Children develop at different rates depending on a number of both genetic and environmental factors. Their physical development is often what parents record in milestones, but social development is just as important. If you’ve spent day after day at home with your child for the first few years of their life, the social transitioning process could be a little more difficult than a child who has already adapted to external childcare. However, it’s important to understand that even though it might take some kids a little longer than others, eventually they’ll come to understand and accept the change of pace. In this article, we’ll explore how long it takes for a child to transition into daycare and how to best prepare them for this change in their routine.
When to Introduce Your Baby to Childcare
A common question new parents ask is regarding the timing of childcare. Since it’s unlikely that you and your partner will never need to use childcare, introducing your child to the idea as a newborn can help prepare them for more serious transitions in the future. While those first few weeks of your newborn’s life should be spent with you, childcare can start as early as six weeks—as long as you and your partner are comfortable with doing so. To ease you both into the change, consider looking at in-home childcare to start by finding a trusted sitter or nanny. This gets your newborn used to new faces. If you do opt for childcare services that are out of your home, just make sure that you do your research on the facility and pack enough supplies for the duration of a day. After you’ve packed everything, throw in a few extras just to be sure. Always check with your childcare facility about anything that’s prohibited, in addition to extra resources they may need (feeding/sleeping schedules, medications, etc.).
Preparing for and Transitioning into Daycare
If you’ve given your newborn some exposure to childcare, great. If not, that’s okay, too. There are still plenty of ways for you to prepare to transition them into daycare. There isn’t a definitive age that children should start attending daycare. Instead, you should base it off of your child’s individual developmental stage.
When the time is right, the key to a successful daycare experience is preparation. Make sure that you take the time to prepare with your child before you get into daycare on the first day. If they have an idea of what to expect, it makes the entire concept less frightening and more welcoming. See if you can bring your child to the daycare facility for a few short visits before they start attending. This helps them to acclimate to the environment so it’s not as foreign when the big day comes. You can also read a few books about daycare to help introduce the concept in a way that they can understand. Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude during these interactions, as children tend to share the same views as their parents.
Try to adjust your child’s sleeping schedule prior to starting daycare so that they are well rested and ready to go. Irregular sleeping schedules can create mood swings, irritability, and cause for more uncertainty—especially when leaving your side.
The night before daycare begins, let them pick out a special item that’s daycare approved. This helps them to maintain a sort of safety blanket. When it comes time for the big day, make sure that you talk to your child about what’s happening, when you’re going to be back, and try to spark their interest in something at the daycare. Then, as soon as possible, you need to leave. While a lot of parents struggle with this, the longer you wait around and try to comfort them, the longer it will take for them to adapt.
On average, most children take about three to six months to fully adapt to a new situation. The more your child engages in the daycare facility and any activities they offer, the faster they will adapt. In fact, some children have adjusted to daycare in as quickly as two weeks! To help improve the speed with which your child accepts daycare, create and maintain a consistent goodbye and hello routine for drop-offs and pick-ups. The continuity helps your child build trust and can decrease any anxiety because they know how the day will end.
Every child is different, and while it might hurt to see them suffering on their first day of daycare, it’s an important step for their developmental health. There are many advantages of daycare that have been proven to last into adulthood, so it’s best to view this as a positive time, not a time of betrayal. Your child will be introduced to plenty of positive interactions with supportive staff, rules, peer relationships, and learning opportunities that give kids a behavioral, social, and academic boost. For more information on daycare transitioning, or to enroll your child in an interactive daycare proven to help developmental progression, contact A Child’s Place at the Ranches today!