Transitioning to Daycare

Here are some tips for helping children make the transition to daycare.

Before Your Child's First Day

Happy Boy

Prepare your child. Talk to your child about what childcare will be like.  Even if your child is a toddler, children can usually understand clear expectations.  Point to the calendar and talk about what days of the week are work days for you and child care days for him or her.  Talk about whether he or she will eat and nap there.  Your happy positive attitude and calm voice will help your child know this will be a good place to stay.

Read and look at picture books about childcare. Some books show and tell about a day in a family childcare home or center.  Others deal with feelings a child might have about being away from a parent or playing with other children.

Prepare yourself. Learn about quality childcare.  Call your local Child Care Resource and Referral for information on what to look for in quality childcare. 

Before the first day:

  1. Visit the childcare program so you can tell your child about it.
  2. Take your child for a short visit so he or she can meet their new caregiver and see where children play, eat, and nap.
  3. Invite another child who is in the same program to play with your child.  He or she will have at least one “friend” on the first day.

First Day Tips

Happy Girl

Plan to spend extra time getting to work and childcare. Pack your child’s supplies the night before so you will not be rushing in the morning.  Rushing adds stress and shortens tempers…hurrying a preschooler is very challenging.  You want your child to have a happy start to their day.  It makes leaving him or her easier for both of you.

Plan to stay a while the first few mornings. Have another person your child knows if you cannot.  When it is time to leave, say goodbye, give a last hug and leave directly.  Your child may cry at first.  This is normal.  Usually the tears last for a brief time.  Check on your child later by phone.

Plan for a gradual entry. Increase over the course of the first week the amount of time your child will stay at the daycare until eventually you are picking your child up at the time you will be regularly picking up. 

Try not to be in a rush to go home. Your child may want to show you some things he or she has done.  Do not be surprised if your child acts angry or unhappy to see you, or wants to stay longer.  Your child is telling you he needs time to get ready to leave.  You can show that you think this is a good place to be by spending time there, talking to the care provider and visiting with other parents.  Meet your child’s friends, play with your child for a while then go home.