If you have been taking care of your toddler at home, but are going back to work or just need a few days of the week to yourself to accomplish tasks, here are a few tips that will help ensure that your child transitions smoothly to attending a daycare for a couple of days a week.
#1 Expose Your Child To Other Care Providers Outside Of Your Home
It is one thing to have a babysitter, nanny, or family member come to your home and watch your child. When your child is watched by a caretaker in their own home, there are inside of their comfort zone and only have to make an adjustment to who is providing them care. When your child is primarily taken care of inside of your own home, they do not have to develop the skills of adjusting to a new place, environment, and routine as they get used to a new caregiver. This is a separate skill from getting along with new adult caregivers.
If you know that your child will be transitioning to daycare in a couple months, you can ease that transition by providing your child with opportunities to interact with caretakers outside of your home. Consider signing your child up for some classes where both you and your child participate together; this will help your child adjust to new settings outside of your home. Then, try to sign your child up for classes or opportunities where they will be with another caretaker without you present for an hour or so, such as a dance or tumbling class.
These small periods of time will help your child adjust to participating in activities and being around adults outside of the context of your home.
#2 Visit Your Child's New Daycare
Before your child starts their new daycare, schedule a few visits at the daycare. See if you can schedule your first visit at either the beginning or end of the day when other students are not present. Use this opportunity to show your child the classroom and allow your child's new teacher to get down on your child's level and talk and interact with them. This will help your toddler see that their new daycare is a safe setting.
Next, schedule a visit during school hours, preferable during a more quiet time in the center's schedule, such as circle time or free play time. Sit with your child and allow them to participate in the activities. You may want to do this a few times with your child. This will help your child take in the new environment, children, and care takers with you safely by their side.
#3 Talk About Daycare At Home
In the months leading up to your child starting daycare, talk to your child about going to daycare. Read your child books about what daycare is like and what types of emotions that your child may feel when they go to daycare for the first time.
Incorporate talk about daycare into your daily routine. Talk about how soon you will get ready in the morning and leave for daycare. When you eat lunch or have your morning snack, talk to your child about what lunch and snack time will be like at daycare. When your child lays down for a nap, talk to them about how at nap time at daycare, they will lay on a mat instead of their bed, but they will still have their favorite blanket and stuffed animal with them.
Work to incorporate talk about daycare into all aspects of your routine so that you can normalize the transition to daycare for your child and help them mentally prepare for the transition.
#4 Start Slowly
If this really is your child's first time being away from you and from the home setting, start off slow. Take your child to daycare for half days, and slowly increase the number of half days per week till you get to the maximum number of days that you want to have your child enrolled per week. Then, work on transitioning from half-days to full days. This type of gradual transition will make the experience easier on your child.
Remember to take your child's unique needs and development into consideration when getting ready to transition them from being taken care of only in the home to a daycare setting. Help equip them for the change by exposing them to classes and caretakers outside of your home and by allowing them time to become comfortable with their new daycare setting.