Transitioning to Child Care


Child care can be filled with mixed emotions, whether it is your child's first experience or you are moving from one environment to another. Preparing yourself and your child for this important change in your lives will make the transition easier. Following are some tips to help with the transition to child care, as well as some tips when you drop off and pick up your child.

Transition Tips

  • Be aware of your own feelings. If you are feeling unsure about leaving your child, your child will sense your ambivalence and may have a harder time saying goodbye. Try to understand why you are feeling ambivalent.
  • Talk positively about the experience in front of your child.
  • If your child is old enough to understand, explain what will be happening. Go over the details of the routine and activities of the new child care arrangement.
  • Visit the home with your child. Take pictures while you are there and hang them on the refrigerator or make a book for your child to become familiarized with the child care.
  • You may want to consider staying with your child for a couple of hours during the first few days. If you do, make sure your child is clear on how long you will be staying. If you leave when you say you will, you are establishing trust and reliability with your child.
  • Try not to make other major changes in your child's life during the transition to child care.

Drop Off Tips

  • Always tell your child when you're leaving and when you'll be back.
  • Bring a special belonging from home, like a blanket or toy
  • Try to spend at least a few minutes at the child care program's home or center in the morning helping your child say hello to his caregiver.
  • Try sending something of yours with him; like a photo, scarf, or a letter on which you have drawn lots of x's (kisses).
  • Say ''good-bye'' in your own special way (give him a hug, blow a kiss, etc.)
  • Leave immediately after saying good-bye. Showing ambivalence will undermine the message to your child that he will be safe and fine without you.
  • Never sneak out. Say good-bye even if your child is too young to understand what the word means. You are telling him he can count on you to let him know when you will leave. That way he will never have to worry that you are suddenly going to disappear.

Pick Up Tips

  • Try to pick up your child at the same time every day.
  • Greet your child in a warm manner and get on his eye level.
  • Allow your child time to make the transition.
  • Spend time talking to the child care provider about your child's day.
  • Demonstrate that you have thought about your child by occasionally bringing him something special for the car ride home or by playing a game with him.
  • Talk about the events of the day (both yours and your child's), and your arrival home reminding him of the evening routine.

By providing support for your child's early ''hellos'' and ''good-byes,'' you are laying the groundwork for the many separations and reunions that will be part of his life.