The transition of a toddler from home to daycare or playgroup or preschool is often dreaded. I was also very skeptical how my 17-month old son, A, will handle the transition. He was going to spend two hours a day at a childcare centre. That is two hours away from home. It ended with a relatively easy transition. In seven days, he settled happily in daycare.
I decided to send A to daycare for a couple of reasons.
- I wanted a few hours for myself so that I can give myself the much needed time to breathe and do something for my self. Time to rejuvenate and hence have the energy to run behind my toddler was the need of the hour. I needed the time to relax so that I can handle the difficult moments that my toddler throws quite regularly.
- Further, I wanted A to socialize a bit more and learn to interact with other kids. He used to get bored at home the whole day and hence the need for daycare.
I will share below how I handled this transition in the calmest way I could have imagined.
How to Prepare a Toddler for Daycare?
Self-Calming Phase By Positive Affirmations
I knew the first thing I should do is to keep calm. I had to be confident that my son will do great in daycare. Months before he was supposed to start, I slept with these positive affirmations. It is a part of neurolinguistic programming, the affirmations start getting into your subconscious mind. Here is what I affirmed. (A here means his name initials)
- A is adjusting very beautifully in daycare
- He is happy at daycare
- A is cooperating with mumma in this transition
Read Relevant Books To The Child
After I got confident of the transition, I started to hunt for some books that will explain how a daycare will be so much fun! A LOVES books so I thought it would be best if I try to inculcate love for daycare by reading him books. Luckily I found such books soon. I read these books to him every day with a highly animated voice so that he understood the essence of the stories more. He started loving this book ‘Goat Goes To Playgroup‘ and every day in our reading sessions, he would take out this book and ask me to read. This stage was a success again. I was delighted to see he was happy with the concept of daycare.
Packing His Favourite Toys In His Favorite Bag
My husband got a beautiful bag in the shape of a car from Hong Kong. A’s love for cars and other vehicles is IMMENSE. I packed some of his favourite stuff like an auto toy, shark, pigeon toy and few of his favourite books so that he has something familiar in the otherwise unfamiliar daycare surroundings. He was super happy carrying his bag on the first day to the daycare, a success again. Babysteps 🙂
Making The Daycare Space Familiar
I felt that the more familiar I could make this new space for A, the better he would adjust. So on the first day, I clicked some pics of A playing with the see-saw, slides, toys, teachers and caretakers there. I showed these pictures to him at home and tell him their names. I used to reinforce that this was his playgroup and that remind him that he has lots of fun there with friends there. He started to say aunty-aunty whenever I mentioned playgroup. He had bonded with an aunty (aka caretaker) there.
I stayed with him in the play area of the daycare premises for some time the first few days. I played with him while he made friends with the teachers and caregivers. Then I would leave him there, come downstairs and wait till he was ready to go back home. He cried initially and it felt terrible.
I had to remain strong and sent heart to heart positive thoughts while waiting for him downstairs. From my mind, I willed him to be calm and happy and think it helped. Everyday A jump in excitement when I told him we are heading to the daycare. He would pick up his bag and try to open the main door of our house to go out. I felt happy for the fact that he wasn’t dreading his time at playgroup.
No Sneaking Away
After three days, I didn’t go to the play area to leave him. I let the caretaker take him upstairs so that he can start transitioning with me being around. The IMPORTANT point was that I never sneaked away and left him alone with the caregivers. I honestly told him that he will be having lots of fun with his friends, while I get some work done.
Sneaking away behind the child’s back only increases their anxiety. They lose their trust. Children understand everything, so it’s better to convey the reality to them and they do understand. By the sixth day, A was playing happily with the toys, his friends and teachers.
I felt at the top of the world!!!
The seventh day, A went towards aunty on his own, even had a banana in the playgroup. What more can I ask for!
This post first appeared at THE K JUNCTION – A blog on Parenting, Early Learning, Montessori, Music & Healing.