Every year, hundreds and hundreds of very young children start at the various creches in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. BEAST went to meet Dominique Godard, the founder and manager of “L’Enfant Roi”, to discuss the way in which children settle into an establishment and the way in which they, and their parents, are welcomed, in keeping with the philosophy of Maria Montessori at all times.
Traditionally, how do children starting at L’Enfant Roi and Montessori creches settle into their new surroundings?
Initially, at L’Enfant Roi, we prefer to talk about a “period of adaptation”. This generally takes place over a period of one week, but it can vary depending on the child. The initial contact between the team, the parents and the child is essential; these parties have to work together to build a mutual trust as part of this three-way relationship.
That is why, during the first meeting, we find out as much as we can about the child and his/her habits so that we can adapt accordingly and allow the child to become familiar with and feel at ease with his/her new surroundings.
Parents must be separated from their child very gradually and steps must be taken to ensure that the surroundings are adapted to the child at all times. At the start of this process, the child joins the group accompanied by his/her parents. And gradually, the teachers suggest to the child that he/she should stay for a little longer and finally the parents leave their child to develop on his/her own in the module.
What initiatives are implemented in particular?
The transitional object is very important as it allows the child to come to terms with the separation: a cuddly toy, a dummy or even an object, e.g. a t-shirt bearing an odour associated with the parents and to which the child may be particularly attached. This serves as a reference point in an environment which may still be alien to the child; it may also reassure the child as he/she becomes familiar with the new setting.
There is no standard period of adaptation; it depends completely on the child, his/her habits and behaviour during the first few days. It is completely adapted to the needs of the child and the pace of his/her development. Our initiatives in terms of welcoming the children could be defined as follows: a personalised collection of information and an ability to listen to and take on board their particular needs.
Is it possible to refer to this initiative as a mentoring system among children? Are the oldest children able to help the new arrivals in the first few weeks?
Precisely. What you call “mentoring” is the principle on which we mix the ages. The Montessouri teaching methods actually encourage children of all ages to mix, starting at a very early age. For instance, in a group of Maison des Enfants, the oldest will act as role models for the youngest. When children begin to feel at ease with their surroundings, daily exchanges with the oldest will play a vital role in their adaptation to the creche.
Moreover, the support provided by the teaching team during the adaptation period will also be decisive in the development of the child.
What advice do you give to parents so that they are able to fully prepare their children before they start at the creche?
It all depends on the age of the child. Preparations for a 3-year old toddler are not the same as for 2-month old infant. When the child first starts at the creche, it is always important to explain what will happen throughout the day, from the time they arrive in the morning up to the time they leave in the evening.
For the oldest children, in order to help them feel at ease with their new surroundings, we arrange a visit to the creche and we introduce them to the specific materials that we use. We also take the opportunity to introduce them to the teaching team with whom they will spend their time at the creche. This experience, in which discovery plays a vital role, reassures children and parents alike.
Are information sessions organised to help not only children but also parents (and especially new parents)?
Every year, following the summer break, the Manager and her team invite parents to an information meeting. During this meeting, the teaching team provides all the information necessary for the creche to function harmoniously and for the child to receive the appropriate care. Parents are given the opportunity to ask the teaching team any questions that they may have.
The Manager and her team are, of course, available to hold private information meetings with parents at any other time of the school year.
Moreover, the psychologist and paediatric nurse of our establishments are at the service of parents and new parents, who may wish to ask questions or who may require particular individual support.