The COVID-19 pandemic caused quite a shake-up in schools and childcare centers across the world. In North America, nearly every school and childcare center had to adopt a virtual learning plan for almost two years. Now, as a new school year begins, many childcare centers are transitioning back to full-time, in-person learning. There are many benefits to learning in person, especially the ability for children to interact with their peers and educators more freely.
However, even if you and your child are excited about going back to a childcare center, it might be difficult for them to adjust, particularly if they’ve never known childcare outside of the home. Thankfully, with some planning and preparation, you can make the transition easier for your child (and on yourself!).
Here are some tips you can use to make heading to childcare in person as smooth as possible, so your child is set up for a successful year.
Have open conversations
One of the best ways to help your child adjust to learning at a childcare center is to talk to them about what to expect. They might be anxious about going back if they had to deal with wearing masks, distancing from their friends, or even experiencing sickness themselves. Some health anxiety is normal right now but you can calm your child’s fears and prepare them by asking about their concerns and working through them one at a time.
You can also take things one step further and do some roleplaying. Consider “playing school” at home. By giving your child a glimpse into what a typical day will look like, you can help them overcome their fears and prepare for the real thing. Consider using some of the technology your child’s childcare center uses, and even certain programs and apps, if you can get your hands on them.
A few weeks before you plan on taking your child to a childcare center (or shortly after they begin), get them into a comfortable routine that they’ll become familiar with all year. Have them wake up at the same time each morning and go through the following:
- Brushing teeth
- Getting dressed
- Eating breakfast
- Doing chores
- Catching the bus or getting ready to leave with you by a certain time
The more familiarity you can give your child through conversations and regular play, the more reassured they’ll feel about getting back to the classroom.
Let them go early
A lot of fear and anxiety come from the unknown. If your child is worried about going to a childcare center in person, you can assuage some of those fears by taking them for a tour before they officially go back. If you have a registration day before classes start, take them with you! Try to give them a guided tour of their classroom and make sure they know where everything is.
If possible, get in touch with your child’s educator and set up a meeting. When your child sees a familiar face on the first day, they’ll be more comfortable. Ideally, that educator would be the one to guide your child through the classroom.
Connecting with your child’s educator will also give you a chance to show your appreciation and get to know them. If your child has any struggles throughout the year, having that relationship with their educators will help foster clear, effective communication so you can work together to solve the issue at hand.
Give them time to unwind
It might take your little one some time to adjust to going to childcare every day, especially if they were very young when the pandemic started. You can help them unwind and keep them from burning out by allowing them to relax and play freely at the end of each day.
Your child deserves to blow off some steam at the end of a long day just as much as you do! Try some of the following to offer them a comforting routine:
- Serving a healthy snack
- Having quiet or relaxation time
- Playing outside
It can help to make a playroom in your house that grows with your child, so they’ll have something to look forward to when they get home each day. A playroom gives them a chance to use their imagination and apply some of the social and creative skills they learn outside of the classroom.
Don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and play with them. It’s a fantastic way to casually learn more about their day, what they’re learning, and what they like most about their classroom.
Benefits of in-person childcare
With all of these preparations, you may be wondering if it’s really worth it to take your children back to a childcare center. Some parents may be considering hiring a nanny or taking time off of work to take care of their children. However, this doesn’t actually resolve any anxiety your children may have around going to class in person again.
Instead, it’s best to focus on the benefits of center-based childcare, such as:
- Increased socialization;
- More learning opportunities;
- Access to experienced and caring educators;
- Access to new learning technology and toys.
There’s no denying the pandemic’s impact on childcare, and pre-K children were hit especially hard. Keep these ideas in mind to help your child adjust to in-center childcare, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’ll be able to socialize and succeed this year.