Ensuring that your child is emotionally, socially and physically prepared to enter into childcare can seem like a daunting task for most parents. Since you’ve done your homework, you’ve already chosen a care facility that matches the unique needs of your child and family, has an approach to childcare that works with your parenting style, and plenty of experience that allows you to feel comfortable with your decision. Even still, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly how you can best prepare your child for this big change, so we’re offering a few ideas below.
Here’s our list of tips and tricks for making the childcare transition much easier!
1. Visit your new center with your child
Choose a day when you and your child can visit the center together. Familiarize your child with the caregivers he or she will interact with on a daily basis, take time to play with the toys and get used to the overall atmosphere of the daycare. If possible, conduct a trial run like this more than once before full-time care begins. Many centers offer a formal transition period from 2 weeks to a full month before your child starts full-time.
2. Talk about childcare with your child
No matter whether your child is an infant, toddler or preschooler, begin talking about the idea of childcare. Find books or TV shows that involve children attending childcare centers. Emphasize that school is a “fun” place for learning, and practice playing school together at home to get them familiar with the concept.
3. Practice experiences outside the home
While your child may be comfortable being cared for by grandparents and family friends while in the comfort of your own home, they may feel differently about being cared for in an unfamiliar environment. Expose your child to a couple short visits with non-parent caregivers as a way to build independence.
4. Give yourself lots of time for drop off
The first few times you drop your child off at their new center, ensure you give yourself an extra 20 to 30 minutes than you think necessary. It could be difficult for both you and your child to separate in the transition process until both of you get used to your new routine. This is totally normal!! If it helps, we heard from one of our Centers that during a difficult transition period, one mother found checking in with HiMama incredibly comforting. Even though her child was upset at drop-off, center staff saw that within a few minutes her child was happily playing with the other children. Center staff snapped a quick photo of the happy parallel playing children to reassure the parent that transition was going well!
5. Ease into it
If at all possible, start your child with just a few days a week rather than a full week of care to ease the new transition. Starting with a few days of care can help your child feel less overwhelmed before progressing to full-time childcare. If you are on parental leave, do your best to transition your child into child care before you go back to work. Do not have your first day back at the office the same day they are starting child care. Set your self up for success by ensuring your child is settled in the child care routine before you go back to work.
6. Ensure your child has proper supplies
Set your child up for success! Most centers will provide a packing list so that you can ensure you are sending them with the proper supplies (cue extra clothes, shoes, outdoor gear etc!). Whether it’s a favorite toy, blanket or snack, sending a few of your child’s favorite things from home with them can help them feel more at home. Check with your center team first to be sure bringing snacks from home is permitted (if meals are provided) and make sure that personal items are labeled with your child’s name!
7. Celebrate the time together outside of child care
When you have more time together outside of child care hours, think of some fun activities you can do as a family that your child can bring to their child care center as a story for Monday! Maybe you take a trip to the park, visit an indoor playground, or even explore the neighborhood on foot. These memories will give your toddler something to celebrate when they return to their class and something to look forward to if daycare transition is more difficult in the first few weeks.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Transitions are always difficult and separating from your child isn’t easy. Luckily, you can rest assured knowing many center staff have years of experience with childcare transitions and are there to help you through. Give yourself permission to be sad in the beginning and hopefully happy when you see all the new fun relationships and activities your child receives at their new child care center!