Advice for parents - preparing your little one for childcare

How do you feel about leaving your child with a childcarer? Are you confident that they will be fine or are you worried about the separation... or your child being more attached to their childcarer than you... or how you will cope if they cry?

Leaving children can be a traumatic experience for many children and their families, even if they are still in the home environment with a nanny or in a home-from-home setting with a childminder.

There are no quick fixes for ensuring a smooth transition, but there are lots of tips which you can use
to support your child to confidently settle in their first weeks...

✔ Be confident yourself - your child will pick up on your concern. Talk about all the positive aspects of their new childcare - the friends they will meet, the places they will visit, the toys they will play with etc...

✔ Give it time - a week or 2 is not long enough, especially if your child only attends part-time. Some children need an extra few weeks, or even an extended settling-in period before they are confident and even after this they might cry when you first leave them.

✔ Reassure your child - say ‘goodbye, see you soon’ and leave. You need to find a routine that works for you and use it every session so your child gets used to the words you are using - a kiss, a hug, reassuring words and leave. Don’t be tempted to rush back for one more kiss or hang around in case you are needed - you need to trust your childcarer.

✔ Be excited about the wonderful adventures your child will have with their childcarer. Talk enthusiastically about the friends they will meet and the games they will play.

✔ Talk about the other children who attend so your child learns their names. If your childcarer has a display of photos, point to them and talk about the children- ask your child what their friends like to play with and find out their favourite games. Your child will take more notice of what is happening around them if you are interested in finding out about their time with their childcarer.

✔ Read books about children who go to childminders, nurseries or stay at home with nannies to support your child to understand that childcare happens to lots of other children. If your child is starting nursery soon, watch ‘Balamory’ and talk about how much the children love their time with Miss Hoolie.

✔ Take photos of your childcarer’s house and garden - or ask to borrow a photo album for a weekend - and look through them with your child. Talk about and be interested in where your child plays and what they get up to during their sessions.

✔ Give your child something of yours to look after until you get back. This might be a special scarf which smells of your perfume or a watch they have seen you wearing or something they can keep in their pocket and stroke if they are missing you.

✔ Talk to your child about what will happen during the session so they get to know the routine of the day and when you are going to return. Your childcarer might suggest working with you to put together a visual display of your child’s time in the provision, starting with waving goodbye to parents and finishing with home time.

✔ Play games such as hide and seek so your child knows that you disappear and come back again. 

✔ Give your child plenty of warning about what is happening so he can adjust his thoughts - today we play with mummy and tomorrow you go to see your friends. What games are you going to play? Do you think you will play outside? What do you want for snack?

✔ Read books to your child so s/he knows how to sit and listen to a story. Try not to turn the reading sessions into 20 questions - rather chat about the pictures and the characters and be interested in what your child is saying.

✔ Make sure you pack your child’s favourite comforter - and leave a spare with your childcarer in case it is forgotten. Your childcarer should have a special place where your child can leave their dummy, blanket, teddy etc which is accessible in case it is needed through the day.

✔ Don’t sneak out when you leave your child and go off to work - make sure your child knows you are going and coming back after lunch or after tea.

✔ Give your child some control - putting their shoes on the shelf, hanging up their own coat, showing you where they want to play when they first arrive etc.

✔ Understand that your child knows and fully understands the power of emotional blackmail and trust your childcarer to deal with it sensitively and caringly.

✔ Don’t be tempted to buy a present every time your child is ‘good’ in the morning - bribery can work in the long term but it usually ends up causing more problems than it solves. 

✔ Take your child to play dates and toddler groups to support their social development and to get them used to group play. Encourage them to join in at snack time or singing and reading sessions so they learn to sit and listen to another adult.

✔ Teach your child how to put on their own shoes and coat and blow their nose as soon as they are developmentally ready. This will help them to develop the self help skills they need to cope in a group setting. It is also important to encourage your child’s independence by giving them little jobs around the house and garden.

✔ Make time for your child to attend at least 2 short settling-in sessions with the children they will normally meet during their sessions. Be prepared to extend the settling-in process if your childcarer feels it will benefit your child.

✔ Provide your child with a small transition doll or teddy which always goes to their childcarer with them and has the same experiences as they do. Once your child is settled you will probably find the doll or teddy is bandoned quickly, but in the early days it can be a very comforting presence. Keep it small though - so your child has a hand free to hold toys and play.

✔ Be prepared to answer lots and lots of questions so your childcarer can get to know your child before you leave them. Be honest about what your child can do at home because this will help your childcarer to get to know your child as quickly as possible.

✔ Listen to your child’s fears and worries and talk about them honestly and openly, reassuring them that there is nothing to worry about. Children fret about the strangest things (in adults eyes) but to them it is important so it needs voicing and talking through.

✔ Teach your child a few songs and rhymes so they can join in with group sessions and know the words and actions. If you are not sure what to sing, look on You Tube for ideas.

✔ Buy cheap play clothes so your child knows s/he can get dirty and messy without being told off. Many children hang back from messy play in case they get dirty - so reassure your child that mud is fun and everything washes.

✔ Let your child choose a special little bag and help to choose, fold and pack their spare clothes. This will help them to participate in the process.

If you have settling in tips that worked for you and your child, please let us know at Childcare.co.uk so we can add them to our list and support other parents to feel confident about their child’s setting in.

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