A child’s first birthday is a significant milestone, and for many families, this time can also signify the end of maternity leave. If you’re one of the many parents returning to work around the one-year mark and worrying about how your child will settle into childcare, read on to discover our tried and tested tips for a smooth transition.
Start with short visits
Making the switch from spending all day at home to doing full days at childcare can be a big change for our little ones. We usually recommend parents factor in dedicating a few weeks to transitioning their child into care with short days before they actually need their child to remain in care for a full day (e.g. when the parents have returned to work). You can start by simply dropping by for a visit with your little one to get familiar with the environment and the educators and slowly work up to leaving them at the centre for an hour or two, gradually building up to the full day. This approach allows your child to slowly become more familiar and confident in the childcare environment and to begin to learn that you always come back for them after a period of time. This way, when you actually need to leave them in care all day, you can be confident knowing they are settled and familiar with the routine.
Use a transitional object
All children need to feel connected to their primary caregivers throughout the day, even when they are separated. Transitional objects such as a lovely or stuffed toy can be a great way for babies to achieve this and many parents use them for sleep and settling even at home. If your child already has a transitional object, be sure to send it with them, and if they don’t, it may be a good idea to think about introducing one. In order to do this, choose an object that your child is drawn to by taking note of their sensory preferences – do they prefer soft materials they can stroke or items they can twiddle, tug or pull? Next, incorporate this object into their sleep routine, for example, if you bottle or breastfeed before sleep, tuck the object between you and your child so they associate it with feeling close to you. You can also try wearing the object tucked into your shirt for a few hours to give it your special smell which can be comforting to your child.
Settle them before you leave
Saying goodbye to your little one at drop-off is often the most difficult part of the day. If your toddler has bonded to some of the educators, they may be happy simply being held by them while saying goodbye. If this isn’t working, try heading inside and settling them with an activity like reading a book or playing with a toy. Once they are happily engaged in the activity you can say goodbye.
Send milk if they still need it
While many one-year-olds no longer “need” milk, if your child still drinks milk at home (for example, at naptime), it can be helpful to send some expressed breastmilk, formula, or cow’s milk (whatever your child usually drinks at home).
Get confident about nap time
Naps can be a major source of anxiety for many parents starting their one-year-old at daycare. Your child may be tricky to put down at home and you may be wondering how they will get the sleep they need at care. Don’t be shy about talking with the educators about your child’s preferred way of going to sleep and you can even give them some tips or ideas on what to do if your little one isn’t settling. Rest assured though that most babies sleep quite well at daycare, even those that may be tricky to get down at home. What’s more, just because your toddler only settles a certain way at home (e.g. rocked or breastfed by mum) that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to find a new rhythm that works for them at daycare. Babies are very adaptable and our educators are highly experienced in settling babies of all temperaments and sensory preferences.
Take it slow on non-daycare days
Daycare is a great environment for babies, offering lots of sensory stimulation, learning opportunities, and social interactions with their peers and educators. While most babies grow to love their daycare days, it’s always a good idea to keep things simple on the days you are home with your toddler. Focus on spending quality time together, getting outside, and just enjoying the simple pleasures like a long messy lunch or an afternoon cuddled up in bed reading books. Babies and toddlers need downtime just like the rest of us, so taking it slow on their days off will help them feel ready for their full and exciting daycare days.
At Mini Masterminds, we understand that leaving your one-year-old at daycare for the first time can be an emotional experience. We all want to be confident that our little one is secure, happy, and well-cared for in their daycare environment. We love working with parents to make the transition as smooth and enjoyable as possible and will do whatever we can to help you and your child have the best possible childcare experience. Talk to us today to discuss how we can help transition your child into daycare.