The First Day of Daycare:

Preparing Child (and Mom!) for First Day of Daycare

first day of daycare

In today’s society, it is very normal for Mom to have to go to work to help support the family and to put the children in daycare. It’s a huge debate whether this is the right thing to do for your children or not, but unfortunately many of us have no other option. So since we are putting our children in daycare, it’s important to make the first day as easy and smooth as we can for them.

The first day of daycare may mean that you’ve been staying home with your child, but it has now become necessary for you to work outside the home and place your child in daycare. Or it could be that you’ve moved, changed jobs or lost your current daycare so it has now become necessary to find a new daycare. The following tips will make it easier for both the child and mom to adjust to the change.

You need to know your child’s personality to know how to approach the idea of a new daycare. Is your child very friendly and easy-going? Is he going to be able to just walk into the new environment and not give it a second thought? Or is she shy and guarded?  Will she need to take things slow in order to get comfortable?

The average child will need an adjustment period when starting their new daycare. It may be a very fearful time for them and may cause crying and screaming when you drop them off. The normal time for this transition period is two to four weeks. After this initial period, your child should let you leave them at daycare without an emotional breakdown.  While you’re still in the transition stage, there are things you can do to make it easier for your child.


    Practice leaving him with friends and family – If you have a child who is not used to being away from you, start leaving him with someone he is comfortable with for short periods of time. Get him used to the idea of when you leave, you will come back again.

    Visit the daycare more than once – Your child will feel more comfortable staying with a provider if she feels like she knows her a little bit. Bring your child to the interview so that she meets the provider initially. Then ask the provider if you may come back another time and just spend time playing with the other children. By the third time you’ve returned to the daycare, your child should feel familiar with some surroundings.

    Talk about the first day of daycare – Bring the new daycare up in conversation several times during the day for the whole prior to the first day. Talk about how exciting it’s going to be to go to this new house, and have a new provider and meet new friends! Ask the child questions about what they think they’ll find when they get there. Will the daycare have any pets? How many boys and how many girls will there be? What do you think she will serve for lunch on the first day?

    Do the prep work ahead of time – Quite a bit of paperwork is required to start a new daycare. Have all the papers filled out ahead of time, the check to the provider written out and supplies you need to take all ready to go so that all your time on that first morning can be dedicated to your child. This will also help once you get to the daycare so that you don’t have to hang around too long because you’re writing out a check or asking a question about a form.

    Read books about going to daycare – There are a lot of good books about going to a new daycare or going to daycare for the first time. Reading these books can help ease any fear your child may have, but it will also open up the possibility of conversation so your child can express anything that is bothering him.

    For books to read about that First Day of Daycare, check out:

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It’s your first day of daycare! You’ve prepared your child as much as you possibly can ahead of time, but what should you expect when you get to the daycare?

On your way to the daycare, keep that positive attitude going. Don’t show that you are nervous because kids can pick up on that. And don’t play into their nervousness because it will compound on itself. 

Some kids will walk right in and be excited to meet new friends and have new toys to play with. They might even forget to say good-bye to mom or dad because they are so eager to go play. But there are other children who will get very upset and cry and cling to mom or dad. This is a normal reaction because being left by yourself at a house you’re not used to can be very scary. For most children who get upset and cry, it will take 2 – 3 weeks to adjust to the new environment and be able to stay at daycare without crying at drop-off. For some children, it may take a little longer. Give it up to three months before you start to wonder if something besides separation anxiety is the problem.

Although this adjustment time to get used to the new daycare can hard on you as a parent because you don’t like to see your child upset, the quicker you make the drop-off, the better. Say good-bye, give hugs and kisses, tell them you love them and walk out the door. Trust the provider to do the rest. The quicker you make your departure, the quicker the child can recover from being upset. Remember, you spent a lot of time picking a quality daycare and your newly entrusted provider will be used to handling this exact situation.

Whatever you do, don’t use the “sneak-out” tactic. Some parents think the right thing to do is go to the play area with their child, get the child interested in some toys or a game and then sneak out. It’s important for a child to learn that mom or dad will leave them in the morning, but will come back to get them when they’re finished working. Although they may not understand all the words you use when they are young, you need to explain it verbally anyway. When you try to sneak out when they’re not looking, you’re teaching them not to trust you. As a provider who has seen this tactic used, I can tell you that children get very, very upset when they discover their parent "snuck out."

Hey, one more thing I’d like to share about starting a new daycare.   It’s a really good time to get rid of some habits you’ve been attempting to break. If your child has a pacifier and it’s time to give it up, do it now. In your child’s mind, this new provider doesn’t know their schedule and habits and they just don’t seem to ask for items they’re used to asking for. Is it a blankie that should maybe stay at home now? How about that bottle that should have been given up two months ago? Let your new provider know that they are breaking a habit, but start a new routine without these items. It’s the easiest time for a child.

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Marcia Reagan is the creator of DaycareAnswers and lives in Central Minnesota with her husband and two children.  She's been an in-home daycare provider for over twenty years and loves to share her experience and passion for daycare with other providers.  

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