Help Toddler to Adjust to Daycare

    By Lisa Hayden / March 12, 2024
    Toddler settling in nursery

    Daycare is a lifesaver for many parents that cannot be with their children throughout the day due to unavoidable commitments such as work. In cases where the baby is used to being with the parent in the home, getting them to enjoy day care can be quite a challenge as they deal with separation anxiety. This is because the child is in a new environment and dealing with new people. You can’t just do this in one day; it has to be a gradual process.

    A toddler looking through a magnifying glass at daycare

    Get up to speed on how your child can adjust to daycare.

    In simplest terms, child care or daycare refers to the care of a child by a person who is not the child’s parents or legal guardians for a specific amount of time during the day, more commonly the time period when the parents are at work. This is usually given by a person who is not a member of the child’s immediate family.

    Transitions are not always without difficulty. Your child may have a hard time adjusting to daycare especially when he has gotten used to being home with you as his primary caregiver. Going to a new location, outside the comforting familiarity of your home, and being taken care of by someone new could prove to be stressful for your child. So, yes, transitioning to daycare is not without difficulty. But it can be helped. In this article are a few things that you can do to help your toddler adjust to his new routine in daycare.

    How to help your toddler adjust to daycare?

    Help Toddler to Adjust to Daycare
    Short Visits

    One of the best ways to help your toddler adjust is to make him get used to the idea of daycare. The longer the time you have given him to get used to the idea, the more likely for him to adjust smoothly.

    Have the child visit the facility you have chosen for short visits even before you start him with daycare. Start with twice a week for a few hours during which they can interact with the other children and the caregivers at the facility. This will help them get familiar with the place as well as the people he will have to spend time with. During these visits, they should be allowed to be themselves. If they don't want to socialize, they can be given activities to do as they get a feel of the place. It is important to make your child feel comfortable. It is okay if your child does not want to interact and socialize with the other kids or caregivers right off the bat. Allow him to open up in his own time.

    Story Time

    Introduce the idea of day care in the home using story books showing children going off to daycare, or watch children’s DVDs showing this. Reading books about children going to daycare will help him understand that your new arrangement is something most children go through. He will feel less alone and anxious if he knows other kids are going off to daycare, too. Use this time to discuss their feelings about the scenarios in the books or DVDs depicting daycare, and what they think about it. Project a positive attitude about daycare highlighting the fun activities there and the possibility of making friends. Reassure your child that everything will be alright and remind him why going to daycare will be good for the both of you. Talk positively about the daycare and tell him all about the new friends that he can make and how he will get to play with them. Avoid projecting a negative attitude as kids easily pick up anxiety. Be accommodating and answer all his questions about daycare.

    Sleep Schedules

    Before he starts his first day at the daycare, make sure that your child is getting adequate sleep and rest at least for several days or weeks. Children need a lot of sleep to make up for their overflowing energy. A toddler will need an average of 10 hours of sleep, sometimes even more. Try to establish a sleeping schedule for your child that will fit in enough hours of sleep for him before you have to wake him up and prepare him for daycare. It is important that he does not feel hurried and rushed as this may cause anxiety on his part. Determine how much time it will take to get your child ready for his day at the daycare so that you can establish his time of waking up.

    Help Toddler to Adjust to Daycare

    Having established a wake-up time, count 10 to 12 hours backwards and make that your child’s bedtime. Make this a routine. It will do wonders for you and your child if, during bedtime, you spend a few minutes reading, singing or talking to him. This will appease any feelings of uncertainty in your child and will strengthen your bond. Establishing a bedtime and waking up routine will help the child feel secure and less anxious about the transition.You should know the schedule of the daycare you are taking your toddler to and try to mimic their routine at home.

    This will make it easy for the toddler to adjust at daycare because they do things as you have made a point of doing them at home. Arrange your work schedule to work with the daycare schedule and the home schedule so that all things are free flowing most of the time. This will help the child feel secure and enjoy their day care experience. There should be a routine set in place for when they wake up, prepare and head to daycare, and when you pick them up, clean them, feed them and put them to bed.

    Spend Time with Your Child

    Don’t replace your presence with daycare. You have to make time each day for your child; otherwise they will resent daycare. This is especially common where the child used to spend a lot of time with the parent before daycare. They still need that connection so there must be at least an hour or two of quality time with them, when you get home to keep them happy. In this time, you must listen to them. Ask them about how they spent their day and any good or bad things they may have experienced. This helps to keep them out of trouble, as well.

