The transition to childcare can feel like a big step for toddlers and parents alike! It's normal to have some tears and questions, but with some preparation and practise, childcare can become an exciting and safe environment for your growing toddler.

Before the first day

Explain to your child that childcare is a fun place where they can make friends, play games and learn things. Help them understand what it is you do during the day and that you love them even if you can't be the one to take care of them all the time.

Do your best to sound excited about childcare, but don't overdo it. If the experience doesn't live up to the hype, your little one may be confused or feel like your opinion is harder to trust.

Consider leaving your little one with a friend or relative in a familiar environment before they start childcare. This could get them used to being away from you and teach them that you'll always come back.

Choosing childcare

When researching your options, consider these important factors:

  • What are the childcare centre's attitudes toward learning, playing and discipline?
  • What are the carer's qualifications?
  • Is the facility clean and safe?
  • Are there enough other children to play with? Or perhaps your toddler is better suited to a smaller centre where each child has more attention from the carers.
  • Does the facility seem stimulating and engaging, with appropriate activities for your child's age group?

When you have an idea of which childcare centre might work for your family, try to organise a visit, so you and your child can become familiar with the environment. Ask your child about their impressions and take this into account where you can.

The first day

Unless you're a very early riser, it could be helpful to organise lunches, clothing and a packed bag the night before. Having less to do in the morning means you can focus on getting your little one out the door. Try to keep the drop off routine consistent so your toddler knows what to expect. Labelling all your child's items and clothing can save a trip to the lost-and-found.

Try to stick around for a little while the first time you drop off your child at childcare. Do your best to develop a good relationship with the carers who work here. Seeing you have positive interactions with the people who will be looking after your toddler may help build trust between them.

The first goodbye will likely be tough! It can be hard for children to feel left behind, and hard for you to leave them. Remind your child you'll be back to pick them up soon, and you can't wait to hear all about their day.

Once you do say goodbye, try to leave promptly. Drawing out the goodbye and perhaps becoming visibly upset yourself could make it harder on your little one. They're likely to calm down after you leave once they realise they're safe, and the carers can remind them that you'll be back soon.

Communicate with the carers about any extra needs your child may have. Consider bringing a comfort object with you for the first few days, to help soothe your little one through the transition. Starting with short days may help ease separation anxiety as your toddler begins to trust you'll always be back soon enough.

Childcare can be very stimulating! This is a good thing, as it can help develop your little one's brain, social skills and motor skills. You can expect to have a very tuckered tot on your hands after a day at childcare, so try to compensate with some extra quiet time at home, an extra nap, or an earlier bedtime.

Encourage your child to share their feelings after each childcare session. Try to gauge whether the environment is suitable for them. They may need some extra support, like you staying for longer in the mornings for a little while. You are entitled to chat to your employer about accommodating your needs as a caregiver, so think about how you can best be there for your little one as they learn to spend extended periods away from you.

This is your toddler's first big step into the world! They're growing up, and soon you'll be hearing all sorts of stories about the friends they've made and the games they've played. If your child seems consistently disinterested or distressed after childcare, chat to the carers about how you can work together to improve your child's experience.

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