John Bowlby

"The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature."

Key Person Approach

Children thrive from a base of loving and secure relationships. This is normally provided by a child’s parents but it can also be provided by a key person. A key person is a named member of staff with responsibilities for a small group of children who helps those children in the group feel safe and cared for. The role is an important one and an approach set out in the EYFS which is working successfully in settings and in Reception classes. It involves the key person in responding sensitively to children’s feelings and behaviours and meeting emotional needs by giving reassurance, such as when they are new to a setting or class, and supporting the child’s well-being. The key person supports physical needs too, helping with issues like nappy changing, toileting and dressing. That person is a familiar figure who is accessible and available as a point of contact for parents and one who builds relationships with the child and parents or carers.

Records of development and care are created and shared by the key person, parents and the child. Small groups foster close bonds between the child and the key person in a way that large groups cannot easily do. These groups allow the key person to better ‘tune into’ children’s play and their conversations to really get to know the children in the group well. Children feel settled and happy and are more confident to explore and as a result become more capable learners.

What is attachment and why is it important for young children? Attachments are the emotional bonds that young children develop with parents and other carers such as their key person. Children with strong early attachments cry less when separated. They engage in more pretend play and sustain attention for longer. They are less aggressive and are popular with other children and with adults. Their sense of who they are is strong. Children need to be safe in the relationship they have with parents or carers. They are vulnerable but will develop resilience when their physical and psychological well-being is protected by an adult. Being emotionally attached to such an adult helps the child feel secure that the person they depend on is there for them. When children feel safe they are more inclined to try things out and be more independent. They are confident to express their ideas and feelings and feel good about themselves. Attachment influences a child’s immediate all-round development and future relationships.

Key Person Approach in Practice

Secure Attachment

  • A key person helps the baby or child to become familiar with the setting and to feel confident and safe within it.
  • A key person develops a genuine bond with children and offers a settled, close relationship.
  • When children feel happy and secure in this way they are confident to explore and to try out new things.
  • Even when children are older and can hold special people in mind for longer there is still a need for them to have a key person to depend on in the setting, such as their teacher or a teaching assistant.

Shared Care

  • A key person meets the needs of each child in their care and responds sensitively to their feelings, ideas and behaviour.
  • A key person talks to parents to make sure that the child is being cared for appropriately for each family.
  • A close emotional relationship with a key person in the setting does not undermine children’s ties with their own parents.


  • Babies and children become independence by being able to depend upon adults for reassurance and comfort.
  • Children’s independence is most obvious when they feel confident and self-assured, such as when they are in their own home with family, or with friends and familiar carers such as a key person.
  • Babies and children are likely to be much less independent when they are in new situations, such as a new group, nursery or preschool.

Reflecting on Practice

  • Reassuring others that children will not become too dependent on a key person or find it difficult to adjust to being a member of a group.
  • Meeting children’s needs for a key person while being concerned for staff who may feel over-attached to a child.
  • Reassuring parents who may be concerned that children may be more attached to staff than to them.
  • Supporting children’s transitions within and beyond a setting, particularly as children reach four or fve years of age.

Effective Practice 

  • Ensure that rotas are based on when a key person is available for each child.
  • Provide a second key person for children so that when the main key person is away there is a familiar and trusted person who knows the child well.
  • Plan time for each key person to work with parents so that they really know and understand the children in their key children.

Little Cubs Key Person Policy

Little Cubs believes that children settle best when they have a key person to relate to, who knows them and their parents well, and who can meet their individual needs. Research shows that a key person approach benefits the child, the parents, the staff and the setting by providing secure relationships in which children thrive, parents have confidence, our staff are committed and the setting is a happy and dedicated place to attend or work in.

We want children to feel safe, stimulated and happy in the setting and to feel secure and comfortable with our staff. We also want parents to have confidence in both their children's well-being and their role as active partners with our nursery. We aim to make our setting a welcoming place where children settle quickly and easily because consideration has been given to the individual needs and circumstances of children and their families.

The key person role is set out in the Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. Each child must have a key person. These procedures set out a model for developing a key person approach that promotes effective and positive relationships for children.


We allocate a key person that the child gravitates towards when they start. The key person is responsible for:

• Providing a link for the family and for settling the child into our nursery.

• Offering unconditional regard for the child and being non-judgemental.

• Working with the parents to plan and deliver a personalised plan for the child’s well-being, care and learning.

• Acting as the key contact for the parents.

• Developmental records and for sharing information on a regular basis with the child’s parents to keep those records up-to-date, reflecting the full picture of the child in our nursery and at home.

• Having links with other carers involved with the child and co-ordinating the sharing of appropriate information about the child’s development with those carers.

• Encouraging positive relationships between children in her/his key group, spending time with them each day.

We promote the role of the key person as the child’s primary carer in our nursery, and as the basis for establishing relationships with other adults and children.


• Before a child starts to attend our nursery, we use a variety of ways to provide his/her parents with information.

• These include written information, including our prospectus and policies, displays about activities available within the setting, information days and individual meetings with parents.

• During the half-term before a child is enrolled, we provide opportunities for the child and his/her parents to visit the setting.

• Before a child starts to attend, we explain the process of settling-in with his/her parents and jointly decide on the best way to help the child to settle into the setting.

• We judge a child to be settled when they have formed a relationship with their key person; for example, the child looks for the key person when he/she arrives, goes to them for comfort, and seems pleased to be with them. The child is also familiar with where things are and is pleased to see other children and participate in activities.

• When parents leave, we ask them to say goodbye to their child and explain that they will be coming back, and when.

• We recognise that some children will settle more readily than others.

• We do not believe that leaving a child to cry will help them to settle any quicker. We believe that a child's distress will prevent them from learning and gaining the best from the setting.

• We reserve the right not to accept a child into the setting without a parent or carer if the child finds it distressing to be left.