7 Tips for Settling Children into Child Care

This post is by regular contributor Kylie Gardner of Octavia and Vicky.

Our daughter, Pebble, has been going to child care for two days a week since she was 18 months old. We’ve gone through the first transition of starting child care, and also the second transition of moving rooms as Pebble got older. I will never forget that first visit day – sitting in my car trying to distract myself with my phone, watching the minutes drag by until I could go back and pick her up again. Starting child care is a big step, for children AND for parents and these seven tips are designed to help you and your child settle into child care as calmly and happily as possible.

1. Talk
A couple of months before starting transition visits chat with your child about where different people go during the day, and why. Talk to your child about the fact that one day they will go to child care, and the sorts of things that they will see and do there.

2. Read
Read stories about children starting child care. Some excellent examples are Yoyo Goes to Playgroup by Jeanette Rowe, Jojo goes to Playgroup by Christina Miesen, and Adam’s Daycare by Julie Ovenell-Carter. Thank you to My Little Bookcase for these suggestions.

Tips for settling children into child care

3. Visit
Start visiting the child care centre a few weeks, or even months, before your child starts care. If you can manage it, start with half an hour visits with one parent staying the whole time. These playful visits helped Pebble get used to the environment, and showed her the fun that she could have at child care. After about three visits with mum in tow, Pebble had her first solo visit for half an hour. I’m not sure who was more terrified! As it turned out she was absolutely fine, and so was I :) Where possible take time to build up to half a day solo visits and then full days.

Tips for settling children into child care

4. Use transition objects
Taking an object from home helps children to feel safe and secure. Pebble has always had a cuddly toy nearby during drop off time. It might be a teddy or any other object that reminds them of home. Whenever I notice that Pebble is feeling particularly fragile in the morning I also suggest that we take something special to show the carers. For example, a picture that she has drawn recently, or a photo of a recent event in her life (a trip to the zoo, Grandma’s birthday). This helps her to focus on something positive on the drive to child care and at the time of separation.

5. Give some control to your child
Giving your child some control over their day can help them to feel more accepting of the things that they can’t control. To this day I still give Pebble lots of choice about her morning when it comes to child care. She chooses her clothes (from a selection of child care friendly options) and the toy and fruit that she wants to take.

6. Walk away! Don’t look back!
It can be so tempting for parents to drag out the farewell, to have one last cuddle, or to pop back and sneak a peek to see how their child is settling in. Just. Walk. Away. It is so hard to do….I KNOW! However it is much more helpful to your child to have a warm and loving goodbye that is just that – goodbye. Dragging it out just makes the separation longer and more painful. Go to the car and make a quick phone call to the carers if you need to. I know I did :)

Tips for settling children into child care

7. Communicate
Talk with the carers about how your child is settling in and consciously model a friendly and relaxed relationship with your child’s carers. Children trust those that you trust. Ask the carers if there are any tricks and tips that they recommend for separation. The toddler room of our centre has pet rabbits in the yard, which provided a great distraction and helped Pebble more easily say goodbye – giving her a handful of lettuce and sending her happily off to the rabbits. In her current room they have the most gorgeous ritual of the ‘kissing gate’. It’s a regular chain link gate next to the front door with a large hole (safely) cut into the centre, just at child’s head height and the right size for some little lips to kiss through. Every time we say goodbye we have a kiss at the kissing gate.

Tips for settling children into child care

What helped your child settle in to child care?

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  1. What great tips Kylie! I love the kissing gate. With my preschooler, we have a goodbye ritual that I adore. I say goodbye, walk away, then turn around to blow kisses at him (and he at me) through the window of the room he’s in. How I will miss such sweet rituals when he no longer needs them. :-)

  2. Great tips Kylie! Am bookmarking for when JJ starts preschool when she turns 3. It’s 5 months away and I’m already getting a tight chest!

  3. Lovely post and tips :)

  4. Hi Kylie,
    Thanks for including my book, Adam’s Daycare, in your tips. I wrote it many moons ago when my now-adult son was in daycare and I couldn’t find a book that focussed on the daycare experience. It makes me feel really good that it is still out there, helping parents and kids navigate what is often an emotionally fraught transition. If it’s any comfort I can tell you that Adam, now 21, met his best friend in daycare at the age of 3, and still reminisces fondly about his years in a family-run daycare!
    All best to you and yours…

  5. Great article. We find the trial run one of the better methods for easing new children in to our system. They have a great time the first time they visit, and then look forward to coming back!

  6. #5. As I always pack things that my son loves in his bag like toys as it could give him a comfort object to make him feel at home and for my carer to give if he gets upset.


  7. This is such a helpful guide! The pictures show how the child got into a smooth transition. This will certainly help a lot of parents bring their children to daycare. I’m currently helping parents do so and aside from this article, any parent might need to read these important guidelines on what to expect

  8. The tips you mentioned in this blog it will be easy for parents to adjust child in child care centre. When your child going to in a child care centre then you have faced same situation for some day. so it is helpful information for parents.

  9. Kylie, these are some really good things to know as a mother of young children. My sister is about to go back to work and she is a little nervous about taking her daughter to day care. So, I liked your tip on visiting the center a few times before the child’s first full day. That way, both the parent and child can get used to the place and its set up.

  10. Johnny McCarron says:

    I really like your advice to talk with your child before they are put into a child care. I think think that people don’t talk enough with their children, and that can really cause issues when you are trying to put them in child care. Do you have any other tips about choosing a child care facility?

  11. I really like your tip about reading stories to your children! That is something that we do with our kids each night and they really love it. We have been looking for a child care center for a while now so we will have to keep this information in mind to help prepare them. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Johnny McCarron says:

    I love your advice to talk to the people you are thinking about enlisting to take care of your children. It is vital to find someone that can help you and take care of your child the way that you would. My wife and I just had a baby. Do you have any tips about getting someone to take care of an infant as opposed to a toddler?

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