Starting child care: why it’s good to prepare for the transition

In the weeks and days before your child starts child care, it’s a good to get your child and family ready for the transition.

You can use this time to:

  • make sure your chosen child care service has all the information it needs to care for your child well
  • prepare yourself and your child for the change, both practically and emotionally.

Before your child starts care: information to give early childhood educators and carers

Think about what early childhood educators and carers need to know about your child, and let them know before your child starts. This is likely to include information about:

  • your child’s wellbeing, including sleep patterns, emotional and social preferences, and any unusual family events that might affect her
  • food allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions
  • any help your child needs with toileting
  • learning activities your child enjoys
  • any concerns you have about your child’s development
  • specific family circumstances that might affect your child’s care – for example, custody arrangements
  • your child’s immunisation status.

In the weeks before starting child care: emotional and practical preparation

It’s a good idea to start preparing to start child care several weeks before your child’s first day.

For example, you and your child could make short visits to the child care service to get to know the setting and its early childhood educators and carers. Try to stay for about an hour each time and visit at different times of day. You might be able to meet some other parents and talk to them about their experiences.

You can also start getting your child used to the child care daily routine. Ask the service about its daily schedule and make this part of your child’s routine at home, if your child is an appropriate age to do this. Child care settings should follow babies’ personal routines. But for older children, it can be a good idea to introduce the setting’s lunch, play and nap times at home. Your child might take less time to adjust to the routine when care starts.

In the weeks before starting, you can find out who your child’s main educator will be. If you can get a photo of this educator and talk about the person by name, this person will be more familiar to your child.

Reading or telling stories about starting child care or making new friends can be a safe way for your child to explore strong emotions and understand new events. It’s good to include all the feelings your child might go through – for example, happiness, enjoyment, friendship, sadness, anxiety, apprehension and tiredness.

And talking positively with your child about the new environment, friends, educators and activities will help both you and your child feel positive too.

The night before starting child care: practical tips

If you get practical things organised the night before, it can save you from a last-minute rush in the morning. This can help take the stress out of the first few days and weeks at child care.

Here are some tips for the night before starting child care:

  • Try to ensure your child eats a healthy dinner.
  • Get your child into bed in enough time for a good night’s sleep. If your child doesn’t sleep well, this might affect his experience the next day, so let your child’s educators know.
  • Check that all items your child is taking to child care are labelled with your child’s name.
  • Pack all the things your child needs, including bottles, formula, nappies, hat, spare clothes, medicines and medical record.
  • Pack special comfort items if the setting allows them – like cuddly toys, blankets or books, or a family picture.
  • Pack food if the child care service doesn’t provide meals.
  • Wait until the morning to pack any food or drink that needs refrigeration.

Do you need to pack food for your child to take to child care? Transport meat, dairy products or breastmilk from home in an insulated container like an esky or cooler bag with a freezer brick. This should keep the temperature of the food below 5°C. At the service, the food or breastmilk should go straight into a fridge.

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