Sep 21, 2021

What is the Attachment Theory and Why is it Important?

Attachment Theory

You may not have heard of the Attachment Theory before, but this is something that all of our nursery staff are aware of. It’s part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and it’s also embedded in our values as a group of nurseries.

So, what is the Attachment Theory? The attachment theory was first developed by British psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950s and there has been countless studies since. The word ‘attachment’ refers to the emotional relationships children have with those who spend most of the time caring for them. It provides children with a sense of security and allows them to feel safe.

When Bowlby first began his studies, he was interested in understanding the separation anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregiver. Previously, behaviour theorists thought that this was a learnt behaviour, however, Bowlby believed that this was, in fact, instinctual and that children have an innate drive to form attachments with caregivers. Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds with children and their caregivers have a tremendous impact on children, and that this continues with them throughout their life.

Studies have shown that children can also form strong bonds with secondary caregivers, for example nursery staff, grandparents etc, and that it is important for children to have bonds with those who care for them when their primary caregiver is away. We know that when children have secure bonds with those who care for them, they can develop and grow in the best way possible.

As nursery teams, we support with these attachments. Before children start with us, we invite children into the nursery with their parents/carers so they can come and see the environment, meet the staff and have a play. This really helps support children’s attachments as it reinforces to children that the environment is a safe and happy place to be. We encourage parents to remain positive about nursery (even though it can be a daunting time!) and to continue to play and interact with their child throughout the sessions.

At nursery, your child will also have their Key Person. Each child in our settings has a key person and this person creates a bond with their key children from day one. They spend time interacting with each child and their parents during their settling sessions and they also spend time gathering lots of information about each child’s likes, dislikes, attitudes, preferences and care needs; so they can get to know them as much as possible and be as responsive to their needs as possible.

We also recommend at least one settling session is spent where parents or main carers leave to allow the key person to spend time with the child alone, so that they can really get to know one another and strengthen their bond. Once children start with us, we do our best to ensure that the key person is on hand to care for their key child at key times; for example, to change their nappy and feed them their bottle. The key carer makes sure that, within the day-to-day demands of the setting, each child for whom they have special responsibility feels individual, cherished and thought about by someone in particular while they are away from home. The key person will also be the parents main point of contact and ensure that every child’s learning and care is tailored to meet their individual needs.

As parents/carers, there are things that you can do to support attachments at nursery.

  • Remain positive about nursery: Children feed off our emotions. We know starting nursery can be a daunting and emotional time but try to remain upbeat when coming for visits and during the first drop off. Don’t worry, we will be on hand to support you once you have dropped them off. We are always available with a listening ear (and a shoulder to cry on!).
  • Come along to the settling sessions: This is such a great opportunity for us to get to know you all and start building those bonds from early doors.
  • Give us as much information as possible about your child: How exactly do you get them off to sleep? To they like their nose stroking? Do they dose off to sleep listening to white noise? This key information helps us to get to know your child better and we can start where you left off!
  • Stay in touch: Not only is it important for us to communicate lots at the start, do try to keep us informed of any changes or any concerns you might have along the way.

Heather Clark, Little Houghton Nursery Manager


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