Getting ready to send your child to daycare for the first time? This is a big step for many parents and their children. Do you have concerns? Is your child a little nervous? There are a few things you can do to prepare your child (and you!) for that first day of daycare.
- Familiar Faces
Bring your child with you when you tour the facility. Make sure he or she gets introduced to the teachers he will be spending time with. It may even be possible for your child to visit the room or participate in an activity. Make sure this is a positive experience. Talk about what your child did, and how nice “Miss Terry” or “Mrs. Kim” were when you met them. Point out the fun activities the children were doing. When he or she returns, remembering these “familiar faces” will help with the first couple of days.
- Get Ready
With toddlers or preschool age children, you can help them get ready for childcare by preparing for that first day. Go shopping for a new backpack or lunchbox featuring a favorite cartoon character. Pick out a gift for the classroom that your child can give the teacher, such as a package of playdough or fingerpaints. Let your child help with the preparations. Do they want to help pack their lunch? What outfit would they like to wear? Are they bringing a blanket or a stuffed animal for nap time?
- Find a Friend
Do you know other families at the childcare center? If possible, try to schedule a playdate with some of the other children. The sight of a familiar face may help to make the transition much easier. You may even gain the added benefit of arranging to carpool with some of the other parents.
- Get on Schedule
Find out the daily routine in your child’s classroom. Start waking up and getting ready at the same time you would need to for childcare. Try to have meals or naps around the same time. If your child normally naps at 11, but the center doesn’t start naptime until 12:30, there may be an adjustment period until you all get used to the schedule. Starting early can help everyone to adjust to the routine.
Find out what the expectations are for your child’s age group. Are they expected to be able to take care of all bathroom needs? Should they be able to feed themselves? Should they be able to put on their shoes and zip their coats? Does everything need to be labeled, or are there extra supplies you are expected to provide, such as a spare set of clothing or wipes? Work with your child to help them with the skills they need, and be sure to check with the center to make sure you are both prepared.
- Your Child’s Needs
Does your child have a serious food allergy or asthma? Are they afraid of thunderstorms? Are they very active, or a little bit quiet? Many centers provide an information form for parents to fill out, but make sure your child’s teacher knows these important details. Important information such as food allergies is a safety concern, but letting the teacher know about your child’s likes, dislikes, habits, and interests can help all of you to build a stronger relationship.
- Positive Preparation
Positive conversations will help to prepare both you and your child for daycare. Separation anxiety is common in the beginning, and the more you focus on talking about the good things about childcare the easier the transition will get. At the end of each day, listen to your child talk about the good things that happened, and be sure to comment on them. Check in with your child’s teacher or caregiver and discuss how their day went-hearing good things about your baby or child will make you feel better! Hang artwork on the fridge, and set up the calendar for special events. Are they having a pajama party? Is tomorrow red day? Talking up these special events will help make the going to childcare seem extra special.
While the transition to childcare can be difficult or a little scary for both parent and child, there are many things you can do to make it go much smoother. With any luck, your child will love going to daycare, and you will both be able to look forward to the day’s activities!