Your toddler’s first day at daycare is going to be nerve-wracking. You’ve likely been thinking about daycare since you found out you were having a baby, but this idea is brand new to your little one. You’re both going to need to ease into it.
Starting daycare is a huge milestone! There are a few things you can do to make the transition to full-time daycare an easier one for both of you.
At Kid City USA, we want your little one’s first day to be as seamless as possible. We have made a list of ways you can prepare your toddler and yourself for your little one’s first day.
Talk About Daycare
The more you talk about something the more your child will be comfortable with it. Depending on your child’s age you can explain to them everything that will happen.
Communication is key! No one wants to be dropped off at an unfamiliar location with no idea of what’s going on.
Besides its educational benefits, reading can give your child an idea of what their experience at daycare would be like! Introduce the book My First Day at Daycare or a book that is similar a few months before they will start going to daycare.
You can also watch tv shows that have episodes about the first days of daycare or preschool. Try Daniel Tiger’s first day at school. For visual learners, a video will help them be able to picture daycare easier than a book will.
By the time daycare is beginning, your child will be familiar with the idea! You can even reference the book or video when dropping the child off, reminding them how much fun the child in the story had.
Get Them Excited
Work daycare into your child’s pretend play, show them how exciting it’s going to be. Hype them up!
Pretend with them that they are in daycare. Go through lunchtime, playtime, nap time, and any other activities they might be doing at daycare.
Make it extra fun for them. You can also start calling daycare “school” if the term daycare isn’t as fun for them.
Talk about their teacher and use the teacher’s name frequently. This will help them remember the teacher’s name and it will get them excited to see them.
Talk about all the friends they will make, the activities they will do, and the new toys they will get to play with. Make daycare seem like the most fun place on earth.
Try Out the Library
See if your local library has a story hour. Go there with your child to practice listening to someone else read and give directions. One major benefit of this is that you will stay with your child for this storytime.
Encourage your child to go sit with other children while you stay in your spot. Some libraries will have a specific play area for children. If there is a playtime, have your child go engage in play with other children while you watch from the sidelines.
You can also check the library’s schedule for arts and crafts times, anything that gets them out of the house, and listening to another adult give directions.
When your child gets used to library time, they will probably have an easier time transitioning into daycare because they have the confidence to play with other children.
Work on Independence
Give your toddler extra time to complete tasks at home. Give them choices and let them gain independence.
Let them know that they are now a big kid and can do some things themselves. Let them know that they did a great job, a little praise goes a long way.
When giving your child choices, limit the choices to two things that are acceptable to you. What would you like to do first, brush your teeth or brush your hair? Or, what would you like for a snack, oranges or strawberries?
This will not only make daycare easier, but encouraging independence will increase their creativity and boost cognitive function. The more a toddler spends trying to figure things out themselves, the better patience and problem-solving skills they will have later in life.
It’s also important that you try to have your toddler eating independently. This way at daycare you can be sure that they are eating and snacking well. They should be confident in their eating abilities.
Sleep Schedule Changes
You may find that you have to start waking your child up earlier for daycare. At least a month before daycare starts to let your child adjust to the new sleep schedule. Wake them up when they would normally get up for daycare and adjust their bedtime accordingly.
Sometimes daycare naps will be at a specific time during the day this could affect your bedtime and your child’s sleeping patterns. Ask your daycare provider if they have their own nap schedule or if they take your child’s sleeping routine into consideration.
Try to get your child on the new schedule as soon as possible, and before they start daycare if you can. A good sleep schedule, as you know, is vital in keeping toddlers happy.
Establish a solid and predictable morning routine: Wake up, diaper change, get dressed, brush teeth, eat breakfast, and off to daycare. Knowing what to expect next can make mornings so much easier for you and your child.
Give yourself enough time to get all your morning duties done in a leisurely fashion, and if possible don’t rush. Rushing will make your child more anxious than they need to be.
Toddlers love repetition and predictability. Creating and maintaining this morning will make the transition so much better for your child.
