Starting child care can be an adjustment for the entire family. Routines will be new for everyone and some family members will adjust easier than others.
Whether it’s a family home care setting or centre-based care, here are some tips to help make the transition easier for everyone.
Start talking about the new routine well in advance of the first day.
For instance, if mom will be doing the drop off, she could start talking about the ride to child care. Talk to your child about the new routine that will take place once in care. Familiarize yourself and your child with the names of the teachers as well as the other children.
Arrange advance visits.
Advance visits, for children of all ages, allow your child to become familiar with the caregiver, the routine, and the other children. Visits can begin several weeks before the first day.
Read books together about starting childcare.
Go to the library and take out picture books that illustrate typical experiences at child care. Discuss the situations in the stories together and support your child in working out any jitters while gaining confidence about child care.
Ease your child in and out.
At the start, a parent or other family member should visit with the child for 30 minutes to two hours. Over the next few weeks, arrange to leave your child for a period of time without you. This will help the caregiver and child get to know each other. It will also show your child that you will come back. During the first full week, you may want to pick up your child a little earlier on the first day, gradually increasing the length of stay as the week progresses.
Make introductions to the new children.
Getting to know the other children and the other parents will be important for you and your child. During visits, be sure to introduce your child to children in his or her group. Similarly, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to some of the other parents.
Take touches of comfort.
Allow your child to take something that will give her comfort—a special toy, blanket, even a picture of you.
Make a comfort call.
Talk to your caregiver to agree on a time you can call during the day. It’s important to plan this together to ensure your call won’t take the caregiver’s attention away from the children at a busy time.
Touch base with your caregiver every day.
Exchange information about your child’s day or the evening at home. For instance, if your child had a restless night it is important your caregiver know so she can respond to any unusual behaviours or needs that may arise as a result. Similarly, as you head into the evening, you should know if your child was fussy at child care.
Talk with your child.
Each day, talk with your child about special things that happened at child care.
Have an older sibling visit.
If there’s an older sibling in the same child care setting, ask that she be given the opportunity to visit her younger brother during the day during the adjustment period.
Be specific about pick-ups.
Reassure your child that you will be back. Make sure he knows who will pick him up at the end of the day and when. Even if he is not old enough to really tell time, one of the ways children learn to tell time is when pick-up routines become established.