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Toddler Childcare

Toddler Childcare

Childcare is a big transition for a child of any age. Once you confirm that your child is starting care, there are some helpful things you can do to prepare them for this transition.

How can I help my toddler adjust to daycare?

Before your child starts, it's important to arrange a time for your and your child to visit the centre a few times. A few visits before they start will help your child be introduced into the childcare environment gradually. 

Alternatively your child could just attend in the mornings for the first week or so to ease them in. 

Talk about the differences and similarities of daycare

It's important to give them an idea of what to expect to help settle a child into childcare. One way you can do this is to talk about the daily routine and explain there will be times for playing, times for eating meals and times for sleeping or resting. 

You could also talk about how there might be some similarities to home and some differences. 

For example bathroom toilets are often smaller at a daycare centre so they won’t have a step or seat attachment like they do at home. 

Often meals are made at the childcare and may look different to how they appear at home. They will be presented on a different plate.

Pack your child’s bag together

Another way of settling a toddler into daycare is to pack their bag together. You could talk about the different items as you pack them, label what they are and when they will be used throughout the day. Some items your child might need include:
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    Bed sheets for rest time.

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    A sun hat for playing outside.

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    A change of clothes for after messy or water play (some children need to know it is ok to get “dirty” and that they can change if needed).

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    A water bottle for when your child is thirsty.

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    A comforting toy in case your child feels sad.

Necessary information for your childcare centre

Your childcare centre also might need the following information:

  • Your child’s usual routine at home so it can be followed to provided consistency.
  • A list of your child’s interests, likes, dislikes and fears so the educators are familiar with your child.
  • A copy of your child’s immunisation history statement and any medical conditions/allergies with the relevant action plans (all ages).

Your child's first day

Your child and you will have mixed emotions on their first day of care. Expect that you will both be excited and nervous with this new experience. Your child will look to you for what to do and how to respond so it's important that you stay as calm and positive as possible. 

Remind your child that mum and dad won’t be with them during the day. When you arrive, introduce yourself and your child to the educators. This reinforces that you trust the educator and your child can too. 

Let your child know that the educators can help them with problems that mum and dad usually would help them with. Sometimes children don’t know who to ask for help when mum or dad aren’t there.

One way to help the bond is to tell the educator about something your child has recently experienced. For example, you may have walked past a train on your way to care. This creates an opportunity for your child to converse with the educator while having the physical support of you there.

When it's time to say goodbye

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    Always say a clear goodbye. If your child is happily playing and you disappear without saying goodbye, this can create feelings of mistrust. They could become anxious that you will disappear at other times. 

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    Explain to your child where you are going and be honest about this. Don’t tell your child you're going to work if you aren’t. Children recognise subtle differences for example clothes/uniforms and know if you are actually going to work or not.

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    Reassure them that you will return and give an identifiable timeline. For example ‘after afternoon tea you will have a play and then mum/dad will be back to pick you up,’ rather than saying you will be back 'soon'.

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    Once you have said goodbye to your child, if they are distressed, make sure an educator is close by to give them a cuddle, and then leave. It’s not a good idea to return if they become overly distressed and call out for you as this gives them mixed messages. If you return or repeatedly say goodbye this can lead to mistrust, confusion and create further separation anxiety in the future.

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    Leave a comforter from home to be used at rest time.

Should you call the daycare centre?

Don’t feel guilty or worried all day that you left your child distressed. They will most likely be settled in by the time you have arrived at work.

Call the daycare centre and talk to your child’s educator about how they settled in if you're worried. 

At pickup time

Don’t be alarmed if your child becomes distressed when you return to pick them up. It has been a big and emotional day for them on their first day of care and they are happy to see their parents return for them.

As the educator what activities your child took part in during the day then talk positively to your child about it. For example ‘I can see you did a beautiful painting at childcare today, would you do another one tomorrow?’

Encourage your child to wave or say goodbye to their educator to continue to foster the relationship. Remind your child they will be returning to childcare tomorrow or another day.

Be prepared for the next day

If your child has had a great first day with no tears when you left, be prepared that it may be different on the next day they go to childcare. The first time it was all new and exciting, the second time they recognise a routine is forming and might not want another day away from mum and dad.

If they do become upset, follow the same routine and be consistent in your approach.

Childcare FAQs

This may vary from child to child, and can be influenced by the age, developmental stage, previous experiences, individual preferences and personality of your child. After experiencing your child's reactions to other situations and relationships throughout their life, you might have an idea of what will help them build better relationships at childcare. Every child is different. 

A child may also regress due to a change in home or daycare circumstances, such as a new baby or parenting relationship difficulties at home, or a change of staffing at daycare.

Like any change, children respond well to consistency and connection, so keeping communication clear, honest and consistent works best.

It's also important to communicate how your child is feeling and what they are enjoying at daycare and the changes you are noticing at home with the childcare educators, so they can be responsive to supporting your child’s transition to daycare more easily. 

It's important to be consistent, honest and clear with both your child and the educators about what your child enjoys most. For example, if your child enjoys outdoor play, communicating this to the educators may help you by incorporating it into their arrival schedule to support your child’s transition. 

You may also like to make a simple book about what a day at daycare looks like, and read it together each night, so your child gets used to the routine of daycare. It could include names of their newly developing friendships, photos of your child having fun at daycare, and other activities they do there like eating, resting and reading books. If possible, you could include pictures of your child’s educators and their names to familiarise your child with the educators at daycare. 

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