Many children quickly settle into childcare within the few weeks. They look forward to the day ahead, eagerly get involved in activities when they arrive and build attachments to educators at the centre. Other children struggle, and become clingy, have difficulty sleeping and regress in their behaviour.
As a parent, making the choice to enrol your child in an early childhood education program is never one that is taken lightly. While things may feel uncomfortable for both you and your child during this transition, there are things you can do to help this time pass smoothly.
7 Strategies to Help Your Child Settle into Childcare
It can be very heart breaking to see your child crying and become anxious when you leave them at the childcare centre. The good news is most children do stop crying and engage with both their educators and available activities reasonably quickly. As a parent, you can help them with the settling in process using one or more of these seven strategies:
1. Talk with your child before starting – let your child know that they will be attending childcare soon. Chat about what they will do there, who they will see, who will drop them off and pick them up, and why they need to attend.
2. Make several pre-visits – make yourselves part of the furniture in the weeks leading to your child’s first day. Play with the toys, meet the other children and educators, discover the routines, and become familiar with this new environment.
3. Chat with the educators – share information about your child with their educators, such as songs they like, their toileting routine, favourite story and what things give them comfort. Keep in touch with the educator and let them know if things are happening at home that could make your child feel unsettled. You can expect your child’s educator to take the time to know your child and build a nurturing relationship with them.
4. Get organised – spend time each night before packing your child’s bag and lunch box to avoid additional stressors in the morning. This gives you the time to focus on your child’s morning routine instead.
5. Use transition objects – some children have a favourite blanket or soft toy that gives them comfort, and you could consider this staying with them throughout the day. Having two of that same toy, one at home and one at childcare, is a great idea too. You could also encourage your child to bring something from home to show their educators, such as a photo of them on a trip or a flower they found in the garden.
6. Plan your goodbye – sneaking out without saying goodbye is never a good idea. Instead, decide upon a goodbye plan, letting your child know what you will do upon arriving at the centre and when you will leave. When it is time to leave, kiss, cuddle and then walk out. A long goodbye doesn’t help anyone feel better.
7. Have special times together at home – you have been away and missed one another! Spend time playing and cuddling at home each day. Family outings during the weekend, stories at bedtime and playing in the bath are good times to connect with each other. You may find your child is more tired in the evenings and needs some down time and an earlier bedtime, and you can adjust your routines accordingly.
As your child settles into childcare, you will find they share more of their day with you in both words and actions, grow in confidence that you will return to collect them and approaches the morning routines up to their arrival at childcare with excitement!