Parents’ Questions : Experts’ Answers

What should I do about my toddler’s tantrums?  How can I ensure my three year old learns to eat healthily?  Should I be worried if my young child has an imaginary friend?  These are just a few of the questions parents of young children may ask but often it is hard to find practical, non-judgemental advice.

As part of the DfES Early Years and Childcare campaign, we have spoken to a number of Early Years and Childcare workers, from childminders to nursery managers and asked them to provide advice in response to a range of common problems faced by parents.  Early Years and Childcare workers can offer valuable tips to parents due to their experience in working with large numbers of children.

Childcare expert scenarios        

Settling to Sleep

Q.10 My four-year-old refuses to sleep in his own bed and keeps climbing into mine every night.  I am really tired so I find it easier to just give in and let him sleep there but I know I should be trying to encourage him to sleep in his own bed.  What should I do?

A.10 This is a very common problem with young children and it does take a lot of commitment to break it.  Rather than turning over and going back to sleep when your child comes into your bed, you could try immediately getting up and putting them back into their own bed, so they cannot get into the habit of sleeping in your bed.  Even if they do this several times a night, get up each time and help them back into their own bed.  In addition to this, you could try making a star chart, so that your child earns a star for every night they spend in their own bed and also make sure that their bedroom is as cosy and welcoming as possible- you will find out which technique suits your child best.

Sibling Rivalry

Q.11 My son and daughter (aged five and three) do not seem to get on.  They are always quarrelling and I cannot understand why!  I thought that my family would bond so well, but their constant fights are really getting me down.

A.11 Although everyone jokes about sibling rivalry, it can be upsetting when it really starts to disrupt your family life.  In my experience working with children I have found that the main reason siblings argue is either because they are competing for your attention or because they expect to have identical treatment.  However, this often isn’t possible, as a five year old and a three year old have different requirements.  You can try to make sure both children get the chance to spend time with you separately so that they feel equally loved.  In addition I have found it helpful to avoid making comparisons between the two children, as it is important to value them as separate people with different needs and wants.


Q.12 My child is about to start nursery school and I am worried about the impact of such a big change on his life.  How can I ensure that he settles in well and enjoys his time at nursery?

A.12 As a nursery worker we suggest to parents about to start their children at nursery that they start by talking about the activities they already enjoy that they will be able to do at nursery, for example being read to or colouring in.  This will reassure your child that nursery will be a familiar and enjoyable experience.  It also helps if you can teach them some of the skills that they will need at nursery such as doing up their shoes or tidying up after themselves, although of course nursery workers will be able to help out with all of these things too.  Nursery staff will remain in constant contact with you throughout this time of transition so you can work together to ensure your child settles in well.

Tidying up

Q.13 I seem to spend all of my time tidying up my toddlers’ toys and I’d like to know if it is ok to encourage them to help me put them away.  I don’t want to spoil their fun but I need some help!

A.13 There is nothing wrong with encouraging your toddler to tidy up after from an early age.  As a nursery worker we encourage children to learn to tidy up. It is good to get them into this routine.  You can make tidying a fun game for your children, so you are not spoiling their fun.  Sing a special song when you tidy up or have special boxes for certain toys so that tidying is fun.  Make sure that you praise your toddler for every little effort they make, even if you still end up doing most of the tidying yourself. At first your child may only tidy away one or two things but you can gradually build up your expectations of them.


Q.14 My toddler is very shy.  When strangers are around, she just withdraws into her shell and refuses to speak to them.  How can I build her confidence so that she is happy to interact with our friends and their children, especially as she will have to start going to nursery soon?

A.14 Sometimes children become shy or withdrawn as they feel that they will be ignored if they speak up.  Even though you may be busy, it is important that your child feels that you are willing to listen to them when they have something to say.  Arrange for them to spend some time playing with one or two other children to build their confidence and above all, don’t make a big issue of their confidence problem, just be positive and supportive.  Remember that there is no one answer that works for all children, you may have to use your judgement and try a few different techniques before you find the most appropriate technique for your child.

Interested in Working with Children?

The DfES has been running a national Early Years and Childcare recruitment campaign since July 2000, which aims to encourage people to consider a career in Early Years and Childcare.  To support the expansion of childcare services it is estimated that thousands of people need to be recruited to work in Early Years and Childcare by 2008.  If you want to find out more information on a career in Early Years and Childcare visit or call the helpline 0800 99 66 00.

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