How To Prepare Your Toddler For Daycare

Adults are used to dealing with change, unlike toddlers who don’t have the life experience yet. Most new situations can be dealt with based on a lifetimes worth of experience. We rely on support networks made up of family and friends. New places and new faces can be assigned their proper place in the world. New experiences can be embraced without fear. However, toddlers lack that experience and even a frame of reference to deal with sudden change or the unexpected. Each situation can be terrifying when you are used to an extremely limited horizon – and the constant reassuring presence of a caregiver. Toddlers can be severely out of their depth when they first attend daycare due to their lack of experience in the wider world. New smells, a new environment and new sounds, new people, as well as new challenges, can all play their part in making daycare an intimidating experience.

 

Here are some strategies to ensure that the first weeks of daycare are as stress-free as possible.

Here are some strategies to ensure that the first weeks of daycare are as stress-free as possible.

Allowing the toddler to acclimatize is key to making the experience more pleasant. One of the best things strategies is to introduce the toddler to the daycare environment in a manner that is non-threatening. Visit the school, including the play areas and the classrooms. Introduce them to the caregivers who will be watching over them. This removes some of the fear that may accompany those first days in daycare.

There are also schools that will allow a certain amount of flexibility as far as school hours are concerned during those first weeks of attendance. Start off with a few hours a day and then work gradually to a full day. This will allow the child to become acclimatized to the new environment gradually. If this is a possibility, then work closely with the caregivers or teachers to agree on the transition timeline. They are expert in toddler behaviour and may have some valuable insight into the ideal way of managing the transition.

Many parents or caregivers tend to make the mistake of painting daycare as the best thing since sliced bread. If we oversell school (‘you’re going to have the best time ever’), then we run the risk of confusing the child. If they do not have the best time, they may feel that they are not living up to expectations. This will negatively affect their daycare experience. An alternative is to supply factual information. As in which teacher they will be meeting, how long they will be able to play, reading/storytime when to expect lunchtime and importantly when you will pick them up from daycare. This provides the toddler with the reassurance that each day will follow a set structure and removes feelings of doubt and uncertainty.

 

Once the toddler has started, it is normal for the caregiver to try and compensate for the time apart. It is after all as new to the caregiver as it is to the toddler. However, care should be taken not to alter schedules too much. All-day ice cream and park visits may cause anxiety. It may be preferable to keep the toddler at home during the adjustment period. It is a safe and comfortable environment where they can interact with familiar things. It provides them with an environment where they are free to process the day’s activities at daycare.

Perhaps the hardest thing about that first day of daycare will be saying goodbye. The best way to approach this is with a quick, confident ‘goodbye, see you later’. A quick goodbye also signals to the child that they are entering a safe environment. Your emotional state will directly affect those of the child. If you are anxious – then they will be as well.

In most cases, the toddler will be fine almost immediately upon entering the daycare environment. However, taking some common-sense steps to prepare them will make the experience better for both parents and caregivers

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