by Jessica Matthews, RDM co-founder
Starting daycare or preschool is a big step for children AND parents alike and can be stressful for both parties. I know that was the case in our house..! Here are my tips to help make the transition a little easier:
1. Visit the centre
Ask the centre if you and your child can visit the daycare /preschool ahead of time for a few hours. That way they can explore and become comfortable with their new environment with the security of having you nearby.
2. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it!
Explain (multiple times) how the day will go; “We’ll wake up, have breakfast and get dressed, then we will drive together to school. I’ll stay for a little while and then I will give you a big hug and kiss and say goodbye. Your teachers will take good care of you and do lots of activities with you. Then I’ll come and pick you up in the afternoon”.
Encourage their questions and excitement so they are looking forward to it. Let them choose their drink bottle, lunch box and bag – they will feel so important to be included and will look forward to using it.
3. Pack bags the night before
10 minutes at night when the kids are in bed feels like forever in the morning when you’re rushing around and I find it makes the morning calmer and easier.
4. Don’t be in ANY kind of rush in the morning
Especially in the first few weeks. Get up 30 minutes earlier if you need to – you don’t need time-related stress rubbing off on your child! They’re bound to be emotional which in turn may mean tantrums or other delays.
5. Apply sunscreen at home if the Centre doesn’t do it for you
Yes, most daycares and preschools have sunscreen for you to use but it makes for a long drop off and I find the longer you hang around, the more your little munchkin doesn’t want you to leave.
Plus at home you can do it before getting them dressed so you don’t need to worry about getting sunscreen on their clothes.
6. Say goodbye and explain when you’ll be back
I personally always say goodbye to my daughter, I know some people suggest sneaking out while they aren’t looking or occupied but some kids can feel a sense of abandonment and 99% of kids are so happy within 2 minutes of their parent leaving anyway.
I always like a big kiss and cuddle from my daughter before I go – and let’s face it, it’s not just for her but also for me! I need that love and reassurance too! And, hey, don’t be afraid to call 30 minutes later to make sure your child has settled down if they were stressed as you left. If you’re happy and confident during drop off it will rub off onto them.
7. Label everything!
Even the clothes they wear because clothes come off, hats get lost, a lot of kids have the same drink bottles and it all gets a bit crazy! Permanent markers are a great option as are the custom ones that can be printed for ironing onto clothes or stuck onto drink bottles and other items.
Of course, don’t forget the spare change of clothes in case of an accident or when they too happy with their painting session and end up with more on their clothes!!
8. TWO hats
Have 2 hats that offer good protection through the brim and are SPF proof, as the hat you sent them with is not always there when you pick them up! Having a spare hat will save you your sanity in the morning when the missing one (presumably eaten by a monster in the sandpit) doesn’t turn up!
9. Easy Open Lunchbox
If your child needs to take lunch with them think about the containers before you buy them. An independent child at daycare/preschool will be a more confident child and they’ll settle in quicker. Some plastic containers pretty much break my wrist to open so how do our kids manage?
I personally like the ones with the clip-on sides as kids can easily open these and it means they don’t always need a teacher/carers to help. I also did a practice lunch where I didn’t help my daughter with anything in her lunch box to make sure she could do it herself and that way it’ll hopefully be fine when she starts. I know there are teachers and carers but there are a lot more kids so if we can make their lives easier and give our kids independence it’s a win-win.
10. Pick-Up-Person Photos
My daughter has different people picking her up each day including me, my sister and my step mum (who is her most influential nanny figure – HOORAY for loving stepparents!).
So that my daughter knows who is collecting her each afternoon, I made little tags (business card size) with a photo of each of us and our name, each with a different colour paper backing. Each day I place the relevant person in her front pocket. This way she can see who is picking her up in case she forgets.
11. Ask questions!
Ask questions from the teachers/carers if you aren’t sure – I strongly believe that no question is a wrong question. Remember that you know your child best and that if something feels funny, it’s worth investigating.
12. Be confident in your decision
We all go through the-grass-is-greener thoughts e.g. “I wish I could stay home with my kids”, while the other mum is thinking “I wish I could go to work”. It’s normal to wonder if we’ve made the right choice for our children because ultimately their happiness and learning are our number 1 priorities.
Just remember that what works for one child/family might not work for others so do what feels right and what makes your little family happy. Whatever you decide to do, be confident that you’ve made the best decision you can for your current circumstances – you’re a super mum so don’t doubt yourself!
I wish you all the best of luck as your ducklings spread their wings. The stories they will tell you will fill your heart, their artwork you will treasure (you’ll need to buy 10 storage bins for it!) and their learning will inspire you. Oh, and I am no perfect mum by any means – just a mum, with some thoughts and maybe some rambling. What’s that saying – a problem shared is a problem halved? Be proud mamas!