Practice Drop Offs
Especially if you’ve never left your child with an unfamiliar person in an unfamiliar place before, practice drop-offs. Bring your child to a friend’s house who also has kids, and leave them there while you go and get coffee.
Practice leaving them someplace new at least a few times. At each drop-off keep your leaving routine the same: Hug, kiss, I love you, I’ll be back later, bye!
This will help them understand the routine and know that mom or dad will be back to get them in a little bit. The more often you do this, the easier it will get.
Meet the Teacher
Give us a call at one of our locations to see if you can meet the teacher and visit the daycare center before your child starts daycare. This way your child is familiar with the teacher and their surroundings. You can see certain toys that your child likes and use that when getting them excited to go back.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the teacher knows your child’s cues for things, like when they have a dirty diaper or what to do when your child is feeling sad. Daycare providers are usually very good at keeping track of these things, but if your child is calmed down with a certain song or phrase, be sure to share that with your daycare teacher.
What to Pack For Daycare
Make sure you always have enough diapers and wipes packed for the week, and you check daily to replenish. Having a change of clothes, some bibs, a cup for water, snacks, and food for your child.
Ask your daycare provider if they would like you to pack anything else or keep a stash of diapers and wipes at the daycare center. A lot of child care providers will have a list of things they would like you to keep at daycare for emergencies.
Also, label everything, and we mean everything. Diaper bag, clothes, shoes, snack bags, cups… everything. If you want it back make sure it’s labeled.
Daycares have a lot going on, and your provider can only do so much to make sure everyone has the right things. Help them out by making sure your little one’s name is on everything you bring to daycare.
On the First Day at Daycare
Your child’s first day at daycare is going to be a bit stressful, only because of the unknown. We will do everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible for you and your child. After all, we want your child to be all they can be.
Try to make sure that your child has a good night’s sleep and a good filling breakfast. This will avoid any irritability from hunger or tiredness.
Try to keep all the routines and sleep schedules you have practiced as consistent as possible. Toddlers thrive on consistency, this will help them adjust. And remember that this first day will likely be more difficult on you than it will be on your child.
Have an idea of what you want your drop-off to look like, and make it quick. It might be easiest for the daycare provider to have an activity ready to distract your child.
Never sneak out, this could trigger a natural sense of abandonment, make sure to always say goodbye. Your child is probably going to cry, this is normal and it is a good reaction.
Crying means your child loves you and feels safe with you! After all, you are their primary caretaker.
Reassure your toddler that you will come back to get them in a little while. Toddlers have absolutely no sense of time, ten minutes and six hours are the same amount of time to them.
As soon as you are out of their view, your child will calm down and start to play happily, we promise! After you leave, you will have a harder time than your child will.
Ask your daycare provider if they have a preferred drop-off routine. Daycare teachers have seen it all, and they likely have a tear-free method for drop-offs. Make drop-off as quick as possible to lessen the tears and help your child start having fun very quickly.
Bring a Comfort Item
Pack your child’s lovey. Their comfort item, whether it be a stuffed animal, a blanket, or a pocket watch, will help your child feel comfortable. This is particularly essential for nap time.
Comfort items provide extra transitional support for your child. Often, they will treat their lovey the way they would like to be treated in the moment.
The stuffy is hungry, or sad, or needs a hug. The comfort item encourages emotional intelligence.
You could also choose to give your child a particular item of yours like a t-shirt or sweatshirt, something that smells like you and will bring them comfort. Or a new stuffed animal whose job is to stay with them at daycare.
Depending on your child’s age, contact the daycare to make sure that a comfort item is allowed at daycare.
We know that the separation anxiety is extreme, especially on your child’s first day at daycare. We know it’s hard, but try to hold off on your own tears until you leave daycare.
Your child is always aware of your strength and confidence, try to stay strong. As soon as you’re out of sight your child will be totally fine, and then you can let those tears go as you stop for coffee on your way to work – in silence. Daycare does have its benefits.
Contact us to enroll your child in Kid City USA Daycare today! We provide quality daycare with an educational based curriculum to help your child be the best they can be! We can’t wait to meet you!