The time has come. You are going back to work and your little one is going to day-care for the very first time. Will he cope? Will you? Sending your toddler to day-care for the first time, whether at a nursery or a childminder’s house, is fraught with fear and anxiety. How can you get your toddler, and yourself, ready for the upcoming separation?
Read on for the following 7 tips to get your toddler ready for day-care, and perhaps save some of those first-day tears.
1. Read Books About Day-Care And Preschool
There are many good books with lovely illustrations about going into day-care that will ease the anxiety of your toddler. Learning about things vicariously helps your toddler to become familiar with and be excited about some of the more unusual aspects of day-care.
One good book for a child about to start day-care is: Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins.
Try to use a book to highlight positive new experiences: new friends to make, new activities to do. Does the nursery have an external play area? Highlight the greater opportunities for play, the new toys they’ll have.
2. Ask For A Photograph Of Your Child’s Main Carer
Each child should have a main carer, so ask for the name and photograph of your child’s main carer. Sit down with your child and tell them all about the new person they’re going to meet, and who can’t wait to look after them. This makes them more familiar to your child.
3. Visit The New Setting
Ask if you can take your child along for a morning session. Encourage your child to ask questions (if verbal enough), show them the toys and encourage your child to play with them. Your child will learn the new smells, the new sights. They will see the people. They will see the rows of labelled pegs and the coats hanging from them.
4. Adapt To The Setting’s Schedule
In the run-up to your child going to day-care, find out what the day-care’s schedule is and alter your child’s schedule so it’s nearer theirs’. Do they have a later nap than your child is used to? Your child will get overtired and cranky waiting for a later naptime. Prepare your child by slowly pushing their naptime back, until it’s the same as the setting’s naptime. If you do that, your child will find it easier to adapt to their new day-care schedule.
5. Involve Your Child In The Preparations For Day-Care
Getting your child involved in the preparations for day-care will help your child to feel excited about the changes. Allow them to choose their own cuddly toy to take with them. Get them to choose the clothes they’ll want to wear, so you can label them (make sure you label toys, too).
6. Stay With Your Child On That First Day
Make arrangements to stay with your child on the first day. Spend a little time helping your child get settled; help them find their way around, read a story, find the toys they’d like to play with and settle them with an activity. Take time to talk to the childcare workers, to show your child how much you like and trust them.
Then separate yourself from your child. Go into the staffroom to get a cup of tea, and spend ten minutes out of the room, listening out for your child. When your child is settled, it’s time to say goodbye.
7. Saying “Goodbye”
The time you’ve dreaded has come. You’ve spent weeks preparing your child, taken your child to day-care, sat watching them, slowly edged further away, and now it’s the moment of truth. Now it’s time to say “goodbye” to your child. First, go over to where your child is now playing. Explain you have to go now, but you will be back at the end of the day. In the meantime, he gets to stay there and have fun playing. Then kiss your child, say goodbye to their main carer (to let your child know that he can trust her), and leave.
Video: How To Make Transitioning To Day Care Easier On Everyone