How do you ensure your child’s first month at child care is a positive and reassuring experience for everyone?
In part two of our story on transitioning to child care in the first month, Communities@Work’s Early Education and Care Centre managers Cherie Fensom (Richardson), Julia Hughes (Greenway) and Natasha Weissman (Ngunnawal), who have a combined 50 years of experience, share their top 10 tips for making that first month a happy one for families.
Tip #6 – Fostering a sense of belonging
In the first few weeks, Communities@Work educators focus on fostering a sense of belonging in new children. We keep your child occupied, create friendships with them, engage them in group activities and outdoor play, and give them their own nametags and personal spaces at the child care centre.
“I was so happy to see Jaycob really settling into the preschool room routine and already making some friends,” says new mum Jessyca Alcock on her son’s first week at Richardson Child Care & Education Centre. “I was extremely impressed that on Jake’s second day he already had name tags and his tote box had a photo of him on it. It made me feel like he was already a part of the Richardson family.”
With babies it’s important to form a relationship with them, a bit like primary caregiving. That’s best done one-on-one with a particular educator that the child gravitates to. Let the child take the lead.
In older children we often foster that sense of belonging through group activities, such as table top activities, where you sit with the children and play and construct with them. And with new children we bring them into that group and encourage them with conversations around the table.
If they like helping you at home, we encourage them to help us at the centre.
“Jaycob loves helping the educators,” says Richardson Child Care & Education Centre manager, Cherie Fensom. “So we try and engage him as much as we can to help him feel a part of the room. He helps with the lunches, wipes down the tables after lunch or craft, and picks the books for group reading time.”
Tip #7 – Share your family’s interests and skills
Family involvement can go a long way in ensuring that your child is happy at the child care centre. Support your child in building their connections with educators and children at the centre by sharing exciting tasks they completed at home or interests or skills they have. If you have a talent or connection, share it with the centre. Our educators love family involvement! As we’ve said before, we enrol families, not just the child.
Tip #8 – Keep in touch with StoryPark
Feeling a bit out of the loop? Don’t worry – StoryPark is only a phone screen away! StoryPark is an amazing online communication tool that shares your child’s learning journey and curriculum plan with you. Our educators will send you updates, photos and videos so you can share your child’s milestones, achievements and learning journey. Our families love this.
Tip #9 – The pick up
Make sure your child clearly knows who’s picking them up in the afternoon and share that with us so we can remind them too. It’s a good idea to link collection time with the afternoon rather than a specific time (“I’ll pick you up after afternoon tea,” rather than, “I’ll pick you up at 3.30pm”). This avoids your child standing by the door waiting (if they can read the time) and being upset if you’re running late.
When you arrive allow time to come inside the child care centre and have a chat with our educators about how your child’s day was. This is also a great time to bring up anything that you may have forgotten to pass on that may help your child throughout the day. (“I forgot to tell you that when you’re putting my baby to sleep, if you gently rub your fingers over her eyes she will fall asleep very quickly.”)
Tip #10 – Keep us in the loop
Keep your child’s educators informed of changes taking place at home or any events coming up so we can understand if their behaviour changes and develop strategies to support them through those periods of change during their time at long day care.
“In just a fortnight Jake’s gone from crying every day and not wanting to go to ‘school’ to being excited to come to child care and calling the educators his best friends,” says Jessyca. “That’s lovely to see such a transition and so comforting to know that he’s become a part of the Richardson family. I couldn’t be happier.”
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 commsatwork.org.
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