Making the Transition into Care

Preparing Your Child for Care

toddler in child seatConsider your child's temperament, age, and prior child care experience when looking at ways to prepare her for child care. Some ideas to help prepare your child include:

  • Visit the program with your child before care begins to meet the teachers, see the rooms and playground, and play with the toys and other children.
  • Find out as much information as you can about the program beforehand, so that you can answer your child's questions about what to expect.
  • Talk to the provider/teachers about how they transition children into the program, and tell your child exactly what will happen during the transitional days.
  • Read books with your child about starting child care, or about new experiences in general.
  • Make a family photo book with your child that she can take with her to child care for comfort and reassurance.
  • Talk to other parents who have recently transitioned their children into care for ideas on how to make it as smooth as possible.
  • Ask for and check your child care provider's references.

If you are leaving one program to begin care at another, make sure your child has the opportunity to say goodbye to the provider and the other children. Decide how you'll stay in touch with them, through photos, letters, etc.

Adjusting to Child Care

Both children and parents will feel the hardship of separating from one another, and feelings of fear and loss are common during this period of adjustment. Here are some things to consider as your child begins a new care experience:

  • Always say goodbye to your child before leaving her at child care. Reassure her that you will be back at the end of the day, or let her know who will pick her up, and at what time.
  • It's common for children to adapt to a new provider or program quickly, then later have feelings of separation anxiety.
  • Understand that it may take a few months for your child to adjust completely. You may see signs of “regression” during these months (for example, with toilet training or thumb-sucking). Soon, it will all become routine!
  • Your child may experience disturbances in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Older infants (6 to 12 months old) may have heightened stranger-anxiety at this stage of development; just be aware that the adjustment may be more difficult at this time.
  • Make sure your provider or teachers have a number to reach you  during the day. Talk to them about the best time for you to call them to check in during the first few days or weeks of care.
  • Place a short and sweet note in your child's backpack or lunch bag.

The End of the Day Transition

The end of the day can be a hectic time for everyone: parents are thinking about dinner preparation, providers and teachers are helping with goodbyes and clean up, and children are involved with activities. Here are a few things you can do to manage the transition from child care to home:

  •  Greet your child first thing! Show her that you're happy to see her, perhaps with a big hug.
  • Greet your child's teachers and check in with them on how your child's day went. This will give you a good sense of her general mood, if she is feeling well, and if there is anything you need to know.
  • If your child is in the middle of an activity, or if she's playing with other children, give her a few minutes to finish up. Tell her how long she has before she needs to say goodbye to her friends and go home.
  • Some children may be reluctant to leave, and may even ignore your arrival. If your child refuses to leave, stay calm and be firm; sometimes this may entail picking her up and bringing her out to the car.
  • Have a small snack in the car for the ride home, especially if it's a long ride.

Page last updated: Jan 9, 2023