Starting childcare can bring up some battling emotions for you and your child. Feelings of anxiety, trepidation, excitement, and uncertainty can bubble their way to the surface and are often followed by stress leading up to the big day. Starting childcare is one of the most critical phases of a child’s life – and sometimes the most daunting. For most children, starting daycare will be their first time apart from their parents and what they know.
However, starting childcare is an exciting time full of new experiences, educational material, and a new community. It may also bring up new questions with uncertain answers, but these feelings are perfectly normal.
Help is at hand.
Below are some tips to get organised ahead of time, build a positive experience, and support your child as they settle into their new environment, new routine, and new learning community. We have curated a few tips, tricks, and trials you may meet along the way to help you and your child get prepared for starting childcare.
By following these steps, we hope that you and your child will enjoy this new chapter in their life and make a smooth, stress-free, and enjoyable transition and journey to adjust to a safe, fun, and happy environment full of amazing learning opportunities.
Remember, you are never alone in the Montessori community. Contact us anytime for more information. We are always here with a KYND face, helpful information, and support so that you do not feel alone at this time. Visit us anytime.
First step: Find the right daycare.
Finding the right daycare can be challenging, but you only need to remember a few key things to ensure that you find one that suits your needs as well as your child’s.
Firstly, do your research and find a list of licensed daycares in your area. Then have a look at their reviews, ratings and accreditation. You can also ask for referrals from family, friends or neighbours who have used a particular daycare’s services to get an even better idea.
Secondly, make sure that you visit the daycare centre to get a feel of the environment and its workings. You can schedule a tour to get a better idea of the quality of care your child will receive, how safe the environment is and what educational resources are available.
If you have booked a tour at Kynd Montessori, do not hesitate to ask all the questions you need answers to, regarding our hours of operation, fees, our Montessori curriculum, policies on discipline and safety, staff qualifications and more. There is no such thing as too many questions when it comes to your child’s well-being.
Finally, consider your child’s needs while making the final decision; whether the daycare centre is a good fit for your child’s personality, interests and requirements.
But ultimately, trust your gut instinct when zeroing in on your decision. If something doesn’t feel right, keep the search going until you find one that you feel the most comfortable with.
Second Step: The Orientation Process
Visit the school with your child.
Before starting childcare, it is important to familiarise your little one with their new environment, where they will spend considerable time in their early years. Your child may be apprehensive of the new environment, and often seeing their parents within the space before they start helps a child feel safe and accept the environment around them, letting them ease in when you eventually must leave them. Attending orientation sessions and centre tours will excite your child for their new adventure and help them settle in.
Many centres organise initial centre tours to help you get a better feel for the environment, navigate your way around, and check the classes to ease your mind that the place is safe and the perfect place for your child. The initial centre tour will help you get familiar with the services that the centre provides and ask the carers or educators about orientation programs and transition mornings, playgroups, or playtimes for parents and children to help settle in. Taking your child on a little tour to walk through the rooms and get familiar is an essential part of a childcare’s settling-in program and services.
These services provide you with the chance to hear stories about personal experiences from other parents, children, or educators to alleviate those doubts they may have had when choosing childcare and help you and your child prepare for the separation anxiety that can often occur. Knowing your child is in safe hands in a safe and secure environment for them to grow is the most important part of settling in.
Most children will experience anxiety and may need a learning community with parents and educators working together to build a special relationship and make the transition smoother.
At Kynd, our Montessori educators are attentive to your child’s anxieties as well as yours. We understand how difficult this new journey is and that the first steps are the hardest. We also know how challenging it can be to leave your child, especially if they are crying and it’s their first time being apart. We know it takes time, reassurance and someone to guide you through the process to put your mind at ease.
We recommend that you bring your child to our centres a few times to help them adjust during the orientation process and help come together as a learning community to lay the groundwork for a long-term, lasting relationship built on trust, open communication and information.
We recommend attending two to three weekly orientations to help ease your child into the environment. They are free of charge and usually last around an hour.
Introduce your child to the teachers and get familiar with educators.
During the visit, you can meet the teachers and introduce your child to them, which is an excellent way for them to build trust and a bond. It will also be an opportunity for you to ask your child’s centre manager or room leaders for information about the curriculum, teaching methods, activities and settling tips to gauge what will happen in the first few weeks of your child’s childcare journey. When armed with knowledge, you can answer any question your child may have to prepare them both practically and emotionally and discuss any concerns that may make them reluctant to start. Overcoming these anxieties by meeting the educators who will be involved in the next step of your child’s life can make the transition a comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The orientation programmes can also help you and your child to get to know your settings, the early childhood educators, and other children and parents, building on conversations from the initial centre tours.
