The first few weeks at child care
Child care is a whole new environment for your child, with new people and new routines. If you can, it's good to start slowly. For example, you could start with short days at the child care service.
It's also important to be aware of how your child is coping with the change once he starts. Your child has probably settled in well if he:
- is generally happy to go to his child care setting
- shows you things he has made or done at child care
- talks happily about his day (if he's talking).
If you have any concerns about how your child is settling in at child care, it's best to start by talking to her early childhood educators and carers.
The practical and emotional transition to child care might be smoother for you and your child if you start getting ready for child care well ahead of time.
Settling in at child care: tips
1. Get organised early
Taking care of practical things like lunches and clothes labels the night before (or earlier) will reduce the stress of trying to get out the door. This means you can focus on your child and how he's feeling on child care mornings.
2. Allow plenty of down time at home
Child care is very stimulating. Your child will probably be tired and need recovery time at home. This might mean an earlier bedtime or longer naps. Or maybe just quiet play in a familiar environment.
3. Make special time at home with you
Now that you have less time with your child, you'll want to make the most of the time you do have together.
Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding before and after child care can be a good way to connect. You might also be able to build special time into your evening routine, with songs and play at bath time, or cuddles and stories at bedtime. Or plan for relaxed family time together on the weekends - for example, a regular play at the park.
4. Make time to stay with your child the first few mornings
Try staying with your child for five minutes for the first few days. You could read a book together or watch your child do activities. As you and your child become more comfortable at child care, you might take your child in and leave more quickly.
5. Say goodbye
When it's time to go, let your child know you're going and when you'll be back. Give your child a hug and a kiss, say goodbye to your child's early childhood educator and leave.
6. Build a relationship with your child's early childhood educators and carers
Your child is more likely to feel secure in the new child care setting if she sees that you have a good relationship with early childhood educators and carers. If your child can see you trust the educator, she's more likely to trust the educator too.
7. Plan for breastfeeding
If your child is still breastfeeding, and if it's possible for you, you might want to think about visiting the centre during the day to give your child a feed. Many centres encourage breastfeeding mothers to visit, and it might help your child settle into care.
Some children don't want to leave child care. This is completely normal. It doesn't mean they like the early childhood educators more than their families. It just shows that they feel safe in the care environment.
Settling a child with additional needs into child care: tips
There can be some extra practical and emotional challenges settling children with additional needs into child care.
If you have a child with additional needs, these ideas might help your child:
- Tell the child care setting about your child's additional needs when you fill out the waiting list form. If you get a diagnosis after you've done the paperwork, let the setting know when it offers your child a place.
- Make time to talk with staff so they can prepare for your child - for example, by getting specialist equipment or training staff.
- Spend time with your child's new early childhood educators and your child in the setting, so you can show the educators how to look after your child's additional needs. You might need to support the educator to learn new skills.
- Use a detailed communication book to share information between your home and the care setting.
- Talk with your child's educator about how you expect your child to behave.
The National Quality Framework (NQF) requires that early childhood services are inclusive - that each child who attends can take part in a service's regular activities and routines, and that each child feels confident and secure.