Your child’s first day in childcare, or long day care, can be an emotional experience for you and your child. But there are things you can do to minimise tears and tantrums, help your child settle in and even ease the transition for yourself.
Ease your child into it
Before your child spends the day at childcare, introduce them to the idea. Talk to them about it and explain what they can expect (like meeting new kids and adults, and learning new things). Let them know when they’ll be starting – you can even mark it on the calendar for them and they can count down the days.
To give your child a better idea of what to expect, organise a visit to the childcare centre for you and your child. Introduce your child to the staff there and encourage them to speak to and play with other children. Show an interest in anything they show an interest in.
You can even organise a few short stays at childcare, perhaps for just the morning, so that your child has a chance to become comfortable with the environment before spending a longer period of time there.
Don’t rush away
Even if you’re in a rush to get to work or an appointment, don’t drop your child off and then say goodbye right away on their first few days of childcare. Take time to stay with your child and help them get involved in an activity with another child or a staff member.
When it is time for you to leave, don’t disappear. Tell your child where you are going and when you will be back. Say goodbye with a hug or kiss. If your child is distressed, calmly reassure them you will be back, but don’t draw out the goodbye for too long. Most children will stop crying within minutes of their parents leaving. If you need to, you can always call the childcare centre to check how your child is after you’ve gone.
Build a good relationship with staff
Your child will feel more comfortable at childcare if they see you interacting with the staff as well. Say hello each morning and ask them how they are. In the afternoon, ask them how the day was and what your child did with them.
Let staff know if your child has been having any difficulties recently (for example, picky eating or toilet training) or if they are particularly interested in learning a new skill (like skipping or counting). Even letting staff know some of your child’s likes and dislikes can be a great way to establish rapport between you all.
Try and have everything ready the night before so you aren’t stressed in the morning. Your child will pick up on your emotions and will become stressed if you are. Depending on your child’s age and abilities, you can even ask them to help get everything ready for childcare the next day by packing their own bag.
Leave something with your child
As your child gets used to childcare, it can be helpful to leave something with them. This can be a comfort item, like a favourite toy or blanket, or even something of yours, like a scarf, so they can look after it for you until you get back. Make sure staff know you have left this item with them so it doesn’t get lost.
Talk with your child afterwards
Find out how your child enjoys their time at childcare by asking them about their day. Ask what they learned, who they played with, what they ate and if they had fun. You can even ask them about what they’re looking forward to next time they go to long day care.
Look out for any issues and speak with staff members to find out more or to let them know about your concerns.
It’s a big step for everyone when a child starts at day care. It can be scary but it’s also just as exciting, and there’s lots you can do to be prepared and make the transition as smooth as possible.
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