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How to Prepare for Your Child's First Day at Daycare

Updated on January 17, 2013

 So your maternity leave is over and it's time to get back to work. That means it's time to get the kids off to daycare! That day can be tough on everyone, but there are steps you can take to make it run smoothly.

Off to daycare.
Off to daycare. | Source

In the months before

If you know from day one that you will be returning to work, it's a good idea to begin preparing them early on. It is very challenging to look after a baby who will only let mom feed her, or will only fall asleep in daddy's arms. Here's how to establish good habits early on:

  • Leave your baby in the care of trusted friends and family members when your child is very young so that he is used to others taking care of his needs.
  • If you are breastfeeding, start pumping as soon as possible and let dad give the bottle.
  • Get her to sleep in a play pen for naps.

Gearing up for day one.

In the weeks before you plan to go back to work, visit the daycare with your child so that he will be more comfortable in his new environment.

Ask your childcare provider what a typical day looks like at daycare and tell your child about it. Kids like to know what to expect, it makes them feel more at ease. Start to talk to your child about what she will be doing in daycare. Tell her about all of the friends she will meet and all of the fun she will have.

If your child is old enough, let her help pack her bag. Pack a special pillow and blanket for nap time. Sometimes it is helpful to bring a few pictures of family members or pets to the daycare centre.


This can be a little tricky. Some children are so distracted by the new toys and the other children that they run in and barely say goodbye. Others have to be pryed off of their mothers. It just depends on their personality.

If you have time, you can go inside for a few minutes and get your child occupied in an activity before you leave. Sometimes this helps. For some children, it just makes them want you to stay longer. If your child still kicks up a fuss when you leave, it may be better to say a quick, firm goodbye at the door.

Sometimes it helps to have a little goodbye ritual that you do at every drop off (eg. one kiss, one hug, a high five and then wave from the window.) Kids like it when things are familiar, it helps them feel in control of the situation.

Once you say goodbye - go! Stalling can make the child more clingy and she may get into the habit of throwing a fit or crying to make you stay longer. And remember - do not cry! Stay happy and upbeat while you are in front of your child so he does not think there is anything wrong with being left there.

To put your mind at ease, give your childcare provider a quick call later on to see how things are going. Do not feel like you are prying or checking up, your childcare provider will appreciate the phone call. It shows that you are concerned. She will probably tell you that your child stopped crying as soon as you shut the door, that is what happens 90% of the time!

Here are a few books to introduce the idea of daycare to your child.

Pickup Time

Believe it or not, no matter how much they cry when you leave them, sometimes they cry when it is time to go home. They are having too much fun! Talk to your child about who misses them at home or what fun things you are going to do later to lure them out without a lot of crying.

And off you go, to get ready for the next day of daycare.

If your children are old enough, ask what they did all day and if they like their childcare provider and the other children. Make sure they are happy in their new space.

Listen to them if they are unhappy. They spend a lot of their waking hours at daycare so you want to make sure it is a good fit between your child and their childcare provider. Give them about a month to adjust but keep in mind that some daycare situations just don't work out. If your child seems miserable a month after starting care, you may want to find somewhere else to bring them.


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    • profile image

      Ashley 2 years ago

      My little girl hasn't ever gone to a day care, but she has had sleepovers with grandma. I'm hoping that she will be okay with daycare, she's such a happy little girl. She loves making friends, even though she's only two she's very talkative. Thanks for the great tips on starting out, I feel better about taking her to daycare now.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 6 years ago from Canada

      Great, PiaC, I hope my advice is helpful.

    • PiaC profile image

      PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      one of my closest friends is having a hard time with this right now. I'll certainly let her know your advice.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Yes, it really is, mizboat!

    • profile image

      mizboat 7 years ago

      I found returning to work the hardest thing I have ever done. I cried for weeks before hand, and we both cried everyday for the first few weeks. six months on, I still have the odd tear when bubby is really upset when I go, and she still cries most days, but by the end of the day she is having too much fun to leave. Just remember you are not crazy for crying or missing your baby it is sooo normal.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for your comment, amarble1.

    • amarble1 profile image

      amarble1 7 years ago

      This is a great article, I remember when I started my son in daycare, it was the most difficult month ever, but we used transitional items, like the ones you suggested, and you are right, it helped alot!

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      I was the same way, HappyHer!

    • HappyHer profile image

      HappyHer 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      This was an awesome hub! I would like to suggest to remember tissues for yourself as well. My children didn't go to DayCare until a bit later in the game, they had the time of their lives, I was the one crying (Not so they would see though.)

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for commenting, lisa.

    • profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago

      I too have a daycare and you have nailed these pros and cons on the head. I'll keep up with you. Thanks Lisa

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      They do have fun there, tonynosense, once they get used to it. Thanks for your comment.

    • tonynosense profile image

      tonynosense 7 years ago from Japan (for now)

      Had to start my son at 6 months. He was too young to mind... The best is when they make good friends at daycare. Then they look forward too it.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 7 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for yor comment, cbris52.

    • cbris52 profile image

      cbris52 7 years ago

      I love hearing what my kids have to say about their day and what they've done while I've been at work! Great Hub!