St. Louis, MO
Helping Your Child Start a Child Care Center
In my years as a teacher and then a Director of child care centers, I have found these ‘Tips’ have helped families (parents and children) starting in a new center.
- Visit the center without your child; get to know your child’s teacher, her expectations, and the experiences your child will be having.
- With your child visit the center as many times as possible for your schedule. During these visits, reassure your child you will stay while she plays.
- Prepare extra clothes (several sets for younger children), bag, stuffed animal, and blanket to bring to the center.
- Arrange schedules the first weeks so you both are not rushed in the mornings.
- Lay clothes and ‘show and tell’ items (for preschoolers) out the night before.
- If possible, arrange several play sessions prior to starting. Look at these play sessions as ‘dry runs’. Get your child ready; leave her at the center, and then return. The length of time playing is not as important as is the arriving, you leaving and returning. These sessions are as important for you and your child, after all the whole family is starting the new experience.
- Arrange for your child to have shortened days when starting the experience. A full day is a long time, especially for younger children. Gradually, lengthen the time of the day.
- When you arrive at the center, walk your child to her classroom; if possible stay awhile if your child indicates she wants you to stay.
- Sometimes you child may want you to stay and start her in an activity. If you arrive during breakfast or another meal, recognize it may be more difficult to join others eating.
- If your child cannot express herself in English, recognize that a parent should stay with the child the first one or two days. The parent who stays does not have to understand or speak English. The parent’s presence is a reassurance that everything is okay and the parent can help the child understand transitions and routines.
- Be sure the teacher knows what item is your child’s ‘lovey’. A good program and teacher who understands child development will let the child have access to the ‘lovey’ the entire day. Eventually, children have so much to do and will need the ‘lovey’ less and less, then they need it mainly during arrival and rest time.
- Leave a personal item of yours with your child, such things as a bracelet, purse, key chain serve as a concrete reminder that you will return. Let the teacher know it is okay for your child to have this item.
- Avoid other changes at the same time, such as when a new sibling is born, a move to a new home, weaning from the bottle or pacifier, etc…
- You may reach a point where talking about the next day, just does not seem to do much good. I believe you simply state, “You have a job and that is to go to the center. I have a job and go to work. I am sure you will have a fun day.” Talking over and over about it is fairly useless—it is difficult to convince a toddler or preschooler going through a transition of separation that everything is going to be okay.
- Always, always say “Goodbye” to your child. In my experience, children who have parents ‘sneak out’ will not trust the teacher or the parent.
- If you leave the center and your child is crying, chances are that she is playing in the next five minutes. Rather than you being upset and feeling guilty all day, call the center and ask how and what she is doing.
- Know that when go to pick her up at the end of the day; she may begin crying when she sees you. I think this behavior is an emotional release from the day, even though she has had a lot of fun.
- After a full week, expect the next Monday will be a more stressful start. You will see this lessen on Mondays after a few weeks.
- This last tip is for you. Try not to feel guilty. In today’s society many, many families have their children in quality group care. And that experience leads children to develop to their full potential. Quality child care offers activities and relationships that are so very positive for your child and for you.
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