Enrolling your child at a childcare centre can be a daunting decision to make. As an educator, I see families walking through having a tour and asking a myriad of questions to ensure their child receives the best possible care and education. I completely empathise with this and want to support you through this process!
My name is Jess, I am a diploma-trained early childcare educator working full-time in the industry and I have a true passion for my job. I would like to take this opportunity to provide 5 tips and tricks to support the settling in process for both you and your child as they transition into childcare.
1. Ask ALL the Questions
I completely appreciate the enormity of starting childcare for a child and their family. It is the first time in most children’s lives that they are away from their parents or primary caregivers for an extended period of time. A parent’s emotions towards a childcare setting DIRECTLY moulds their child’s view of the education and care setting. I know this can be a stressful and sometimes upsetting feeling of being away from your child for a day, but it is so important that you do not transfer this anxiety onto your child. Your children have an innate sense of emotions and will pick up any sense of unease or nervousness. In order to settle your anxiety, I suggest you take every opportunity to ask educators questions before your child’s first day. We are more than happy to answer every question you might have and understand that when you are more knowledgeable about a setting, you are more confident and relaxed within it.
2. Comfort Items are KEY
Comfort items are probably the most underrated tool that supports a child in settling into an education and care setting. A comfort item could be anything that your child has an attachment to at home, whether this is a teddy bear or a special blanket. It provides children with a constant amid a whirlwind of change. My personal favourite comfort strategy is drawing a small heart on your hand and then drawing one on your child’s hand; tell your child that this heart is a promise that you will come and pick them up soon. I suggest you inform the educators about the heart and its significance so they can remind your child of the promise if they become emotional at any point in time.
3. Timing is Everything
When you enrol your child in childcare, don’t fall for the common misconception that this means you leave your child at the centre from opening until close. I understand that many families put their children into care due to work commitments and completely empathise with this. I highly recommend that if a gradual increase in hours is an option to you that you start with shorter days (2-3hrs for the first week, 4-5hrs for the second week) so your child becomes familiar with the daily routines and confident in the fact that you will come to pick them up at the end of the day. Instilling this assurance is imperative to ensure your child settles well and is not anxious throughout the day, worrying that you will not come to pick them up.
4. Communicate Regularly with Educators
As educators, it is our job to ensure your child receives the best quality of care and education possible. Early childhood education services often document your child’s day and post this to an app or have it visible for you to see within the classroom. At drop-off and pick-up times, make sure you take a little bit of time to communicate with educators. This doesn’t have to be anything formal, have a chat about your weekend or ask what activities they are excited to implement for the children. These conversations are so underrated and are extremely important in creating a respectful partnership between families and educators. I personally love to have a chat to parents and see what they have been up to and look for opportunities to implement their home interests into our curriculum. This is particularly important for children who are new to the service, discussing your child’s interests with educators supports them in creating engaging experiences that your child will be genuinely interested in, further supporting them in a seamless settling process.
5. Be Patient
This is arguably the most important step! We all need to remember and appreciate that every child is an individual and their settling process will be unique. Each child reacts to care differently and this is primarily a result of varying aspects such as your child’s age, the number of days they are spending in care each week, the size of their class and relationship your child has with other children and their educators. Every child is so perfectly unique and will react in their own way to childcare, understand this, be patient with the settling process and have faith that the educators are doing everything they can to support your family.
I hope these steps have been beneficial and helped you gain confidence in starting childcare. My passion for childcare has allowed me to create an Instagram page where I share my love for my job, the experiences I create for the children I work with and providing some more tips and tricks for parents and fellow educators. Feel free to follow me for more support @littledudes_ and don’t be a stranger! My direct messages are always open and I am more than happy to provide any extra information or support if you need 😊
Blog post written by Jessica Palfreyman on behalf of Wooden Wonderland.