Talk to your child
Talking positively to your child about the new environment, friends, educators, and all the fun things they will experience will help put them at ease. It is also a critical step in developing a new routine and letting them know what to expect in the lead-up to starting school.
Reading books or telling stories about starting childcare and making new friends is a safe way for your child to understand new events and explore any strong emotions they might go through, such as friendship, anxiety, apprehension, happiness, sadness and loneliness. This will also help them develop the emotional, independent and social skills required to grow as an individual.
What can I do to help ease my child’s separation anxiety?
It’s very normal for children (and parents) to have feelings of anxiety when they first start childcare. It takes children time to get used to their new routines, build positive relationships with their educators and peers, and understand that their new environment is a fun, safe, and happy place. Supporting children with separation anxiety can be challenging; however, remember that this stage will soon pass and that most children are settled within a few minutes of their families leaving. If you are ever concerned, you are always welcome to call the centre to check in on your child or book a meeting with the Centre Manager to discuss additional support for settling your child.
Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety
- Bring your child on the initial centre tour, so they develop a sense of familiarity.
- Talk positively about the exciting things they will experience, play with, and learn at Montessori Academy.
- Involve your child in choosing, organising, and labelling the items they will take with them to childcare.
- Talk about their new routine and what to expect in the lead-up to starting childcare.
- Attend the orientation session with your child to help them settle into their new environment.
- Talk about the emotions they may experience and how they can help manage their feelings.
- Read stories about starting school.
- Establish a quick goodbye ritual where you leave smiling, calm, and confident to build your child’s confidence and sense of security in their new environment.
- Be consistent with drop off and pick up times, so your child becomes familiar with their new routines and knows what to expect.
- Practice being apart by leaving your child with a trusted adult or family member for a few hours.
- Tell them when you will pick them up in child-specific terms, i.e. “I’ll pick you up after rest time before afternoon snack.”
Take a look at our blog for additional resources.
Talk to your child’s main educator.
In the weeks before starting, you will find out about your child’s main educator and can talk to them more in-depth so they can get to know your child and understand their needs. Write down any information your early childhood educator needs to know about your child before they start. Including the following information is a must:
- Food allergies and medical conditions. Noting down any food allergies, intolerances, or medical needs is imperative. Including information on medication and concise instructions on what to do under special circumstances (such as epilepsy or allergic reactions) is of the utmost importance.
- Any information regarding your child’s well-being, such as sleep patterns, emotional and social preferences and any special comfort items, such as special toys.
- Let the carer know about your child’s particular interests, such as dinosaurs, space or Barbie.
- Voice any concerns about your child’s development.
- Let them know about your family circumstances and any special conditions that may affect your child or their care plans, such as custody arrangements.
- Bring any proof or information regarding your child’s immunisation status.
Third Step: Preparation is Key
You can prepare your child for childcare and make the process fun by practising their routine and involving them in preparing or shopping for the things they will need.
Practising the ‘school run’ by running through what a typical day will look like, such as waking, dressing, having breakfast and walking/driving through the route to the childcare centre, is a great way to get them acclimated to the daily routine.
Asking your childcare educator about your child’s school routine and making this part of your child’s home routine, including lunch, playtime, and nap times, is excellent for helping them adjust to their new schedule and avoid tiredness or feeling overwhelmed.
Make it fun! Buying a new backpack, letting them pick a soft toy and testing out new lunches is a fun experience that will be part of their every day from now on. Depending on your childcare’s stationery or specific equipment requirements, you may need to shop for school accessories before your child starts. Some centres provide the equipment, lunches, snacks and other necessities such as nappies.
Lots of parents have a special set of clothes just for daycare called a “daycare wardrobe”. It’s made up of simple items like t-shirts, leggings, and jumpers that you don’t worry about getting dirty or stained with paint. The clothes should be comfortable but slightly bigger so they do not quickly grow out of them and can be worn out (no sleeves or trouser leg dragging!).
Make sure you purchase and pack everything your child needs, including a change of clothes, drink bottles, lunch packs, sunhats… anything they will need for every occasion, come rain or shine.
Don’t forget to label everything.
Get some labels and label everything! Any of their belongings must be labelled to avoid clothing and bottles getting mixed up.
Remember to label:
- Drink bottles and bottles containing milk
- Teddies or comfort blankets.
The cheapest way is to get a permanent marker, but you can purchase special labels. Of course, we can’t guarantee you won’t lose an item or two (or often one lonely shoe), but labelling is a parent’s no. 1 step to getting prepared.
