Before we know it, holidays will be coming to an end and we will all be returning to centres – or bringing our child along for their first day in care!
All children react differently; some easily adapt to new environments, while others are unsure. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to make the settling-in period easier on yourself and your child.
We went straight to the parents who have been through the process and know what might work. Here are their top tips:
1. Ask your centre about their orientation policy
This allows your child to become familiar with their new environment, and even engage in a Stay and Play, where parents can remain at the centre while little ones get comfortable.
2. Familiarise your child
Prior to your child’s start date, drive past the early education and child care centre wherever possible and show your child where they will be attending. Talk about the experiences they will have and the new educators and friends they will meet, along with the new learning resources and toys they will be able to enjoy.
3. Engage in pretend play
In the weeks leading up to your child’s first day, have a few pretend play sessions about going to child care. You can act out the different steps involved in the morning routine before pretending to drive to care and enacting different scenarios and fun activities that might happen while they’re there.
4. Make a storybook
Check out the centre website and print off a few photos of the centre, then paste the photos into Word and add simple captions before printing them out and stapling them into a book. Read the storybook every day in the week before they start care. You will be amazed at how much this activity engages and prepares children for their first day!
5. Ask your centre how they will help your child settle in
Don’t be shy to contact your centre and ask them about the measures they have in place to help children settle in. From consistent morning routines to uplifting songs and engaging games, your centre’s caring team will have a solid plan in place to keep new children happy and entertained.
6. Pack your child’s comfort toys
Send comforting items such as blankets, cuddly toys, dummies and sleeping bags to help your child feel secure. Be sure to also include a water bottle, hat and spare change of clothes in their backpack too, with everything labelled.
7. Be consistent at drop-off
In the first few days, spend some extra minutes with your child in their room to show them you are comfortable and confident in the environment. Read a book or engage in an activity together with your child to help them feel comfortable and secure. Share information with educators to provide consistency between home and care routines.
When it comes time to say goodbye, let your child know you are leaving and will be coming back. A consistent approach to saying goodbye is helpful for your child to learn to predict when you will be leaving! You may choose a special place with your child where they settle before you leave.
8. Ask your child about their day
At the end of the day, set aside 10 minutes to have a cuddle and a chat with your child. Ask them how their day went, who they played with and what their favourite activity was. This debriefing session will allow your little one to work through any tough moments and celebrate the awesome ones.
We recognise this can be an emotional time for both children and parents, and we will provide the support required for your child to settle into our centre.
We look forward to welcoming your family at one of our centres to see how we can work with you and settle your child into their new routine.