How do I prepare my child to start daycare?
It’s a term that children and their parents/caregivers know all too well when it comes to the first day of daycare. That monumental day is when a child ventures off alone into their first independent life experience and it’s an important developmental milestone. But when it comes to sending your little one off to daycare for the first time, there are steps you can take to make it an easier transition for both you and your child.
Talk it out: Start talking to your child about daycare months before the big day arrives. Start out casually talking about how daycare is an opportunity to learn new things, to play and to meet some new friends. Letting your child know what to expect can ease the anxiety and fear of being separated from home for the first time.
Preparation: Because daycare staff work with multiple children during the day, helping your child become independent can make an easier daycare experience for everyone. If your child knows how to tie a shoe, button or zip a coat or wash his or her hands without needing assistance from daycare staff, it can help the provider focus on teaching other skills.
Visit the center: Fear of the unknown is what causes most daycare dread and you can help your child overcome this by making a visit, or multiple visits, to the daycare your child will be attending. After a child meets daycare staff, you can help build excitement for that first drop off day (ex. “Mrs. Smith is going to be there on your first day to welcome you!”); and the child will feel more at ease knowing who and what to expect in their brand new environment.
New schedules: Before daycare begins, parents and caregivers should start adjusting a child’s home schedule so everyone can hit the ground running. If possible, try to find out when nap time will be at your child’s daycare so you can adjust your child’s existing nap schedule to the one at school. You can also ask about the lunch and snack schedule, so you can adjust feeding times at home before the first day of daycare. Also, a parent or caregiver should be prepared to adjust their own schedule on the first few days of daycare—especially when a child may need a little extra support —and time—as he or she adjusts to the new experience.
Labeling: A parent or caregiver can help ensure their little ones don’t leave anything behind at daycare by having name labels on all personal items. From clothes to blankets and diapering and food items, a label with your child’s name on it will help a provider keep track of your child’s belongings.
Packing the bag: If you are leaving a baby in daycare, make sure to pack multiple changes of clothing in case of diaper accidents or food spills. A well-packed bag should also include bottle supplies as well as breast milk or formula to get the baby through the day. Be sure and check with the daycare provider on whether they supply diapers or if you need to pack extras. For older kids, it’s also a good idea to pack a change of clothes in case of a bathroom accident or getting too dirty on the playground. And for toddlers and up, pack a comfort item like a blanket or stuffed animal—something that will remind the child of home and give a sense of security.
The big goodbye: After all the preparation is said and done, a parent or caregiver will finally have to say the first goodbye to their little one. Experts advise that once you say goodbye and make your exit, it’s best to not come back inside the room. Even if a child is crying or scared, coming back into the room will make the transition even harder and make soothing the child even more difficult once you finally leave.
Remember that a good daycare provider is there to help make your child feel comfortable and at home in their new experience. And don’t forget to be patient. Even though the transition can be tough, children are very resilient and can successfully adapt to daycare—especially with a supportive and caring provider.
By ABC Quality Team on August 4, 2020