The first day in a new place is scary no matter your age. It only makes sense that going to daycare for the first time, or going to a different daycare, can be overwhelming for your child. This is usually the first time that they are away from you for an extended period of time and interacting with a large group of people their own age. Whatever the case, there are a couple of things you can do to help your child prepare for their first day:
Visit The Daycare
Drop-off on the first day will be much less stressful for you and your child if you have already met some of the teachers and staff and are familiar with the facility. Leaving them in a familiar environment will help the big change feel a little less big – one of the reasons why daycare tours are important.
If possible, try visiting the daycare more than once, and at different times of the day. This lets your child see different parts of the daily routine and allows them to begin thinking about what it will be like to participate in those activities. Curiosity is a good thing!
A great way to get your child feeling mentally prepared for change is to involve them in physically preparing for that change. Packing together provides you with a great opportunity to talk to them about going to daycare and get them feeling excited for their first day. This is also a good time to label everything to avoid mix-ups at daycare!
Different age groups will be able to help out more effectively than others – so just involve your child to a level they can manage. Let them choose what extra clothes they want to pack in their bag, for example. Spills and bathroom accidents are bound to happen, so we recommend packing one or two sets of clothing with extra underwear just in case. Babies won’t really manage to help, but your toddler should have a good idea of what their favorite clothes are.
Adjust Nap Time
Most daycare facilities will be more than happy to give you a breakdown of their daily routine. If you are able to, try slowly shifting your child’s nap time to match the schedule set by the daycare. Your child will find falling asleep much easier if their body has already adjusted to this part of the new routine.
Daily tasks that your child can perform without help builds independence. Some useful skills include being able to change their clothes and wash their hands. Having these skills already established will not only give the teacher space to focus on helping them with other skills but gives your child a feeling of capability. That boost of confidence, however small, can make first day jitters easier to overcome.
If your child isn’t used to being away from you for hours at a time, it’s a good idea to teach them that when you leave, you come back. You can start by dropping them off with a relative or neighbor while you go grocery shopping, or hire a babysitter for a few hours.
Separation anxiety can be a challenge for some children and their parents, so this is a simple way to make sure the distance doesn’t come as a shock to you both when the big day arrives.
Talk, Talk, Talk!
Even when they’re small – children are remarkable in their ability to absorb and process what you say to them. Talking about daycare in the weeks that lead up to the first day introduces both curiosity and familiarity surrounding the idea.
If you’ve visited the daycare already, you can bring up teachers by name, and ask questions like, “Ms Harrington was very kind, wasn’t she?” or, “What did you like most about her?” You can also ask them what play area they’re most excited about, or what artwork they are most keen to create.
For most children, daycare is the first time they will be surrounded by many children their age. Teaching your child about friendship before their first day will prepare them for meeting all these new people. You can talk about how to introduce yourself to a new friend, and what to say to them afterward.
If your child seems uncomfortable with that idea, you can role play with them so they get some practice. Some questions you can teach them are:
“What is your favorite game?”
“What toys do you like to play with?”
On The Day
Sometimes all the preparation in the world won’t be enough to keep nerves at bay – and that is perfectly fine. Be ready to have meltdowns for the first couple of days of daycare. The drop-off time for your first week will probably be slightly longer than usual, so try to leave home earlier or let your work know you might come in a few minutes late.
Once you’ve arrived at daycare, say a quick good-bye and let them know you’ll fetch them after the last activity of the day. Try not to linger.
Daycare is the beginning of a beautiful adventure of friendships and learning for your child, and at Providence Children’s Academy, we are delighted to be a part of this journey.