    Visit Daycare

    Once they get into daycare, that should not be the end of it. You need to make visits to the daycare to see them so that they don’t view it as a place where you dump them each day and leave. Visit with a gift, have lunch with him, volunteer to spend some time with the kids at daycare reading stories or help in other activities. This will help you to interact with your child’s friends and day care representatives so that they feel you are a part of their lives.

    Involve Your Child

    It can help with the transition if you make your child feel involved with the new arrangement. You can ask him what snack he would like to bring to daycare or ask him to pick out a special toy he could bring with him to daycare. Just be sure that bringing such items is allowed at your daycare. For a more subtle yet effective approach, you can ask your child to pick out a picture that he would like to bring. Bringing a picture that he could look at during the day will help him feel more at home at the daycare center.

    Taper the Hours

    Take baby steps. Or in your toddler’s case, take toddler steps. Transition your child to going to daycare from staying home with you by bringing him in for just a few hours on the first few days. Then as days go on, add more and more hours until he is able to spend the whole day at the center. This will help him to gently acclimatize to his new surrounding.

    Help Toddler to Adjust to Daycare
    Be Firm and Keep Your Word

    When it is time for you to leave your child at the daycare, clearly explain to him that you need to go. Ask for the caregiver’s assistance so that he or she may take over once you have settled your child. The caregiver may help by catching his interest with a toy or an activity after you have said goodbye. Leave once you have made it clear that you are going. In case your child protests about you leaving, you may ask the caregiver to assist you and let you leave. Keep your word when you tell him that you will be back for lunch or that you will pick him up after work at a specific time. This will help in building trust and will help your child have a sense of security.

    Be Patient

    Do not expect a smooth transition within a matter of days. Your child’s adjustment may take up more than a few days to a week or two. Be patient and do not express your frustration to your kid. Do not make him feel that he is upsetting you because this will only add up to the anxiety that he is already feeling. However, if your child does not show any amount of improvement after more than a couple of weeks, you might have to reevaluate the daycare setting as your child may be suffering from more than separation anxiety.

    Continue Your Involvement

    These are a few ways to help your child adjust to daycare. Your continued involvement in his day should make him feel important and loved. Even when your child has already adjusted to your new arrangement, be sure to be in the loop with him. Pick him up regularly. Ask him how his day went. Pay surprise visits to the daycare. Keep him happy and make him feel secure with the sense of belonging.

    What are the advantages of daycare over hiring a nanny?

    • Daycare centers are formal, structured environments and many parents appreciate the idea that their children will be exposed to such an environment.
    • Most daycare centers are licensed and are inspected regularly to verify their compliance. The caregivers are mostly supervised so there is no anxiety about having the need to check in as opposed to hiring a nanny whom you can’t be too sure how he or she would handle your child during your child’s trying moments.
    • Daycare centers have rules for parents so that expectations are appropriately set.
    • Daycare centers are usually more affordable than hiring a private nanny.
    • Daycare centers may be a good venue to meet and mingle with other parents, with whom you may be able exchange ideas about parenting. You may even be able to form your support network with the parents that you will meet.
    • Unlike with hiring a nanny, that arrangement with day care centers are more stable. You won’t have to worry when your nanny calls in sick or when he or she wants to take the day off.

    What are the benefits of daycare for you and your child?

    • Your child is less likely to have emotional problems. Children will do better spending their day in a daycare than staying home with their parents who may be undergoing some emotional problems or anxiety. Children easily pick up emotions from adults. Any negative feelings may easily be projected to the child.
    • Your child will have an opportunity to grow. You might not be thinking about it yet, but enrolling your child in a quality day care program may actually help him become successful in the future. Quality daycares with qualified teachers will be able to handle any behavioral problem your child might have. Their programs and activities will give your child the chance to develop his socialization skills. Going to daycare will establish in your child a sense of routine and this will be very helpful for when he starts going to school.
    • Your child will be given more opportunities to observe and play with other kids. Stimulation and affection from other children will help increase his intellectual ability.
    • Your child will display better behavior since his socialization skills will be developed in the daycare center. He will learn how to share and and interact with other children and adults. He will learn how to be a team player and how to solve problems during play. He will be able to improve his communication skills, especially when conflict is involved.
    • There will be less stress for you. You will have the opportunity to return to work, which may actually do you good in terms of feeling calm and in control. According to some studies, stay at home parents are more at risk of feeling depressed and anxious. daycare may do you good by taking care of your child while you go off to work. At the end of the day, you come home feeling fulfilled. A happy parent will definitely mean a happy child.