child holding dried fruit

Settling into Childcare – A Cheatsheet

Congratulations on taking the step to get your child settled in at childcare; it’s a step which can seem incredibly nerve-wracking so give yourself a big pat on the back for adjusting your routine and finding a new normal.

If you’re dropping your little one off at childcare for the first time, it’s natural for you and bub to both feel anxious. To deal with those nerves, we’ve made a handy cheat sheet of things you can do to help your child settle in and feel comfortable.

Jump to the end for the cheat sheet.

With a few simple steps (and some deep breaths), you can help make this transition go much smoother and feel comfortable for both you and your child.

Choosing a Childcare Setting

Choosing the right childcare setting for your child can be a daunting process. It’s important to take both your child’s individual personality and needs into account when making this decision.

When you’re considering childcare environments, have questions in the back of your mind or written down like, “will my child enjoy the activities provided here?” or “is this the kind of environment they will feel comfortable in?”.

Research various options and talk to friends and other parents to get their feedback as well. Figuring out where other local parents put their kids, and why they choose those environments, will be helpful when making your decision.

At the end of the day, you’ll know what’s right. Make sure that you feel comfortable that your child will be nurtured emotionally, socially and intellectually in their new environment

child holding dried fruit

What can I do to help my child settle in?

Now you’ve chosen a childcare setting, it’s time to figure out how to make them feel comfortable. This can seem daunting at first, but don’t worry – there are lots of ways you can make the transition as smooth as possible.

Handy tips:

  1. Make sure your child feels comfortable and secure being left in their new environment.

    The best way to do this is to plan regular visits to their new environment ahead of time, getting them settled and letting them (and you) explore. Make sure your child meets the childcare workers before they start; it’ll also be nice for you to know who will be in charge and looking after your child.

  2. Let your child have something familiar and comforting.

    Consider bringing along a few familiar items from home, such as a comfort blanket, favourite toy or teddy bear, which can provide comfort and help create a sense of home during their early days.

  3. Taking part in activities with your child will also help them to recognize that nursery is fun and exciting.

    Maybe during that first visit to the new environment, take part in some activities. Point out toys that you also have at home, that you know they like and when at home help them recognise that this will also be an item they can play with at nursery. Talk to their educators or childminders to discuss what they enjoy, and chat with them about it too.

  4. Above all else, be positive!

    Show enthusiasm when talking about nursery and always give lots of reassurance so that your child knows they’re loved, safe, and supported.

What can my childcare provider do to help my child settle?

It’s always a big transition when your child starts attending childcare, and it’s natural for them, and maybe you, to be a bit nervous.

Fortunately, your childcare providers are experts. They’ve seen and helped tons of nervous (and confident) kids take those first steps into childcare settings and flourish. They have loads of tips and tricks they know which can make it easier for your child to settle in.

That said, don’t be afraid to ask your childcare provider for a tailored settling program to fit into your little one’s needs. 

Some things they may do during those introductory days would be stuff like:

  • Tours: showing kids around the room gradually by allowing the child to take their time and acquaint themselves with different areas of the room. 

  • Introductions: they’ll help them chat and find new friends, by introducing them to the other children. The childcare provider may offer to meet up in a familiar space before your first session to convey that they are a familiar & safe person to be around.

  • Socialising: there’ll be group activities and tons of fun games.

Remember, your kids will also have a ton of fun! There are loads of new toys to try, and new people to play with, and the childcare providers are right there on hand to make sure your child feels happy and comfortable.

How do I stop separation anxiety?

The threat of tears and clingy kids is a top fear of parents who drop their kids off at nursery. “Do they not like it?”, “is someone being mean?”, “Are they unhappy?!” are all questions that’ll run through your head. Your child’s reaction may heighten such worries; separation anxiety doesn’t feel easy but is a normal part of their development.

Some tips for dealing with separation anxiety or teary goodbyes:

  1. Take time to feel comfortable: make sure your child feels comfortable in the environment when going to different nurseries before you choose. Let them take the opportunity to explore and interact with staff, whilst you’re there as a safe base to return to until they feel confident enough to do it alone.
  2. Find a good balance of settling in time: don’t hang around for hours with your child waiting for them to settle in, go in, talk to the nursery worker, and let your child get comfortable and busy. Wave goodbye and leave, don’t make it a big scene with hugs, kisses and I’ll-see-you-laters – that makes it more emotional for both you and bub.
  3. Make sure you say goodbye: don’t disappear – it’s scary for your child if they think you’re there and you’ve just snuck out. Use a cheery tone to say goodbye, so your child feels calm and knows that there is nothing to be worried about.

How do I know that my child is happy?

Talking to the childcare providers and being aware of how your child interacts in the setting are two indicators of whether or not your child is finding joy in their environment.

When you visit, take note of whether your child looks engaged, appears relaxed, wants to initiate conversations and follows through on activities without hesitation.

All these factors demonstrate that your child feels secure and confident in pursuing activities and building relationships within their new environment – signs that they’re truly enjoying their time in childcare.

Cheatsheet summary:

  1. When choosing a nursery, go in with questions you have, non-negotiables and things you’d like to have.
  2. Talk to other parents about their choices, or look on online local forums (Mumsnet for example!).
  3. Imagine your child in the environment you’re looking at.
  4. Take time to settle in with them; go for ‘taster’ days, and let them explore!
  5. Don’t disappear at drop off when your child’s distracted – make sure you say goodbye.
  6. Know that separation anxiety is a normal part of development. And if there are no tears, that’s also normal. Every child is unique.
  7. Communicate with the care professionals. Talk to them and your kids about their day.
  8. Be positive! It’s an exciting time, try and make sure your child feels assured.
  9. Take a deep breath – it’s a big step, but you’re doing great!

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