I planned to be a stay-at-home parent until our daughter started elementary school. But due to the pandemic, changes in our family support network and a desire to return to work, I’ve had to go back sooner than expected.
We were fortunate enough to find full-time childcare that suits our family. We toured the space, reviewed documents, signed all of the paperwork and were given a start date. But then I was left wondering how I could help my 2-year-old daughter prepare for the transition from home to daycare.
I couldn’t find many resources in Montreal about this topic but the internet provided some answers, along with reading posts from various parenting groups. Many mentioned talking with the daycare provider about daily routines and schedule, and then trying to implement some of them at home in the weeks leading up to the start date.
What is the daycare’s daily schedule including drop off and pickup times?
We started adapting about three weeks before our start date to match times for being ready to leave the house, having snacks and lunch at similar times as the new schedule, and following similar nap times. The first few days were an adjustment but once we got into the routine, our day had a good flow. Our provider also included special COVID-19 protocols, so we have practiced wearing masks more often.
What is the menu for snacks and lunches?
Our provider serves lots of variety and has a monthly menu. I tried to have similar snacks and lunches so it wasn’t such a big change in what she was used to eating.
What items do we need to take and what will be comforting?
I knew that I needed to provide a blanket for rest time, and that the nap room will be much different than the blackout white noise room she currently sleeps in. We started practicing lying down with a blanket for the beginning of the nap in a brighter room, and using a blanket and pacifier, which we will bring to the daycare.
Countdown Paper Chain
We made a paper chain for our start date, and started counting down as part of our morning routine. It was a fun activity and added some colourful decor using materials we already had at home. The paper chain also allowed us to talk about the changes coming as we were getting ready for the day ahead.
I had my daughter pick out her favourite labels from Colle et moi and help me stick everything on her clothes and items. This was a tip I received from multiple parents.
We watched a few YouTube videos that helped explore feelings about embarking on a new chapter in life. Although these are about starting school, the lessons learned translate to daycare transitions as well.
I have learned so much from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The episodes explore feelings, and finding a way to deal with happy, sad and in-between emotions.
Cocomelon songs get stuck in my head easily, and this one helped me think of the routines we had to implement the night before my daughter started daycare.
Books are also helpful and here are a few suggested titles, which I picked up at my local library:
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Maisy Goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney
When Mama Goes to Work by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
We have picked out an outfit (or two) for the first day, chosen a new water bottle, and have explored the route to daycare. I am still nervous about a new routine and lots of changes for my daughter. But many of these resources have helped me feel calmer and have also brought a level of excitement about this new chapter in her life.
Related read: Pave the way to better sleep for kids