The first day at a new childcare center is exciting for the whole family! It means your child has opportunities to socialize with others, grow through new experiences, learn, and have fun!
This big change, however, naturally brings up feelings of nervousness for parents and potentially for children. As a parent, you may be worried about leaving your child in the care of others that you haven’t gotten to know yet. You may be thinking, “Will my child cry when I leave? How do I make my child feel secure when I leave and reassure that I’m returning?” These are normal concerns for any parent who is entrusting their child to someone else.
To make the transition easier for you and your child, here are a few tips to help you prepare for the first day at a new childcare center.
1. Visit the center with your child
It’s important to make sure your child is safe and comfortable in this new environment. In addition to your tour of the center, come by again for a short visit with your child a few days before his or her first day. During that visit, ask the teacher or center director for tips for making the separation easier. They want to support you and your child during this transition, and they also have lots of experience!
Prior to your child’s first day, talk to him about all of the fun things he’ll get to do at the center you visited together. The goal is for him to start developing a positive association and gaining a sense of familiarity with the center before the first day.
2. Prepare as much as possible
Preparation is key to making the first week a success. Practice as much of your child’s new routine as possible, like waking up early, eating breakfast together, and getting dressed.
On the night before, let your child be involved in the preparation for the day ahead, no matter how old. For your toddler or preschooler, packing a backpack can be fun! Encourage your child to pick out his blanket for naptime so he feels more comfortable in his new environment. Let him pick out his outfit and what he’ll eat for breakfast on his big morning. The more involved he is in the new routine, the better you’ll both feel about this big adjustment. If you can, make this a nightly routine. It will help him feel excited about the next day, and minimize the amount of prep required in the morning.
For infants, have your child with you as you’re packing his bottles, food, and extra clothes for the next day. Tell him what you’re putting into your bag and why. Make sure to pack labeled photos of your family for teachers to show him during the day.
3. Give yourself ample time on the first day
Even with prep, be mindful that the first morning may not go according to plan. It’s normal if your child is feeling nervous and less willing to cooperate. Be patient and remember that this is a major change for him. If you’re rushed, you’ll both feel stressed and overwhelmed. Keep in mind that it will take some extra time getting out the door.
4. Establish a goodbye routine
To create a sense of normalcy, establish a goodbye routine. Help your child hang up his backpack and get settled in his new classroom. Reintroduce him to his teachers and encourage him to participate in whatever activity is occurring. You can even create a unique, special way of saying goodbye to each other. We love Care.com’s suggestion of two hugs, two kisses, and “See ya little alligator!” This way, your child understands that this means you are leaving.
During your son or daughter’s first week at a new childcare center, it’s completely normal to spend some extra time at the facility during drop off. After all, you want to make sure your child is okay! When you’re ready to leave, say goodbye. Don’t sneak out, as this could make your child feel unsettled. Explain why you are leaving, but be succinct. “I have to go to work, but I’ll be back this afternoon to pick you up!”
5. Give yourself a break
After morning goodbyes, you may be feeling sad or guilty for leaving your son or daughter with a childcare provider. That’s okay! This is just as big of a transition for you as it is for your child, even if you’re switching to a new center. Take some time for you after drop off to get a cup of coffee, listen to a podcast, or anything else to give yourself a little “me time.”
Don’t be afraid to contact your child’s teacher during the day or stop by if your center has an open-door policy. It’s okay to check in, and teachers will encourage it.
Plan for some extra time together with your child at the end of his first day. Maybe you read two bedtime stories instead of one, or you play a favorite game together before dinner. Whatever you choose, you’ll both feel good about having some extra bonding time after being apart during the work day.
Remember, it will take some time for everyone to feel comfortable with a new place and routine. Every child is different and must adjust in his or her own way.
If you and your child are preparing for the first day at U-GRO, visit our location pages to take a virtual tour or to contact your center director with additional questions. We can’t wait to see you!