While choosing the right childcare provider for your toddler can be a tricky task in itself (congrats!), knowing how to prepare your little one for their first day of childcare can feel even harder. You might be asking yourself: Will they settle? How will they behave around unfamiliar adults and children? And how will they cope with any separation anxiety?
These questions (and others) are totally normal. We’re here to guide you on some useful ways to cope with this important transition. While it might feel hard at the beginning, as your toddler becomes more familiar with their new environment they will hopefully start to enjoy their time at daycare, and view it as an enjoyable part of their routine.
Here are our 7 top tips for introducing your toddler to daycare, to help make their journey smoothly as possible.
Plan visits to your chosen childcare provider
Before your toddler’s first day at daycare, ensure you speak with the carers to arrange a few short visits before the official start. This will help to familiarize your child with the adults who’ll be caring for them, and give them a chance to get a feel for their surroundings so that everything doesn’t feel completely new when they start. Try to plan each short visit for a different time of the day, for example, go at lunch one day and morning story time the next, so your child can get a taste of the different activities, spaces, and routines.1
Be enthusiastic around daycare staff
When you visit the daycare provider, your child will look for signs of your approval. Demonstrate that you trust the caregivers and staff by being relaxed, and try to engage in friendly conversation that includes your child. You could, for example, ask a carer if your little one could get involved with a simple activity such as colouring in. You’ll be showing your child that you are building a relationship with the staff at the daycare facility. This can go a long way in helping your child to feel safe and confident in their new surroundings.1
Talk with your child about their caregivers and childcare facility
The more you can weave daycare into everyday conversations, the more likely it is that your child will become more aware of what to expect. Even if your child is not able to express much through speech yet, you can discuss activities your child might do when they start daycare, such as outdoor play, song time and dressing up. Try to link home routine with their daycare routine by discussing everyday moments that happen at both, such as eating lunch, or having a nap. The more you help your child to see that daycare can be a happy place like home, the more likely they are to feel enthusiastic about their start.1
Encourage your child to choose a ‘comfort’ item to take to daycare
Some toddlers like to take a reminder of home to their daycare facility. When packing their bag for childcare, get your toddler involved in the task by asking them to choose a small item that they’d like to take with them from home. This could be a favorite toy, a photograph, or a comfort blanket. Your child might not even seek out this item when they’re at daycare, but the comfort of knowing it’s in their bag can help them to feel more secure in unfamiliar environments.1
Choose books about daycare
The great thing about approaching an important milestone such as starting at daycare? That other parents and their children have been there before, and many authors have even chosen to write books about the experience! Choose a story that has lots of pictures so that your toddler can understand the scenarios better, and relate their experiences with those of the characters on the page. For example, if a character is being greeted by a carer at the beginning of the day, you can say, “Look! Her daddy is dropping her off so she can play with her friends!” Reading these books with your child can help them to understand what to expect, and give both you and your little one the opportunity to discuss any thoughts and feelings around starting daycare.1
Allow plenty of time to adjust
While you might feel disheartened if your child is still upset beyond their first few days at daycare, remember that it can take time for things to settle. Every child is unique, and how they adjust to new people and new environments can depend on many things. What’s important is that you try to remain calm, consistent and patient. If you do find that you’re anxious or upset about any aspect of your child being at daycare, it can be useful to talk things out with a friend who’s been through a similar situation. They might be able to share some of their pearls of wisdom - or indeed reassure you that with time, things will improve.
Be kind to yourself
You’re not alone in this! Often, the transition from you and your child being together all the time, to starting at daycare, can be harder on you than it is on your little one. That’s why it’s important to practice a little bit of self-care, taking a break out of your work schedule to go for a walk, or talk on the phone to a friend. Working and parenting is rewarding, but it can be tough, so it’s good to congratulate yourself in all the ways that feel good!
Supporting your child through the toddler years
As your toddler gains independence and continues to explore the world around them, they need the right nutrients to thrive. Giving your child Enfagrow Neuropro Nutritional Drink that has naturally occurring MFGM components helps to support brain development. It’s a growing-up milk designed to compliment their daily diet. Learn more.