You’ve chosen your perfect child care centre, gone to the orientation visits, packed your child’s bag. Now it’s time to send them off.
But how can you make sure your child’s first month at child care is a positive and reassuring experience for everyone?
Communities@Work’s Early Education and Care Centre managers Cherie Fensom (Richardson), Julia Hughes (Greenway) and Natasha Weissman (Ngunnawal) have over 50 years of experience between them in helping new families successfully transition to child care. Based on their wait lists and positive parent feedback, they’ve got a winning formula!
Here they share their top 10 tips for making that first month at child care a happy one.
Tip #1 – Show excitement not anxiety
Try to show excitement about your child starting their new adventure because your little one may be feeling how you are. If you’re nervous this tends to rub off on them.
New mum Jessyca Alcock admits being very nervous on her three year old son Jaycob’s first day at Richardson Child Care and Education Centre until she saw how the educators made it really comfortable for him.
“They worked hard to create a bond and know Jaycob’s interests, so now he’s really excited to come.”
Tip #2 – The drop off
Arrive early so you’re not just dropping and running. Sit with your child for five minutes before you go. Read, play and explain that you’ll be going soon. Children can become quite upset if they look up and find you’ve gone without a pre-warning.
Sometimes day two and three are actually harder than day one because your child works out that once you leave, you’re gone for the day. Don’t hang around and try to help settle them if they cry. This will usually just give them false hope that you’re staying and will only make it harder each time.
Have one kiss and big hug goodbye and then (big breath) …… leave. Our long day care educators are very good at taking over and beginning the settling in steps they have planned for your child.
“One of the major things that made settling in easy was that when I walked into the Richardson centre the educators always made contact and talked to me,” says mum Jessyca.
“Then they’d ask Jaycob how he was, give him a hug if he was a bit teary and engage him in one of his interests. So instead of worrying about how I was going to leave Jaycob, they made me feel reassured that he’d be in good hands.”
Tip #3 – Explaining the day plan
Explain to your child the night before that they’ll be going to a child care centre and are going to be dropped off for long day care. Once at the centre, our educators explain to them what’s going to happen during the day so they feel less anxious about the unknown routine. We’ll also let them know who’s coming to pick them up in the afternoon.
Tip #4 – Call as many times as you’d like
Call as many times during the day as you need to check in and see how things are going. We’re very honest in our communications. If your child hasn’t settled into the new environment of child care quickly, we’ll let you know that. We’ll call you with an update so you don’t worry for the whole day.
“I called the centre quite a lot in that first week,” Jessyca laughs. “But when I saw how well they were looking after him, how he was hugging the educators, it just made me so happy that he was having a great time and it wasn’t as hard anymore to leave him.”
Tip #5 – Providing extra TLC
Our educators provide plenty of extra TLC in those first few weeks. We use your child’s interests to settle them and build social connections.
Bring in your child’s favourite toy. Tell us their favourite song. We’ll ensure their long day care doesn’t feel long at all!
If your child only comes one day a week, we try to be consistent with the educators who engage with them, so there’s not someone different each time they come.
“One of the many things I love about Jaycob’s educators,” says Jessyca, “is that they’ve taken the time to really learn about him and to meet his needs. Jaycob really likes dirt bikes and motor bikes. So the centre is planning on buying more bikes. I love how they’re dedicated to making each child happy.”
Communities@Work is Canberra’s largest community organisation and largest provider of children’s services, with almost 4,500 children enrolled throughout its 12 early education and care centres, 15 before and after school care services, 11 school holiday programs, as well as family day care and in-home care services. Communities@Work child care centres can be accessed across the Canberra region.
For more information, please visit www.commsatwork.org
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