The night before starting childcare: practical tips
Add a reminder on your phone and make sure everything is ready to go the night before. Then, lay out everything your child will need the following day, all labelled, ironed, and ready to go. The first few mornings may be hectic as you get used to the routine and try to avoid the last-minute rush. However, preparing, organising, and ironing all clothes, lunch boxes, and backpacks will take the stress out of the first few days!
The night before starting childcare can be hectic and stressful. To ensure you and your child are ready for the following day, here are some tips:
- Prepare a healthy dinner to get their belly full and happy, ready for all the activities the next day.
- Ensure your child goes to bed early for a good night’s sleep. We all know that sleep can affect how a child feels the next day and can put a damper on their experience. Getting a good night’s rest will ensure they are up bright and early the next day, ready to take on all the fun activities with plenty of energy.
- Label and pack everything your child will be taking to childcare, including bottles, formula, nappies, clothes, spare clothes, and any necessary medication or medical records. Remember to pack special comfort items such as a teddy, blanket and a family picture.
- Prepare and pack food, and set a reminder that it is in the fridge for the next day.
What should I pack for the first day?
At Kynd Montessori Childcare, we want to set your child up for a successful transition to childcare. This means ensuring your child has all the comforts of home to feel safe and secure at their new home away from home. We ask that families pack the items below to ensure children are familiar with their new setting.
Toddlers and Pre-schoolers Aged 2-6
- Water bottle labelled with your child’s full name.
- Sun-safe hat labelled with your child’s full name.
- Two sets of spare clothes labelled with your child’s full name.
- Healthy lunch in a labelled lunchbox if your childcare centre is non-catered.
- Backpack labelled with your child’s full name.
- Cot-sized bed sheets and a blanket are stored in a calico bag labelled with your child’s full name (supplied weekly).
- 3-4 nappies per day, wipes, and nappy rash cream (you can supply these weekly).
- Comforter if your child needs one.
Infants Aged 0-2
- Water bottle labelled with your child’s full name.
- Backpack labelled with your child’s full name.
- Sun-safe hat labelled with your child’s full name.
- A spare set of clothes labelled with your child’s full name.
- Bed sheets and blanket labelled with your child’s full name.
- Re-usable fabric bag (to store your child’s sheets) labelled with your child’s full name.
- A healthy lunch in a labelled lunchbox if you’re attending a non-catered centre.
- Bottles and formula or expressed breastmilk labelled with your child’s name (if your child needs).
- 3-4 nappies per day, wipes, and nappy rash cream (you can supply these weekly).
- Comforter or dummy if your child needs one.
Fourth Step: Starting Childcare & Building Trust (First and Second Week)
Be prepared for a tough first day.
The first day will always be challenging. In fact, the first few weeks may be the toughest experience you have yet to face with your little one. It’s natural to be anxious and feel a pang of guilt knowing you will drop them somewhere they may consider strange, new and scary at first. This is completely normal. Separation anxiety and nerves during the period of adjustment are understandable. Most probably, this is the first time you have been away from your child for a lengthy period.
To make things easier, pack something of comfort from home – a cuddly toy, a family photo, their favourite blanket or anything you feel they can cuddle and hold when they feel unsure or sad.
It is going to be tough; it is a big adjustment for such a little person, and the feeling of mum/dad guilt is all too real.
What time should I arrive?
We recommend that families contact their Centre Manager to discuss their arrival time for the first day. Where possible, your Centre Manager or child’s Room Leader will want to greet you and help you settle your child into their new environment.
What should I expect when I arrive?
Upon arrival, you will be greeted warmly by your Centre Manager or your child’s Room Leader. They will show you how to sign in, where your child’s locker is, where to put their belongings, and where the bathrooms and amenities are located. Next, they will introduce your child to their classmates and welcome them to the classroom.
Once your child has been introduced, we recommend that families say a quick goodbye at the door and leave the classroom. It’s best not to linger, as this can cause confusion and prolong separation anxiety.
Families are welcome to stay on the premises for a short period (out of sight) as their child settles in. Please talk to your Centre Manager if you need any support settling your child or have any questions or concerns.
The dreaded drop-off is one of the most challenging times – there may be tears, there may be tantrums… and then there is the child’s emotion to deal with. The most important thing to do to bring them comfort is cuddling them, let them know you will be back and remind them of all the fun things they will be up to. Hug them, let them know they are safe and leave smiling. Remember, they will feel your stress; let them know you are excited, happy and relaxed in the environment and situation.
Give them enough time to stay with them but don’t linger. Saying goodbye is never easy and can be heartbreaking, but it can be even harder if you drag it out. Expect crying, and them gripping you, but drop them off and let the childcare worker calm them down after. Your presence for too long will make their job harder. Children often calm down when distracted.
