The first 30 seconds when a child is left at daycare are the most important in making them feel emotionally secure for the rest of the day.

That's the finding from visiting Australian child psychologist Dr Robyn Dolby, who says those first few moments can make a huge difference in the child's emotional wellbeing and in teaching them to understand and organise their feelings.

"In the first 30 seconds of coming into daycare children are looking for someone to connect with. They are asking, 'Am I on your radar, do you see me?'

"Our research has shown that greeting parents and children in a way that focuses on how the child actually feels and including the parent in that conversation makes both of them feel more relaxed and included," she said.

Dr Dolby is in New Zealand this week for a one-day conference for childcare professionals, caregivers, social workers, nurses and other professionals who work with children and families.

Speaking to the Weekend Herald, she said research had revealed that when children arrived at preschool with their mum and dad, they look around for someone to connect with.

Failure to find that connection straightaway meant the child might take longer to feel they had a place in the daycare. Taking longer to settle in meant it could take longer for them to learn.

The research comes from a 10-year project called Attachment Matters - From Relationships to Learning at Preschool.

Part of that project involves creating "play spaces" where staff sit down in a place in the playground conducting an activity and don't move from there for the first hour of the day.

Dr Dolby said an example might be a teacher always being in the sandpit each morning so when children arrived they could seek out their favourite carer and go straight to them. It also created an opportunity for parents, carers and children to interact.

The philosophy has recently been taken up by a playcentre run by the Anglican Trust for Women and Children in Auckland, which is hosting Dr Dolby this week.

Trust clinical director Michelle Ball said the model was working well, with significant changes noticed by both staff and parents.

Children seemed more settled and happier.