Top Tips for Transitioning to Early Childhood Education
FOR THE CHILD
1. Bring something familiar.
A reminder of home will make those first few trips to daycare a little easier and provide comfort on difficult days. Consider bringing something that smells like home for babies. That might be a softie toy, blanket or mom or dad’s T-shirt or other clothing item.
2. Create a goodbye ritual.
We highly recommend families create a consistent goodbye ritual to create a fuss-free drop off. That might mean giving a high-five, saying, "I love you," or a kiss on both cheeks, waving goodbye at the window — whatever feels natural to the parent and child. Make sure you do the same routine each time, so your child knows what to expect. This daily sendoff helps set a limit for yourself too, so you won’t be tempted to linger at the door, making the goodbye harder for you both.
3. Talk it through.
Even the youngest babies will benefit from parents talking through what this new thing called daycare is going to be like. You can say, “Starting tomorrow, we’re going to drop you off at so-and-so’s and there are going to be other babies there, and you’re going to have lunch and play with these toys, and then after nap time and snack, I’m going to come pick you up.”
The baby is picking up on the cadence and the emotional tone and they’re going to get a sense of reassurance. It gives them a sense of predictability and that everything’s going to be OK.
Repeat the story once daycare starts for continued reassurance. Reading a picture book about going to daycare is another option, as is sharing a picture of the teacher or classroom.
4. Try a gradual start.
If possible, let your child ease in to daycare by starting him off with a part-time schedule.
Take advantage of the settling sessions offered by your Early Childhood provider. These are important for your child and a great opportunity for you to become familiar with the routines of your child's day.
FOR THE CAREGIVERS/PARENTS
1. Do your research.
Ask plenty of questions. Find out about routines, communication , behaviour management philosophies, parent involvement, centre policies, what they provide and what you need to send in etc.
If you’ve done your due diligence picking the right place then you can tell yourself the rest of it is your normal parent anxiety.
2. Create a night-before checklist.
Be sure to ask your daycare what they require you to provide. Your child may need to bring some things daily, like spare clothes, a hat, sunscreen and lunch. Other things may be able to be labelled and left at the centre.
Pack everything the night before and you might just minimise a bit of that morning chaos, improving everyone’s mood!
3. Do regular check-ins.
Letting someone else care for your baby or toddler can make many parents feel a loss of control. You might worry about how much they’re sleeping or wonder who their favourite friend is at daycare. Foster a rapport with the provider to make asking such questions easier. It’ll provide a better glimpse into their new world away from home — hopefully one that makes you both happy. It all goes back to communication. At pickup and drop-off make time to check in with the teacher, thank them for the time they take and share information from home that may support them in providing consistency and familiarity for your child.
Don’t be afraid to ask the daycare for advice on how to ease this transition.Early childhood providers are just a wealth of knowledge. They will be able to walk you through some recommendations.
4. Expect some tears.
It can take anywhere from one day to four weeks, depending on their temperament, for a child to adjust to their new early childhood centre. Until then, you might see a few tears upon dropping off or pickup.
At home time, children are likely tired and may have been saving emotions up all day. Everyone needs to decompress after a facing a new social situation and your baby can’t do it any other way but crying. It shouldn’t make you question your decision unless it goes on for many weeks.
Those tears are also an important milestone for growing children as they learn to adapt to different social situations where there might be different rules than at home.