It’s that time of year when things are in flux. Summer is drawing to a close, schools are beginning, a new season of daycare is starting – change is in the air! Preparing your baby or toddler for daycare or preschool is important so that both you and he manage the transition well.
With all of this “newness,” it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We have some hints that will help you help your baby or toddler. And when he’s happy, you’re happy. So, let’s get going!
- Preview the Show: Whether it’s preschool or daycare, both you and your little one need to visit prior to starting full time. While you may have done your homework and research prior – making phone calls, touring the center or school, getting parent recommendations – you also want to go with your child. He needs to know that you are excited (not too excited), that you trust the new teachers and caregivers, and that you know this is the best place for your child. Plan to schedule a visit, and if there is an Open House or Parents Night, attend that as well so your little one can see the other children that will be attending.
- Talk about It: If your little one is old enough to understand, start talking about the new school or daycare facility. However, there is such a thing as over preparation! If your child hears too much, it could cause anxiety or fear about this “huge event.” Additionally, if you build it up too much, your child may feel disappointed on the first day. However, you do want to bring it up in casual conversation when appropriate – comments like “your preschool has those kind of swings” when passing a park, or “there’s your daycare; Evan goes there too,” or “that looks like the lunch box you’ll be taking to school.” (Zachry, n.d).
- Preparation, Preparation, Preparation: Whether sending your toddler to daycare or preschool, you will need supplies. Talk to the facility or school about what is recommended, and if your child is old enough, involve him in the process. Let him help choose his lunch box, a sleep mat, sippy cups or snack containers – even the change of clothes that will accompany him. If your child is going to daycare, have a special bag that goes each and every day so that your diaper bag stays with you and doesn’t run the risk of being left at school. Your child can learn the excitement of “it’s time to go” and if old enough, grab his bag and be out the door, ready for a new day!
- Loveys and More: Separation anxiety is a real part of childhood. To alleviate this, allow your child to have a part of home with him. For young toddlers and babies, a “lovey” such as a small toy, blanket or stuffed animal is helpful. Let your school or daycare know it’s in the school bag and definitely label what you send. Other small tokens such as a family photo can help with the transition as well. This gives your child reassurance and a reminder of home.
- Schedules: Even if the start of school or daycare is right around the corner, being on a schedule can help so much – and you still have time to start! Find out the feeding and nap schedules and try to mirror those as best as possible. With daycare, your child may start off on his schedule but with time, the facility will most likely transition him to their schedule – and that’s OK. On weekends or non-school/daycare days, try to stick with the facility’s schedule as much as possible so that a return on Monday is not difficult for your child. Of course, there are certain things you want done, and don’t be afraid to tell your child’s daycare facility or school. They want to work with you as much as possible, and this open communication ensures your choice of school or daycare is a good fit for everyone.
- Attitude is Everything: Even if your child is small, he can sense your anxiety or frustration. Let your little one know that you are excited for him, talk about the fun he’ll have and be sure he knows school or daycare will be a fun, safe place. If you approach it as a positive change, it will be. When you take him each day, do your best to make the drop off a happy, but succinct process. If you linger and cry or stress, you can only imagine what your child will do. The best approach is to have a drop off procedure. Maybe you walk him in, give a hug, a kiss, a “have fun and I love you,” and then are off. If it’s a carline, have your kisses, hugs and goodbyes done so you can open the doors and let him go. Whatever the process, you want it to be routine (even for Dad) and quick! Also, be open to suggestions from your child’s school or facility – they may suggest a certain morning process that works best, so try to follow that.
- When It Doesn’t Go Well: Even the best laid plans don’t always go the way we want, so what do you do when your baby or toddler is not doing well with the transition? First of all, give it time. Often, it’s a waiting game, and yes, it truly is harder on you than on your little one. Secondly, be in contact with your child’s school or daycare. Ask what you can do to help the transition. Finally, have confidence in your decision. Sometimes, a mother’s knee-jerk reaction is to assume school or daycare is not good for the child; instead, consider the time and energy you spent in making this choice and trust yourself.
Parenting is preparing our children for life, the changes and milestones that will come, and we hope these tips will help you and your child transition to this next phase of life. This is a journey with peaks and valleys — take a deep breath and make the most of the ride!
Hoffses, K. “Helping your Child Adjust to Preschool.” (2018, July). Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adjust-to-preschool.html
“How to Prepare Baby for Daycare: Tips from an Expert.” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drbrownsbaby.com/how-to-prepare-baby-for-daycare-tips-from-an-expert/
Zachry, A. “How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool.” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/starting-preschool/preparing/how-to-prepare-your-child-for-preschool-0/