Is your child entering a daycare program for the first time? The transition from being home with family to being in a childcare center can be very difficult for a toddler, even when the caregivers are top notch and the environment is loving. Getting ready for the first day can be both exciting and scary at the same time.
There are many things that parents can do to ease their children into childcare. To help your child with the transition and prepare you for this wonderful new adventure, we are sharing seven tips on starting daycare on the right foot!
When your child starts preschool, it is a very good idea to set routine at home. This will ensure you are able to get them ready in the morning without eternal chaos and prepare you for a much smoother day! In the weeks before starting daycare, adjust your schedule so your child is going to bed and waking up at the time he’ll need to during the preschool year. An easy way to do this is to start by pushing bedtime back by about 10 or 15 minutes per night, till you’re in the sweet spot. Letting kids pick out their clothes, pack their lunches with things they look forward to eating, and having their backpacks ready the night before will help the morning flow. And while choices for breakfast are great, they’re best made the night before, too, so share the menu before bedtime and let your kid make his pick then.
Some other important routines to start with are: eating at the table, washing our hands before eating and addressing toileting needs.
Take turns being the parent, child, and teacher. Act out common daily routines, such as saying good-bye to each other at drop-off, taking off your coat, singing songs, reading stories, playing outside, and taking naps. Reassure your child that daycare is a good place where they will have fun and learn. Answer their questions and address concerns patiently and lovingly. This helps children feel more in control which greatly reduces their anxiety.
Build up to the big day by talking about the exciting and positive aspects of beginning daycare. The thought of a fun new adventure will help your little one look forward to the experience! Ask questions and share your own stories from when you were a child. Whatever you choose to talk about, the weeks leading up to that first day offers us meaningful opportunities to connect with our kids. It also gives us the chance to discuss any worries our children might have, as well as build enthusiasm.
Listen to your preschooler and answer any questions they might have. It is so important to let your child know that their worries have been heard. No matter what they are, big or small, children’s worries about daycare can significantly influence their experience there. Will you remember to pick him up in the afternoon? Will the caregiver be nice? Let your child know it’s normal to feel happy, sad, excited, scared, or worried. Explain that starting something new can feel scary and that lots of people feel that way. It can be helpful to share a time when you started something new and how you felt. When you allow your child to share their worries, you can help think through how to deal with them.
Of all of our tips, this is perhaps the most important. It is essential to check out the new classroom and meet the caregivers and daycare staff ahead of time since change can be hard for kids to accept. A child familiarizing themselves with the space and the caregivers ahead of time goes a long way towards easing beginning-of-the-year anxieties. Give your child a chance to explore the room and show them where they’ll keep her backpack and personal things. Play on the playground and walk around the building. Explain what is going to happen there — like story times, meeting classroom pets, eating snacks with new friends and learning new things.
Going to preschool marks a big developmental leap for your child and independence will become a larger focus. Once attending preschool, you will be surprised at how much independence your little one develops – and how quickly. To help prepare them, allow them some independence at home through teaching self-help skills, like washing hands, using the toilet, putting shoes and socks on, and using utensils at the table.
Putting your child in charge of a regular, simple, age-appropriate task will build their confidence and sense of competency. If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that they can reach if they stands on their stepstool, pause before racing over to help. Perfection isn’t necessary, working towards independence is the goal!
Teach your child that they need to share attention, whether this is with their siblings and cousins or with other adults within the home. Don’t let your child demand your attention immediately if you are doing something else. They are soon going to be in an environment with many other children and it will be necessary for them to learn to wait their turn.
If your daycare allows it, giving your child a comfort object to help them during moments of separation anxiety is a great idea. Start thinking about any “lovies” your child wants to pack for moral support. If your child has a beloved teddy bear or blanket that they use for sleep and comfort, it may be worth packing in case of an emergency. Your kid’s security object doesn’t have to be something soft and cuddly- consider a favorite book, which the caregiver can read aloud to the whole class at storytime. Comfort items can help reassure them during hard times. You could also give your child a personal belonging of yours like a favorite scarf or bandana so they know you will come back to get it.
Sometimes young children deal with separation anxiety when beginning daycare. And some parents have trouble separating from their children too. In both cases, those feelings are totally normal!
For more info on how to ease separation anxiety in toddlers, CLICK HERE and revisit our earlier blog post “Tips for Stress-Free Daycare Drop Offs“:
To learn more about our child care center in Eden Prairie and programs, contact us at 952-777-3606. We look forward to meeting you!
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