Your little one is just about to start daycare – you’ve found just the right place and while it will be tough to say “bye-bye!” every day, you’re feeling ready to get back to work and finally have a moment to finish the dishes that have been piling up, or maybe even take a sweet moment to yourself.
But how do you transition your child from home to daycare? Taking the time to integrate your kids slowly will not only help them adjust to their new schedule and start making friends, it will ease the changes you will experience as a parent.
Here are a few tips to help things go a little more smoothly as your child adjusts to life at daycare:
1. Visit the daycare together a few times first
There’s no need to dive head first off the deep end! Start by introducing your little one to the place where they will spend their weekdays. Schedule a few visits with the daycare – you can introduce your little one to their future educators and even some of the kids.
2. Tell your child what to expect
Take the time to explain what their daily routine will be like, including types of activities, naptime and meals, and when you will drop them off or pick them up. Make sure you do this every day!
3. Transition gradually, a little longer every time
Most daycares will have a transition plan for new babies: first, you and your child will spend a few hours a morning together at the daycare for about a week. The next week, your child will spend that same amount of time alone. Finally, the third week, they should be going full-time. It is rare that a child will need more than a month to adjust.
4. Say goodbye quickly and with confidence
Maybe that’s giving them a quick hug, a kiss or a sweet wave, but there’s no need to linger! The educators at your daycare see new kids who miss their parents on a regular basis and have lots of experience helping them through.
5. Adjust your schedule at home for naps and lunch time
Try to do this before your child starts daycare – if your home schedule is similar to the daycare’s, it will be much easier for your child to adapt. This is especially important if your child is at daycare part-time.
6. Consistency is key
Whatever you do, try to keep you schedule as consistent as possible, especially when it comes to bedtime routines!
7. Clear your calendar for when you pick-up your child, for open-ended play
Much like adults are often tired after a day at work, your child will be tired after a day at daycare! Try not to schedule any activities immediately after picking them up, and instead give them the option of going straight home, stopping at the park, or taking a leisurely stroll in the neighborhood. If you do go home, offer them simple activities with no definitive end point, like drawing or playing with Legos.
8. Take time to talk to the care provider(s) and develop a good relationship
Get to know the educators at your daycare – they are an important resource and can tell you lots about what is going on during the day and how your child is adjusting. When you pick-up your child from daycare, ask how things went, along with the names of their new friends and adults in charge. Then, when you get home you’ll be ready to talk about everything with your little one.
9. Befriend other parents at the daycare and make playdates
This can be beneficial for both you and your child! This is a way to help your kids develop friendships with each other, and for you to meet other adults who are experiencing similar challenges as you. You can talk about issues you are having with each other, and help each other problem solve as you go.
10. Teach your child about sharing, taking turns, compromise, collaboration
It can be a tricky transition for your child to go from being alone at home to being in a group of 6-10 children, especially with lots of cool new toys. Start by bringing them to play groups in the neighborhood, and model how to share toys when you play with them at home. Encourage your child to think about how others feel and demonstrate coping strategies for negative emotions.