Transitioning your child to daycare for the first time can be difficult on you and on them. Make it easier by choosing the right provider and packing the right items.
Ease into it, if possible. Sometimes situations do not allow for a gradual adjustment, but if you can, introduce your child to daycare slowly, starting with just a few hours at a time. Visit the facility with your child ahead of time for a quick tour. Introduce your child to the care provider(s), and then leave—together. The next time you visit, drop your child off for a short period of time. After a drop-in or two, move to full time.
Keep it positive. If you are nervous, your child will be nervous, too. Talk about all the fun things that will happen at daycare, and assure them you’ll pick them up right after work.
Talk about it. Most daycare centers have a daily schedule. Get a print out and talk to your child about breakfast, snack time, play time, or outside time. Get them excited!
Bring a lovey (or binkie). If the center allows it (and they usually do), bring a special item from home for your child to use at nap time. Whether it’s a pillow and a blanket, or just a stuffed animal, something from home can make the transition easier.
Just leave. When it’s time to leave, leave. Kids usually stop crying the instant their parent walks out the door. Some will cry a little longer, but most of the time it’s best to “rip the Band-Aid off” rather than hang around. Whatever you do, don’t sneak out. Make sure you say goodbye to your child before leaving to prevent damaging trust.
Pack it up. Your daycare center should give you a list of items your child will need on a day-to-day basis. This list might include:
- Diapers, wipes, and ointment
- Pacifier or other soothing item
- Bowl and spoon for toddlers
- Bottles and formula or pumped breastmilk
- Bedding for naptime
- Extra set of clothes (more for babies or potty training kiddos)
- Sunscreen and sun hat
Remember to label everything! Use a permanent marker, stickers, or a label maker to get things organized, and keep everything in a special bin or bag.