I was only 5 years old, but I remember it so clearly. I sat on the school bus headed to my babysitter’s house. Our bright yellow bus passed a corporate daycare that had what seemed like hundreds of kids playing outside. They were running, laughing, and climbing on the playground structure. My head leaned against the window as I thought “Those kids are so lucky! They get to play with so many friends afterschool!”
My extroverted tendencies were evident even at a young age. The more the merrier was my motto! In addition to having a young love of people, I was also secure. My parents had prepared me well and I had good experiences at the day home where I stayed with a handful of other kids after school.
Fast-forward to when I had my own kids. I work from home and we were able to have a nanny come and help while I attended to business needs. There were a lot of benefits to it, but then it came time for a change.
Recently, we decided to make the switch to daycare. The kids only go-part time a few days a week, but in their mind, it was full time. It was a big change from being in the comfort of our own home with mom always a shouting distance away.
This was a decision we didn’t make lightly. It was well researched and well planned. I talked with other moms that had kids in daycares, I researched online and talked with many daycare providers. Check out these 8 Tips to Help Your Kids Transition To Daycare.
1. Consider Your Family Needs
Each family has different needs, so it’s necessary to identify what’s important for your family. Some centers operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. while others offer 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Location is another factor to consider. Do you want a place close to your work or close to your home? Is outside play important to your kids? If so, what type of space do they have? Another factor for us was that our neighbors and the kid’s best friends went to one of the daycares we were considering. My youngest would be in the same class with his best friend. This was a huge bonus for our family and helping my toddler transition.
2. Interview Daycares
Once you have a good sense of your families’ needs, create a list of questions. Be sure to ask each daycare the same questions. This will ensure you uncover all of the facts for each location and help you make a well-informed decision.
3. Visit more than one daycare
We have several friends whose kids went to daycare and there are several reputable daycares close to our home. We visited four different centers and the decision we made was different as a result. The key here is just because you think you know what’s out there, it’s worthwhile to visit a number of centers to get perspective on the pros and cons of each.
4. Talk To Your Kids
Depending on the age of your children, talking to them and explaining that they will be going to daycare can help them mentally prepare. My son was a young toddler, yet still understood that we were making a change from a Nanny to a Daycare. We talked about it with my daughter as well. You can share things like your schedule, the days they will attend, the fun activities they have available, and the number of kids that will be in their class. Share a realistic perspective as well. For example, we talked with our son about naptime and that it would be different at daycare than at home.
5. Take The Kids To Visit The Daycare In Advance
It can also be helpful to take your kids for a visit in advance. I don’t recommend spending too much time, just enough to see the center and begin to familiarize themselves. I took my daughter to the daycare after we had made our decision on which one they would go to. My warning is that this can backfire. My daughter looked in her classroom with different eyes than I did. When we left, she expressed her concern that they didn’t have enough toys. This was a top priority for her for the weeks leading up to our start day. In the end, it turned out that they had plenty of toys/developmental activities. They were simply washing the toys on the day we did our visit.
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6. Involve Your Children In Preparation for the First Day
When you start daycare for the first time, there are a number of things you need to have on hand at the daycare. We needed to buy an extra snowsuit, gloves, hat, lunchbox etc. My 5 year old helped me pick out some items. Both kids helped put fun stickers with their names on EVERYTHING we were planning on taking to the daycare. They were excited about their gear and the personalized stickers!
Make sure you grab the Daycare Day 1 Check List. You can access it in my free-bee library here (if you don’t have the password to it, you can get it with the form below)
7. Do a gradual transition
Depending on the age and temperament of your child, a gradual transition might be helpful. We did this with both kids, but were more present with our 2 year old than 5 year old. My daughter has been to preschool before and has experienced being away from mom and dad, but my 2 year old hadn’t. In general, he is more attached to my husband and I, so we felt we needed to support him with this change.
If your schedule permits, start with having your kids go to preschool for 2 hours on day one where you stay with them. You may stay in their class, or just in the building depending on their policies, your child’s reaction, and your personal preference. On day 2 have your child stay for up to 4 hours. If you stayed on day 1, try to leave on day 2. Then, on the third day have your child stay until early afternoon, which is typically after naptime. It took 3 days for us to do the gradual transition. By that time, our toddler understood that we were leaving and coming back and he had the opportunity to connect with caregivers. He wasn’t excited for us to leave, but he understood that we would be back and that he was safe.
8. Bring something familiar
This can be very helpful if you have a child that needs more support in the transition. We brought my son’s favorite teddy bear. He was able to hold this during nap time to help comfort him. We only brought it for the first couple of weeks and then he didn’t need to have it there any more.
Transitioning to a daycare can be a big change for a family, but it doesn’t need to be traumatic. Making sure you choose the right daycare that meets your families needs is a big piece of the puzzle. Preparing your children through conversations, visits, and a gradual transition will help them adapt. There will still be bumps in the road and it will take time to adjust to the new normal, but these 8 tips will help parents and kids alike make the change a little easier!