So you’ve found the perfect daycare center for your baby – that’s great news! This is really a huge load off your mind and you can now get ready to prepare your child for daycare.
Whatever age your child is, putting her in a new place one fine morning without any kind of warning is a recipe for disaster and can be extremely distressing for the child – and you! We have today some tips that’ll help you make the transition from home to daycare a lot smoother, so that your baby thinks of being at daycare as a positive experience.
The most important thing to remember here is to begin early. Start preparing your child well in advance, way before you actually need her in daycare for the whole day. Trust us, all that extra prep time will make things much easier for everyone!
Dividing the preparation process into smaller steps will help ease the transition. Start by gradually introducing your child to the concept of daycare. Talk about it in a positive and exciting way, emphasizing the fun activities and new friends she will have there.
If possible, visit the daycare center together with your child before her official start date. This will help familiarize her with the environment, the caregivers, and the other children. It can also provide an opportunity for you to address any questions or concerns you may have.
Establishing a routine similar to what she will experience at daycare can also be beneficial. This includes regular meal times, nap schedules, and playtime routines. By following a consistent routine, your child will develop a sense of predictability and comfort.
Lastly, be prepared for some separation anxiety during the initial days of daycare. It is natural for both you and your child to feel a bit uneasy. Stay positive, provide reassurance, and trust in the expertise of the daycare staff. Remember that children often adjust quickly and start enjoying their time at daycare once they settle in.
10 Tips to Prepare your Child for Daycare
1. Get Immunizations Up to date
Visit your baby’s pediatrician and make sure she’s okay to be at daycare, health-wise. Make sure all her vaccinations are as per schedule. If your baby takes regular medication, make sure you inform your daycare center in advance and write down exactly how much of the medicine needs to be given at which time. Your baby’s exposure to germs is going to increase, so ask your doctor if you need to do anything for it.
2. Ask for Flexible Timings at Work
If you’re going back to full time work, it’s a good idea to talk to your employer and ask for flexible timings for the first few weeks. This will give you some extra time in the mornings and help to ease your baby into the daycare center’s routine gradually. Ask for half day or part-time options initially, so you are less stressed and your baby doesn’t miss you for a whole day at the start.
3. Get into the Daycare Routine
Ask your daycare center for a printout of their schedule, so you can adjust your home routine accordingly. For young children, feeding and nap times are usually the most important activities to adjust in the new routine. Don’t make sudden changes, like shifting your child’s nap from 12:00 to 3:00 right away. Go gradually by adjusting your regular routine up or down by 15 minutes, then half an hour and so on. Be gradual, so your baby barely notices that her nap time is changing!
4. Plan for Breastfeeding
If you intend to continue feeding your baby breast milk, then you need to plan ahead. Get a good quality pump and learn how to express and store breast milk correctly. If your baby has never used a bottle yet, it’s time to start. You may have to try a number of nipples to find the one that your baby prefers. If you plan on introducing formula as a top feed, you also need to find a brand that your baby will not spit out! Planning ahead also gives your body a chance to adjust to the new rhythm, so you are comfortable once your baby is at daycare.
5. Check your Sleeping Arrangements
If your baby co-sleeps with you at night and during naps, it’s better to start getting him to sleep alone. This might take some time, especially if your baby is used to a rocker or a cloth-style traditional swing, where he’s not flat on his back. Check with the daycare about the kind of crib they use and try to simulate a similar one at home. This way, your baby doesn’t feel like he’s in a strange bed and can settle down to nap more easily.
6. Shop for Extras of Everything
You’re going to need more of everything at daycare, more than you initially think! For starters, you need lots of bottles for milk, especially for those days when you are too tired and forget to wash! Order diapers in bulk so you get the best deals and also get extras of diaper cream/wipes or anything in the brand your baby uses. Get extra packs of your baby’s favorite cereal. And of course, get a good sturdy bag with lots of pockets to put everything in!
7. Get Duplicates
While you’re getting extras of everything, don’t forget to get duplicates of things you already have at home! Your baby has probably gotten used to her favorite blanket or teddy bear. Having these things with her at daycare will be reassuring, and will remind her of home. You can of course, take the originals to and from the center, but then what will you do if something gets lost or needs to be washed? Start using the duplicates from home, so it has those familiar smells when you take them to daycare. You might also want to get a duplicate set of her favorite feeding set so mealtimes at daycare are easier.
8. Talk about the New Place
If your little one is old enough to understand, talk about the new place in positive terms. Talk about the fun stuff there, the new toys and all the fun things you’ll do there. Don’t overdo it though – kids can easily understand when you’re faking it! You know your child best, so talk about the attractions that’ll appeal to him. You can also create a fun ritual for the two of you when he gets back from the center. Knowing that you’ll be together at the end of the day will help him feel less anxious about spending the day there.
9. Spend Time at the Daycare
A few weeks before you need to start work or leave your baby there full time, starting taking little trips to the daycare. At first, stay with your baby for a couple of hours. Then start leaving her for half an hour, followed by 45 minutes. When she’s at the daycare center with you, she’ll be much more relaxed and won’t associate the place with Mommy leaving. How long you need to do this depends upon each child – some adjust quickly, while some take longer. That’s why it makes sense to start early!
10. Decide on a First Point of Contact
You need to inform the daycare center about an emergency contact, so decide who it should be in advance. Ideally, the person nearer to the center is ideal. However, if that person is unavailable, the center must have the number of the other parent and an extra person as backup. But let the other person know you’re doing this, for instance your brother should be aware that he may get a call from your little one’s daycare if the two of you are unavailable.
Learning to prepare your child for daycare is essential, but remember that despite your best efforts, things can still go crazy! Kids will be kids, and they will cry when you leave, but it doesn’t mean you should too! Most kids cry only in front of Mom or Dad, they usually stop within a few minutes once Mom leaves. Whatever you do, don’t sneak away without telling your child. Even if it’s just an infant, kiss her and say a proper goodbye and more importantly – don’t linger around! It’s often the Moms who feel more separation anxiety than the kids! Take things nice and slow, and the daycare experience will be a happy, positive one for little bub and Mom!