up. He saw my face and said “Come in and play Daddy!”. Another heart warming moment for sure!

The Second Full Nursery Day

I think we had false expectations here – having seen Grayson have such a positive time the first couple of visits, we thought this would be a doddle. Again, he wasn’t keen to leave us, but he soon ran in to play with the toys, and we snuck off to get to work.

The night before, Grayson woke up at 3am saying “I don’t want to go to Nursery” – we thought maybe it was just a nightmare that he was having, but clearly it had played on his mind so much that it woke him from his sleep and upset him. Anyway, we pushed through our anxieties around this and watched him go off to play.


We got a call at around 11am saying G was in a bit of a state, and would we like to go and pick him up, or leave him there. So I went to pick him up – we didn’t want him getting stressed or creating such a negative thought of Nursery that he simply never wanted to go again. We also think that he’s a bit under the weather, he suffers a lot with tonsillitis, so we thought he might be showing signs of that again (he becomes exceptionally clingy when unwell).

I picked him up, and after a few big cuddles, he was telling me all about his day at Nursery and how he enjoyed it. But it’s often counteracted with a “I want to stay at home” or “I don’t want to go to Nursery”, which is quite sad to hear him say.

The Plan

Since this, he’s really not been himself. We’re still sure he’s got a bug or tonsillitis, but the Doctor won’t see him due to Covid, so suggested we try Calpol for a few days and see if he improves. Coupled with the heat, it’s really not a good combination for him at the moment.

Nursery have suggested we take him twice a week, instead of once a week, and try and break the back of this, so he realises that Nursery is fun and that Mum and Dad are always going to come and pick him up when he’s finished playing. Cruel to be kind, I guess.

The Nursery update us after each visit via an app, and the pictures of him playing are adorable, along with the descriptions of what he’s been talking about. He clearly does enjoy being there, but I guess he just gets overwhelmed by it all. It’s amplified for him because he is such a sensitive soul, and he’s also spent the last 6 months rarely leaving the house, so to have all this change, with seeing family again, Mummy back to work, starting nursery, days out. It’s all a bit overwhelming for us all, really.

We’re trying not to big-up starting nursery too much now, we want him to enjoy it, but not be overly excited by it, so much so that he then doesn’t understand how to handle his emotions.

We’ll see how next week goes, and take it from there. For now, it’s Calpol to try and ease any pain from teething or tonsillitis, cuddles, and lots of reassurance that he’s doing great, and that no matter where he is, mummy and daddy will always come and get him at the end of it!

Have you had similar experiences with starting nursery? How did your kids adapt to being in an unfamiliar place with new people? Please let us know in the comments (and put my mind at ease, epic dad guilt here that we’ve made him do things he doesn’t like!)

Check out our guest post from Eddie here, about knowing when your child is ready for nursery, or James about his amazing little boy Joshua Starting School. Dadvengers also recently posted about Being supportive during the transition to School or Nursery – and it’s well worth a read.

11 thoughts on “Starting Nursery at 2, and highly sensitive children”

  1. It’s definitely a hard one, the way you feel when you hear negative things from them. The apps are great we have one that’s kind of like a form of social media for the girls school, regular posts throughout the day, personal messages from the teacher or classroom assistant it’s great to be involved in a way of what they are upto.

    I hope he’s feeling better soon, nothing worse when they are not themselves. Great post mark thanks for sharing your families experience 👍.

    • Thanks Eddie – its great to know what he’s up to when we’re not around – it would just be easier if he understood that he’s there to have fun, and that we’ll be there to pick him up when he’s finished! We’ll get there with it all, no rush for these things, all in his own time and all that 🙂

      • These things do take time matey, the more he goes and gets into a routine with going to nursery, it will be like he’s never not attended nursery. Just keep doing what your doing and supporting the little legend 👍

  2. Both you & Ash are doing a fabulous job, definitely no need to feel guilty.
    It’s hard from the word ‘go’ being a parent, you have to muddle through & know you’re doing the best you can with what you have. Everyone is either trying to be their own parents or – as I did – trying not to be like their parents at all.
    You never know if what you’re doing is right, you just have to keep going & know you will make some mistakes; we are only human after all. But remember you are doing your best & that really is good enough.
    With regards to tough love, sometimes that’s how it needs to be. Leaving a child crying at nursery is heartbreaking, (believe me, I sobbed everyday I dropped my screaming daughter off) but you know they’ll come to no harm & it’s important for them to make friends & learn to play etc.
    It takes time for anyone to get used to a new routine – even as an adult: new job, moving house, becoming a parent – it’s a tough world. You also have the pandemic thrown into the mix, that has made many adults anxious, let alone little ones who don’t understand it.
    Just remember to breathe, know you’re doing your best & trying your hardest with all the love in the world. Can’t ask for more than that!
    … And don’t forget to congratulate yourself when you realise you’ve taught them to brush their teeth, get dressed on their own, helped them find their way & their place in the world; all whilst dealing with everything in your own life 👏 There is no greater pride, than to look at your child as an adult & know you helped them get there ♥

    • Aww, thank you. I know you’re right, we’re doing our best, it’s just difficult when he’s not being his usual happy self, you want to do whatever feels right to make him happy again, but sometimes that simply isn’t the right thing (like, leaving him at the door crying is the right thing, but you want to take him home and watch Trolls with him instead!)

      We’ll get there with it all, as you say, it takes time, and 7 months stuck at home not seeing anyone really hasn’t helped things at all, despite him being so happy to see everyone again, it’s not quite the same when it’s a room full of new faces!!

      I’m sure I’ll read this post back in a few weeks (months, maybe) time and think I was stressing over nothing 🙂

  3. As a former early years practitioner, I agree with all of the things you have said #,thatfridaylinky @_karendennis

  4. I feel like I could have write this blog post myself! Our boy, also 2 is due to start nursery in Jan ’21 and I am slightly dreading it although will try not show it.. He too is a HSC and displays/exhibits all of the signs and emotions that it involves. He is very aware and that can make things a bit tricky.

    I need to make sure the nursery are happy to gently settle him in, make the transition as light and easy going as possible not to create too much stress. He had a first bad experience at a nursery we first tried during covid, where he had an accident and it has really put him off. Are there any HSC support groups? I live in Kent and would love to connect with other parents who experience similar things – either online &/or in-person once covid has passed and it is safe..

    Thanks for posting this! I’m so glad I found it 🙂

    • Awwww, I’m glad it’s helped even if it’s knowing you’re not alone! We found that reassuring him that we were always coming to pick him up after he’s had his lunch there helped. The past couple of weeks he seems to have slipped back in to being very upset when we drop him off – but that’s quite normal from what we understand – so hoping we’ll get past it!

      I hope the nursery start in January goes well for you – stick with it – I’m sure he’ll have a lovely time once he’s confident that it’s fun and safe! We haven’t found any HSC support groups – but I’m sure there must be some out there, if not, there really should be!


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