When our children are young, we dream about the day when they’ll grow up and become more independent. Still, when the time comes for the child to start with daycare, you can hardly tell who’s more agitated and anxious – the children or the parents.
Preparing your child for the first day there is a long process and you should start on time so you can avoid the flood of tears and start this new chapter in your family’s life with success. We’ve put together a few easy tips on how to prepare your child for the first day of daycare with ease.
Fortunately, today you can choose from a myriad of different daycares, and it will be easier for you to find the one that’s going to be the best for your child. Even though most parents choose the daycare that’s closest to their home, sometimes it’s worth the extra effort to drive a bit and pick a daycare that’s a bit further from your home but which offers more activities.
Also, it’s important to visit the daycare first, walk around, and talk to the staff. Not only will it help you get a better understanding of what the environment is like, but it’ll also ease some of your own anxiety. You could also bring your child along and allow them to see for themselves where they’ll be spending time.
The first day of daycare for a toddler isn’t the same as it is for a preschooler, but the bottom line is: when they’re included in the preparations for the daycare, they feel in control. When you let them pick their own outfits, and take them shopping for backpacks, shoes, and ‘school supplies’, they feel better and often look forward to the day when they’ll be able to ‘show off’ their new bag, hat, and water bottle. While shopping, you’ll find it easier to talk to the child about daycare and what’s going to happen when they get there.
Another good idea is to talk to your child openly about this new step you are going to take. Tell them that they’re going to visit a daycare centre where they’ll meet a lot of new friends and where they’ll be able to play different games with them a lot.
There will be plenty of new toys, different than the ones you have at home, and there will also be new songs they’ll learn. You could also read to them about their favorite character going to school too, and this will help them identify with the said character and take things a bit easier.
The more you stick to a routine the better it will be for everyone, but start implementing these routines at home. Wake the child up a bit earlier so there’s enough time for them to get dressed and have breakfast or drink a cup of hot cocoa or tea before you leave.
Make the drop-off as smooth and as short as possible; give them a kiss and tell them you’ll be there to pick them up afterwards. You can also start implementing some of the daycare routines at home: nap time, quiet time, playing outside… This will make the transition smoother for the child.
Sometimes, it’s easier for the child to adapt if they know what expect them there, and you can help with this by breaking down the big day into smaller chunks. Tell them openly: when we get there we will say ‘hi’ to the teacher and put away our things. We will then change our shoes, get in, and find an activity to join. This will help them mentally prepare for that first encounter because they will be calmer and more cheerful.
Even though you might think that sneaking out while your child is playing with their friends is a good idea, it isn’t. Make a habit out of hugging, giving them a kiss, and saying goodbye. This is a good routine to keep up with, and it will help the child feel safer later on.
Otherwise, when they look up from their activity and don’t see your there, they might get scared and the next time will be reluctant to let go of your hand. Another thing you should avoid is lingering around; it makes it twice as hard for them when you try to leave.
In order for the child to feel more comfortable, you can let them bring something along. It will make them feel more comfortable in this new environment because they will have something familiar and comforting with them. It can be their favorite toy or a cubby, but make sure the child doesn’t leave them behind when they head home or they’ll be terribly upset. This is also why you should clearly label any item that your child decides to bring along on their first day of daycare (and afterwards as well).
To be honest, sometimes children adapt to the change with ease while at other times they don’t. Some children are going to need days, if not weeks, to adapt to the change and the new routine, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. Try out different strategies to help your child adapt, but don’t lose hope. Spending time with other children and being a part of a group is important, and this is a great chance for them to start being more independent.
The first day of daycare is an enormous step for every member of your family, and it’s natural that everyone gets a bit nervous in the beginning. Still, if you do a good job and prepare your child well, they will see daycare as an adventure rather than as a punishment. Not only will your child be happier, but you will feel more confident and comfortable too, and the well-being of parents is as important as that of the child.