It gets easier
As the days and weeks go by, gradually, it will get easier – fewer tears, less resistance. Sad is the day when they walk in without even acknowledging you are leaving.
Some days are easier than others. However, after a while, and as they become older, they will become aware and start developing a relationship and trust with the childcare staff and the other children.
This is something the team, your child, and you can work on over the first few weeks through conversations, activities, shared relationships, character-building and familiarity.
How can I check in to see if my child has settled?
Families are welcome to call the centre to check in on their child at any time throughout the day. Our team will always provide you with open and honest feedback about how your child is settling in. If your child is unsettled, rest assured that an educator will contact you and advise you if you need to pick them up. Families also ask to receive regular photo updates throughout the day. These updates show what activities your child is engaging in and their eating, sleeping, and toileting schedule.
What time should I pick my child up?
We recommend that families pick up a little earlier during their child’s first week to help ease them into their new routine. Earlier pick-up isn’t compulsory; however, many families have provided feedback that this was helpful for them.
Fifth step: The Familiarity Period (Third and Fourth Week)
As they get accustomed to the routine and form bonds with the childcare team or at least one or a few of their carers, you will find fewer tears, and they will settle in. This familiarity period often spans the third and fourth weeks.
Sixth step: Feeling Safe (Fifth and Sixth Week)
By the fifth and sixth weeks, familiarity and the bond will be established, and your child will start enjoying all the sounds, smells, people and environment around them and start having fun and feeling safe. They will start to realise that it is a safe, comfortable and stimulating environment. And through repetition, they will start to feel confident that you will return to them at the end of the sessions.
They will start to feel safe and secure with their own schedule, and the childcare centre will begin to feel like a second home.
How long will it take for my child to settle in?
Every child is different when it comes to settling into childcare. Some children settle within a few days, others within weeks, and some may be unsettled at drop-off for extended periods. Many factors affect a child’s settling time, including their personality type, learned behaviours, separation anxiety, enrolment pattern, age and stage of development, and what’s happening in other areas of their life. If you have any concerns about how your child is settling in, please talk to your Centre Manager or your child’s Room Leader. They will work with you to help your child make a smooth and happy transition.
As a child grows from dependent baby to independent individual, they need a learning community behind them that sets the foundations and support to tackle all the obstacles, anxieties and development stages. The first few weeks in a new childcare environment can be a significant change, and it is not without its challenges.
To help you and your child start childcare and settle into this fun, new, but strange environment, you can find ways to make the transition easier using this guide. But remember, do not expect too much from your child or yourself during this time. Allow the emotions and acknowledge that they are valid. Don’t judge how you or your child behaves, struggles or tackles these first few months. Be prepared for separation anxiety, clinginess and tantrums. It is completely natural as they settle into their new place and find their way in this world. Once you have established a routine, it will get easier, even if you don’t feel like it will. You will have questions. Question everything. It is healthy and essential for you and your child to be armed with all the information required to make the settling-in period easier.
What should I do if I need extra support or have any questions?
If you have questions, talk to your child’s early childhood educators or carers. They can and will help.
Starting childcare can be a challenging time for families. It’s very common to feel anxious and uncertain at the beginning of your childcare journey. First and foremost, contact your childcare provider, who will be more than understanding and welcome you to share your feelings and experience. As a childcare team, we are here to support you in any way we can. We are deeply honoured that you have entrusted us with the education and care of your child and strive to create a home away from home for your child and to provide you with a supportive community for you and your family.
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
Research has shown that School and family partnerships profoundly impact a child’s outcome and well-being. It is a significant partnership we share as educators, as together we look to nurture and offer our young people much hope in themselves and the ever-changing world they co-create.
A Kind Word from KYND
We hope our guide has helped. As a learning community, Kynd Montessori seeks to engage parents in their children’s education in various ways that place value on building a sense of community and developing authentic relationships. We offer many opportunities for parents and staff to come together through our many programs. For information on the programmes we provide, and any information within our article, reach out to us by email or phone.
Kynd Montessori – A preschool and early learning centre that’s Kynd by name and kind by nature.
We understand that when it comes to childcare and families, it is not one size fits all and that circumstances vary. At Kynd Montessori, we pride ourselves on providing a personalised childcare service to suit you and your child, whatever the circumstances.
We are an educational community that cares. We are here to question with non-judgement, advice and care to provide you with all the information you need. We believe that a parent should feel assisted, listened to and involved through every step of their child’s education, starting from now at the beginning of your child’s journey as well as yours.
To book a visit at Kynd Montessori, please use this form, email us at [email protected] or call us directly on 0426 286 676.