By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson
As a mum to a six-year-old and three-year-old twins who have attended four different child care centres, I have a lot of experience with the settling-in process. I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way that have helped my girls acclimatise more quickly and easily each time.
Here’s everything you need to know about your child’s first week at child care and how you can help them settle in…
Prepare your child
In the weeks leading up to your little one’s first day, there are several things you can do to prepare them and build excitement:
- Book one or several orientation days at the centre to help you and your child become familiar with the environment and educators
- Read books about starting child care or make your own including photos of your child’s centre – my girls absolutely loved this!
- Engage in pretend play about child care using their backpack, lunchbox, comfort toy and other props
- Talk positively about the centre, the activities they’ll participate in, the friends they’ll make and all the fun they’ll have!
Get organised the night before
The night before your child’s first day, prepare everything they’ll need for child care to avoid rushing in the morning. Pack a hat, spare clothes, comfort toys, dummies, bottles, formula and any other personal items in a small backpack. If your centre doesn’t provide meals and nappies, you should pack those too. Prepare your child’s outfit and you’ll be all ready to go!
Stay and play on the first morning
Plan to spend 10 to 15 minutes settling your child in on the first day. You may want to read them a book or get them involved in another activity they enjoy. When the time is up, give them a cuddle, let them know you’ll be back to pick them up later and say goodbye. If they start to cry, ensure an educator is comforting them and leave.
While it can be heart-wrenching to leave an upset child (I know because I’ve had to do it many times!), most children stop crying within seconds of their parents leaving. If you stay longer, drop-offs could become harder because your child might expect you to stay every time. But don’t be tempted to sneak out without saying goodbye either because they may fear that you won’t come back and become distressed.
Stick to a consistent routine
After the first morning, keep your drop-off routine short and consistent. Ask your child to help you put their belongings away, help them find an activity they enjoy, give them a cuddle and say goodbye. After repeating this routine with my twins for several weeks, they stopped crying when I left and now I can barely get a cuddle out of them because they’re too busy having fun!
Plan downtime and quality time at home
For the first few weeks, your child might be very tired at the end of their fun-filled days at child care. If possible, allow for some downtime at home before dinner and bedtime. They might also crave your attention after being away from you all day, so plan short moments of quality time such as reading a book together.
Establish relationships with your child’s educators
From day one, the team at my twins’ early learning centre made me feel confident that my girls were in good hands. I always communicate openly with their educators and I’ve even sought their help when I’ve faced some issues with the girls at home. They’re always willing to go above and beyond to support us.
Once your child is enrolled, the caring team of educators at your centre will take your family under their wing and help your child settle in smoothly. Before you know it, your child will be like my twins who beg me to pick them up later from child care because they love it so much!
At Early Learning Services, the fantastic team of family support experts make you feel like part of the family from the moment of your initial enquiry.