Starting child care: why it’s good to prepare for the transition
In the weeks and days before your child starts child care, it’s good to get your child and family ready for the transition.
This is a good time for:
- making sure your child care service has all the information it needs to care for your child well
- preparing yourself and your child for the change, both practically and emotionally.
Quality early childhood education and care can help your child learn and develop well. By preparing your child for the transition, you can help your child get the most out of the child care experience.
Before your child starts care: information to give early childhood educators and carers
Think about what early childhood educators and carers need to know about your child, and let them know before your child starts. This is likely to include information about:
- your child’s wellbeing, including sleep patterns, emotional and social preferences, any family circumstances that might affect your child, and your child’s comfort items like a dummy or special toy
- food allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions
- any help your child needs with toileting
- your child’s interests – for example, dinosaurs or space
- learning activities your child enjoys – for example, puzzles, drawing or construction
- any concerns you have about your child’s development
- specific family circumstances that might affect your child’s care – for example, custody arrangements
- your child’s immunisation status.
The weeks before starting child care: emotional and practical preparation
It’s a good idea to start preparing several weeks before your child’s first day at child care.
Getting familiar with the service
Ask the educators and carers about their orientation program and suggestions for settling children in. Some child care services offer transition mornings, playgroups or playtimes for parents and children. Or you and your child might be able to visit the service to get to know the setting, the early childhood educators, and other children and parents.
Getting used to the routine
To get your child used to the child care daily routine, you can ask the service about its daily schedule and make this part of your child’s routine at home, if this works for your child.
Child care settings should follow babies’ personal routines. But for older children, it can be a good idea to introduce the setting’s lunch, play and nap times at home. Your child might take less time to adjust to the routine when care starts.
Getting familiar with educators
In the weeks before starting, you can find out who your child’s main educator will be. If you can get a photo of this educator and talk about them by name, they’ll be more familiar to your child.
Reading or telling stories
Books and stories about starting child care or making new friends can be a safe way for your child to explore strong emotions and understand new events. It’s good to include all the feelings your child might go through – for example, happiness, enjoyment, friendship, sadness, anxiety, apprehension and tiredness.
And talking positively with your child about the new environment, friends, educators and activities will help both you and your child feel positive too.
The night before starting child care: practical tips
If you get practical things organised the night before, it can help you avoid a last-minute rush in the morning. This can take the stress out of the first few days and weeks at child care.
Here are some tips for the night before starting child care:
- Try to ensure your child eats a healthy dinner.
- Get your child into bed in enough time for a good night’s sleep. If your child doesn’t sleep well, this might affect their experience the next day, so let your child’s educators know.
- Check that all the things your child is taking to child care are labelled with your child’s name.
- Pack all the things your child needs, including bottles, formula, nappies, hat, spare clothes, medicines and medical record.
- Pack special comfort items if the setting allows them, like cuddly toys, blankets or books, or a family picture.
- Pack food if the child care service doesn’t provide meals.
- Wait until the morning to pack any food or drink that needs refrigeration.
Do you need to pack food for your child to take to child care? Transport meat, dairy products or breastmilk from home in an insulated container like an esky or cooler bag with a freezer brick. This should keep the temperature of the food below 5°C. At the service, the food or breastmilk should go straight into a fridge.
Starting child care for children with additional needs
You probably talked with the service about your child’s additional needs when you filled out the waiting list or enrolment forms. If your child gets a diagnosis after this, it’s important to let the service know as soon as possible.
In the weeks before you start, make time to talk with staff so they can prepare for your child. For example, staff might need to set up the room to accommodate a wheelchair or learn positive behaviour strategies that work for your child.
The Australian Government’s Inclusion Support Program funds approved child care services to include all children in their programs, including children with high support needs. Your child care service will need to apply through its state or territory inclusion agency.