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10 Drop-off and Pick-up Tips for a Smooth Transition to Daycare

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

It's been a long summer for parents everywhere and an even longer year. The first day of school is rapidly approaching. If you're like most parents we know, you're anxiously getting your little one ready for their very first day. It wasn't an easy decision, but you're happy with the daycare staff and the facility. You know your baby is going to learn so much and thrive! You've got your baby's adorable backpack packed with snacks and a healthy lunch. You've taken all your first-day pictures and may have shed a few tears.

Daycare, here we come!

And then you get to the doors's not what you thought it would be. You cry, your baby cries, the daycare provider tries to reassure you, but you can't see her through your weepy eyes, and you are now regretting this decision and wishing you had been better prepared.

We've been there before!

In Parents First, we talk about our experiences with the first day of daycare and preschool. Entrusting others to care for our children is emotionally exhausting, and we are constantly second-guessing ourselves. Parents ask for tips and share their stories, hoping to find the best advice for the parenting challenge of sending our kids off to daycare.

To help parents feel better prepared for this big step, Parents First spoke to Jessica Kohn, an Early Childhood Educator with years of daycare experience. Jessica shared tips to ensure your drop-off and pick-up routines are smooth and stress-free transitions for both you and your little one.

10 Drop-off and Pick-up Tips for a Smooth Transition to Daycare

1. Establish a short drop-off routine with your children and stick to it.

Short does not mean rushed! If you are feeling rushed or anxious, your child will too. Long, drawn-out goodbyes often lead to unnecessary tears. It happens to the best of us! The quicker, the better - even if they need to peel your little one off of you.

2. If your child cries, don’t see that as a cue to linger longer. Ask the caregiver to give you a call or send you a text to let you know when your little one is calm and engaged. It’s rarely more than a few minutes. It is also very developmentally crucial for children to learn that they can be comforted by others.

3. Exude confidence. Even if you are feeling sad about leaving your children, never let them know. Children are excellent readers of emotion and can quickly internalize your feelings. Tell your little one that you will miss them but that you know their day is going to be great!

4. Be specific about when you are going to come back for pick-up.

Know your child’s daily schedules. When you say goodbye, tell them when you will be back, for example: “I’ll be back after you have your afternoon snack.” Young children are concrete thinkers and don’t yet understand the concept of time, but as long as it is consistent, they quickly master their daily schedule.

5. Never, ever sneak out on your child!

Even if your child looks happy and occupied, always say goodbye before leaving. When parents sneak out, they are fostering a considerable sense of mistrust and paranoia in their children.

6. Let your child bring a transitional object to daycare.

Give your caregiver some family pictures to comfort your children in case they miss you. Let your child choose a small comfort item to pack in their bag to help make the transition more comfortable for them.

7. Don’t speak of any concerns about your little one in front of your child.

Little children have big ears, and typically their receptive language (what they can understand) develops way before their expressive language (what they can speak). They are listening to everything!

8. Don't engage in long conversations with your daycare provider at pick-up.

The caregivers are busy making sure that all of the children are safely packed up to go home. Most likely, they will not have the time to give you a play-by-play of your little one’s day, nor is it appropriate. Trust the communication systems your center has in place.

9. Don't get discouraged by crying at pick-up!

Some children actually have amazing days in daycare and then burst into tears at pick-up. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal! Sometimes they are overwhelmed with happiness when they see you.

10. Show gratitude to your child’s caregivers.

Always end the day by saying thank you and wishing your caregiver a great evening. This is a great way to model and set a good example for your child and foster a warm connection with your child's daycare provider!

Every new stage is a new parenting challenge! As parents, we're constantly learning more about ourselves, our children, and how to best parent our children. In Parents First, we bring resources and learning opportunities right to you!

Parents First is a large parenting community on Facebook helping parents and caregivers navigate through the wonderful world of parenting.

Our active Facebook group is the village where you can build friendships and turn to the community for anything related to parenting, ask for advice and recommendations, get creative birthday ideas, receive lots of support when it’s overwhelming, and share ALL your parenting wins, no matter how small.

With so many different parenting styles out there, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Having a diverse community of parents to talk to makes it easier! Parents First brings experts and resources directly to the group so you'll have answers to all your burning questions.

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