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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
What helped your child settle in to child care?