Your little one has been home with a nanny for a while, but now you’re taking the leap into daycare. Yes, this will be a huge shift for your child and your family, but with the right prep work and a positive attitude, we are confident you’ll all survive!
(One note here: If you have options, we wouldn’t recommend making this transition between the ages of 7 to 12 months. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, this transition might be toughest to handle for this age group, given that this is often the height of stranger anxiety.)
These are our top tips on easing the transition from nanny to daycare:
- In an ideal world, we would recommend a part-time transition to start. Get her used to the group setting gradually. Ease into it. But of course this is not possible in all circumstances--maybe your nanny is leaving or maybe the only daycare spot available is full-time.
- Prepare your child mentally. Talk it up, read books about going to daycare, roleplay the daycare setting with stuffed animals. But be careful not to overhype the event, change can be tough for toddlers. Work with your nanny to help talk up the excitement with your child, too. If she sees that everyone else is on board with the idea, this should ease her mind.
- If possible, maintain a relationship with the nanny. Maybe she’s interested in babysitting on date night, or maybe she’d be willing to pop in on the weekend for a quick hello. Chances are your little one has developed an attachment to the nanny, and you should figure out a healthy way to maintain that relationship if you can.
- Visit the daycare with your child, and allow her to get her toes wet in some activities or routines. Take a picture of your child and the care provider, as well as snapshots of the daycare center. Share these photos with your child as daily visual reminders of her upcoming new adventure.
- Practice for the first day. Establish a “school night” routine involving picking out clothes and deciding on breakfast and lunch choices--anything to streamline the morning. Pack a family photo for her cubby in case she gets sad during the day, and don’t forget her lovey.
- Talk about the drop-off process ahead of time and make a plan with the daycare and your child. No surprises! Depending on age, your little one may not have a full grasp on object permanence, or may be in the throes of full-blown stranger anxiety.
- Ideally, stick around as long as possible at drop off for the first few days. If your nanny provided care in your own home, this whole business of being dropped off at a strange place could be terrifying! When you say your farewells, be strong and confident. Make it short and sweet so your little one sees that you are confident she’ll be well-taken care of.
- You can collapse in a puddle of tears when you get back to the car, but keep a stiff upper lip when saying your goodbye. If you seem anxious, your child could pick up on your feelings and mirror your anxiety. If she’s having a tough time with your departure, resist the temptation to distract her and sneak off--this creates mistrust.
- An even greater temptation might be to go back in for one last hug after you’ve said goodbye, especially if she was sad or crying when you left. Don’t do it! This sets up a dangerous precedent. Most kids’ tears dry up a few minutes after drop-off and are a distant memory by pickup time. Have a goodbye routine and stick with it.
- Stay connected. If they don’t already, ask your daycare provider to use brightwheel to stay in touch throughout the day. With brightwheel, you can get updates and photos from the daycare during this stressful transition. Daycare centers use brightwheel for recording and tracking daily events and activities in the classroom. As a parent, you’ll get private, real-time updates on your child delivered to your mobile device throughout the day. Imagine how psyched you’d be to receive a snapshot of a smiling and happy girl 30 minutes after a tearful drop-off?