Making the transition to child care
Child care is a new environment for your child, with new people and new routines.
Starting slowly is a key way to ease the transition to this new environment for your child. For example, if it works for your family, you could start with short days and stay at child care with your child. Then you could leave your child for short periods, building up to leaving your child for a whole day.
It’s also important to talk to your child’s early childhood educators about the best way to help your child with the transition. The educators have a lot of experience with settling young children into child care, and they’ll be able to suggest options for your child and your family.
The practical and emotional transition to child care might be smoother for you and your child if you start getting ready for child care well ahead of time.
Settling in at child care: tips for the early weeks
Get organised early
Taking care of practical things like lunches and clothes labels the night before (or earlier) will reduce the stress of trying to get out the door. This means you can focus on your child and how they’re feeling on child care mornings. If your morning at home is calm, you’re both more likely to be calm when you say goodbye.
Allow plenty of down time at home
Child care is very stimulating. Your child will probably be tired and need recovery time at home. This might mean an earlier bedtime or longer naps, or maybe just quiet play in a familiar environment.
Make special time at home with you
Now that you have less time with your child, you’ll want to make the most of the time you do have together.
Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding before and after child care can be a good way to connect. You might also be able to build special time into your evening routine, with songs and play at bath time, or cuddles and stories at bedtime. Or plan for relaxed family time together on the weekends – for example, a regular play at the park.
Stay with your child
It’s good to make time to stay with your child as they get used to being without you at child care. You could read a book together, play quietly or watch your child do activities. As you and your child become more comfortable at child care, you’ll develop a drop-off routine that works for both of you.
When it’s time to go, let your child know you’re going and when you’ll be back. Give your child a hug and a kiss, say goodbye to your child’s educator and leave promptly. This makes it easier for your child to settle down with their educator.
Build a relationship with your child’s early childhood educators and carers
Your child is more likely to feel secure in the new child care setting if they see that you have good relationships with early childhood educators. If your child can see that you trust their educator, your child is more likely to trust the educator too.
Plan for breastfeeding
If your child is still breastfeeding, and if it’s possible for you, you might want to think about visiting the centre during the day to feed your child. Many centres encourage breastfeeding mothers to visit, and it might help your child settle into care.
Some children don’t want to leave child care. This shows that they feel safe in the care environment. If your child finds it hard to change activities and go from child care to home, you can give your child a warning so they have time to adjust to the idea. For example, ‘Once we finish building this wall with the blocks, we need to go home and cook dinner’.
Settling children with additional needs into child care: tips
These ideas might help your child with additional needs settle in once child care starts:
- Spend time with your child’s early childhood educators and your child in the setting, so you can show the educators how to look after your child’s additional needs. You might need to support the educator to learn new skills.
- Use a detailed communication book to share information between your home and the care setting.
- Talk with your child’s educator about how you expect your child to behave.
- Let your child’s educator know what strategies you use to manage your child’s behaviour and ask them to share what’s working for them.
- Communicate openly about any trauma your child has experienced, if you can.
The National Quality Framework (NQF) requires that early childhood services are inclusive. This means that every child who attends a service can take part in the service’s regular activities and routines, and that every child feels confident and secure.
Settling children from diverse cultural and language backgrounds: tips
Your child might be going to a child care service that’s culturally different from your home. For example, the educators and other children might speak a different language from the language your family uses at home. These tips might help your child settle in:
- Share some basic words in your child’s home language with the educators – for example, words for sleep, eat, stop, hello, goodbye.
- Explain how much English your child has heard or spoken.
- Explain any customs for eating, dressing or behaviour that might affect your child’s activities at child care.
- Offer to lend the service cultural items that help your child feel welcome – for example, traditional toys, books in your home language, woven or dyed cloth from your culture, or inexpensive cooking utensils to use in home corner.
- Offer to make or share some of your culture’s food with the children. This can make your child feel special and included in the service.
How do you know whether your child has settled well at child care?
Your child has probably settled well at child care if they:
- are generally happy to go to their child care setting
- show you things they’ve made or done at child care
- talk happily about their day (if they’re talking).
If you have any concerns about how your child is settling in at child care, it’s best to talk to your child’s early childhood educators and carers.