How To Prepare Your Toddler For a New Daycare Center

The thought of a new daycare center can be super scary!

Is your toddler headed to a daycare center for the first time? Or are you considering switching locations and you are nervous about your little one’s transition? You are not alone! It can be a really scary feeling. One of the most unsettling feelings imaginable, actually. Not necessarily for the child, but for you, mama! No, you’re not crazy. We always want our children to feel secure, happy, and accepted no matter the situation. Uprooting them from one place and sticking them in another can create tons of anxiety and make us a bit worried about how it will go.

I remember when my daughter, 2.5 at the time, began her first day at a new place. She transitioned from a home daycare to a traditional center and I was scared out of my whits! This new place would be very different from the home she was used to, and I worried about how well she (and I) would successfully make that transition. The first-day jitters were worse for me than her, obviously because I had a list of 100 things I needed go smoothly! However, I put a few things in place to help us BOTH prepare her for her special day.

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Preparing your toddler for a new daycare center:

  1. Talk about it! You can casually introduce your child to the concept of attending a new daycare center and even count down the days to the first day. In this way, they will start to become familiar with the concept and it gives you a chance to answer any questions they may have. Don’t worry if they don’t ask questions or seem to grasp the concept. It may be a bit past their understanding at this point. But talking to them about their new center is good practice for you both. Try not to go into too much detail so as not to overwhelm them! Follow their ques and answer questions as they come up.
  2. Don’t let them see your concern. I know it may be a tad bit scary for you! So many unknowns. But don’t show them how worried you are. Look confident and happy about the new challenge because little ones can pick up on your concern.
  3. Let them help prepare. Take them shopping and let them help pick out their new school supplies. Allow them to choose a special first-day outfit. This helps them feel independent and look forward to their big day!
  4. Read a book about the first day of school. There are many books published to help kids transition to their first day. Order a few from Amazon or visit your local library. The children’s section has a group of books dedicated to the first day of school.
  5. Give extra hugs and kisses. Stepping into the unknown can leave your child feeling a little insecure. Be sure to load up with the hugs, kisses so they can feel extra loved on their big day.

This doesn’t seem so bad, right? Now on to the HARD stuff!

Getting YOURSELF together

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Now here is where I struggled! Helping my child prepare for the transition was a cakewalk compared to getting myself together! I was a nervous wreck! I had butterflies in my stomach leading up to THE BIG DAY, so I completely understand if you are worried too. Here’s what I did to make it through the first day:

  1. Drop ‘n Go. Stay just long enough to make sure they are comfortable, and then be on your way. Staying too long may increase their separation anxiety and make it harder for you to leave out.
  2. Don’t let them see the tears! If you’re anything like me, you are probably fighting back crocodile tears by this point. But don’t let them see this! Smile, look happy, give them encouragement! Again, your feelings are contagious and they need to know you are okay. Once you establish they are okay, quickly leave out. Cry on the other side of the door if you have to. But the last thing they should see is your smiling face.
  3. Check-in but not too much. After you made it out the center and headed home or to work, try not to call too many times. I know you want to check on them and its so hard to resist the urge. But chances are, they are fine. Also, it’s likely the center would call you if there were a problem. Excessive calling may increase your anxiety.
  4. Imagine wonderful things. Sometimes we tend to imagine all of the things that are going wrong on a first day. Like, is she crying? Are the other kids nice to her? Does she have an appetite? Did she cry herself to sleep during nap time? Try thinking positively! Imagine your child laughing, smiling, and enjoying the new experience. Rewire your thoughts to spew out positive images to curb your anxiety.
  5. Celebrate! After you pick them up, celebrate the fact that you both made it through the day! When I arrived to get my daughter, one look at her face and I knew she had a fantastic time! Our reunion was amazing! I saved as many things as I could from that day: the before-school photos, the drawings, and even the teacher report. One day you will look back and remember how bitter/sweet this day was!
My daughter was given a balloon on her first day of school

Do you have additional tips on how to prepare a toddler for a new daycare center?

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I am a career-driven mother of 3 dedicated to the health, spiritual, and emotional well-being of moms.