Seven Tips to Prepare Your Family for Starting Childcare or Preschool
You did your research – you visited, spoke with the teachers, watched the interactions between staff and kids, counted and checked ratios – and you found the perfect childcare facility. Now what?
Identifying a childcare facility that is a good fit for your family is the first step, but now you have to start a new routine with a new baby, most likely on very little sleep, or a young preschooler.
We spoke to some of our childcare staff and experienced moms to find the best tips for a smooth transition to childcare and preschool.
- Visit the Facility
Plan to visit before your child starts at the facility. If you’re on maternity leave, talk to the teachers to see if you can drop in during your last week or two of your leave. Watching the teachers interact with the children can help you feel more comfortable with the transition and give you an idea of how long your new routine might take. For older children, talk to the teachers to see how they prefer to handle the transition. For example, while some kids do best with a quick drop off, others might benefit from having a parent stay to help ease the initial transition. Let the teachers know about your child’s personality and experiences.
- Get to Know the Teachers
Your child’s teacher can be a tremendous resource and partner. At the Y, our teachers go through annual training to strengthen their many years of teaching experience. Let their experience be a resource for you.They’re also a partner – address any concerns head-on and let them know if you are making changes to routines or activities at home so that they can support you during the day. Keep an open dialogue and don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek advice.
- Expect Some Changes
Adjusting to a new routine or environment is a big transition and can lead to some changes in your child. If they’re a little clingy or overtired, be patient and support them as they work through the transition. It can take a month or so to fully adjust. This can be especially challenging for older children starting school for the first time.
- Build a Routine
Routines help give children a sense of security by providing a predictable schedule. Creating a routine at the beginning will help provide structure to your day and help your child adjust. Routines also help ease any future transitions or changes.
- Keep Extras of Everything
Most childcare facilities will provide guidelines on what you should provide from home. For example, our infant classrooms typically request that parents provide five outfits, two sheets, five bibs and enough food and bottles to last the day. Pick up a few backup outfits and bibs (local outgrown sales are great for this) or purchase extra diapering supplies the next time they’re on sale. Weekdays can be hectic enough without having to run to the store for more diaper cream or realizing you’re out of clean bibs on a Monday morning. While you’re packing for school, pack a change of clothes and a few essentials to store in your car. Most centers have a few extra backup items for emergencies, but providing extras will make for a smoother week for everyone.
- Label Everything
Label all of your child’s items – bottles, pacifiers, bibs, clothes – anything that you bring in to the center. This helps ensure that your items make it back to your home. All food items including bottles, baby food containers, cups, etc. require labels. There are numerous companies that sell labels that can be run through the dishwasher or laundry. Permanent markers work too.
- Confront Your Own Feelings
There are a lot of feelings and emotions that come with leaving your child at a school or childcare facility – and it's hard on the parents. Make sure that you talk through any feelings of guilt or anxiety with another adult so you don’t transfer your stressors on to your child.
Learn more about childcare and early learning options at the YMCA or reach out to the childcare director at your local branch.
The YMCA of Greater Brandywine is the largest licensed childcare provider in Chester County and offers a wide variety of programs for children of all ages.