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How to settle your child into daycare

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Walking away and leaving your baby with carers can be a heart-wrenching experience, not just for the child, but for you too. Make the transition easier on both of you by following these tips from experienced childcare worker Kath, from St Ives Occasional Care.

When you enrol your child in daycare, it’s so important to know the wellbeing of your son or daughter is a priority for staff. Most quality daycares understand that children have different needs, and so they have developed different techniques for settling them should they feel unsure or nervous about the departure of their mum, dad, or carer.

The needs of different children 

If upset when separating from their parent, some children may only need a cuddle from a staff member or to be distracted by bubbles, a story, or a toy.

Others may just want to be left alone, and these children offer a challenge to staff because we hate to leave a child who is in distress! However, this type of child will often become more upset by more attention.

A strategy our staff use in these situations is going for a walk around the centre to show the child different activities that they may like to do, like painting, the sandpit, or  playing with the bikes and cars. If this doesn’t work, putting the child in a stroller with a few toys will give them a place which feels secure while they can watch what the other children are doing. Sometimes children will fall asleep but generally they will wake up after a short time and be much happier! If this happens it is only as the child is adjusting to a new environment. It is only temporary!

In general, after a few visits children happily separate, but if the situation continues, most often at quality centres staff will work with you to reach a happy outcome.

Tip for helping your child settle into childcare

  • Send a favourite cuddly toy, blanket or dummy that your child has at home
  • If your child is old enough to understand, before the visit talk about how fun the centre is
  • For non-verbal children, try to let your expression and body language show you’re confident and happy when going to daycare. Smile and use a positive tone when you greet your child’s educators.
  • If your centre offers orientation sessions, take advantage of these sessions to help your child get familiar with the centre while you’re there
  • If you are upset when you leave, try not to show it as it may confuse your child. Instead, show you are happy and positive (even though this is often traumatic for you if you haven’t left your child in care before!). Leave the crying until you’re well out of sight!
  • Develop a drop-off routine and don’t linger, as this may confuse your child or send mixed signals, which can make an uneasy child more upset.
  • When you leave, say goodbye and talk about when you will be back, eg “Have a lovely day and I’ll see you after….fruit time/ lunchtime” etc, so you can set up the expectation that you’ll be returning each day.
  • Remember, you can usually ring, email or text your centre to see how your child’s day is going and be reassured about any concerns.
  • Remember, many educators are mothers themselves, as well as trained experienced carers…. they understand what you’re going through!
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