Day one of daycare can be scary for parents and kids alike. Suddenly, your young child will be in a new environment for a good portion of their day–it’s a big change for everyone!
The good news is, daycare is good for both parents and children.
As parents, you get to work or have a little “me time” knowing your child is well cared for. and children benefit from daycare by learning new social skills, developing greater self-confidence, and creating a stronger immune system.
While daycare is good for almost all parents and children, that doesn’t mean that the first day especially won’t be hard. There are a few things you can do though leading up to that first day to make it easier on yourself and your child.
Here are a few tips for preparing your child for daycare in Chicago:
1. Visit Before the First Day
Visiting the daycare center before day one is important for both parent and child alike. For your child, you don’t want to drop them off in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people right off the bat.
Plan and make at least one visit and preferably more than one visit before daycare begins for your child. This will help your child become familiar with the physical space and, more importantly, the people taking care of them.
They may get excited on the first day to see books, toys, and children again, which may lead to fewer tears on that very first day.
Taking a dry run to daycare is also advisable for parents. If you can, try and take a practice run at the same time you will be dropping your child off at the daycare.
Especially in Chicago and especially if your trip involves high traffic roads like the Kennedy or Eisenhower expressways or S Lakeshore Dr., this dry run will provide a good idea of how much time you’ll need to get to daycare and from there to your next location on time.
2. Give Them Time With Other Kids
Your child’s first day in daycare may be the first time they are around a lot of other kids. This can be disconcerting to some young children so you may want to think about ways to prepare them for being in larger groups of children before you start them in their daycare.
Luckily, in Chicago, there are quite a few options to facilitate this before they start daycare.
You won’t have to look very far to find a group of young kids for your children to play with. Any local park or playground should do and there are a ton around the greater Chicago area.
If you are looking for some more specific spots to find the young masses, check out the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier or the kid-friendly Maggie Daley Park.
In addition, local Chicago Public libraries often have storytime for young children, and local internet sites frequently list group playtimes for community members’ kids.
3. Shift Their Schedule
Before you start daycare, find out what your child’s new daily schedule looks like. This means what times they nap (if applicable for your child’s age) and eat.
This should be the same time every day and something that any good daycare can easily share with you. Once you know this information, you can shift your child’s schedule accordingly so they are already comfortable with the routine on their first day.
Try and find out this information as far in advance as possible, and then you can gradually shift your child’s schedule to conform to the daycare site’s schedule. This will make it easier on you, the child, and the daycare provider.
For example, if your child currently naps at noon but the school has kids take naps at 1 pm, you can slowly push back your child’s naptime by 10-15 minutes a day for a week.
Your child won’t experience a sudden and dramatic change in their schedule. And, by the time they start daycare, everyone’s schedule will be in sync.
4. Make Sure They Have Clothes For All Seasons
Remember, this is Chicago after all, so during your child’s time in daycare it will be very hot and muggy and it will be freezing and snowy. It will also be almost every temperature and weather condition in between at some point.
We all know this is just how Chicago weather is. Make sure your child is prepared for this by sending the right clothes for the right seasons.
Daycares will provide some type of cubby or storage area for extra clothes for your child in case of a toilet-training accident, a bit too much fun at the water table, or if the weather dictates some sort of outfit change.
In Chicago, you want to make sure they have something for every type of weather on hand. This means a sweater or sweatshirt to bundle up on cold days and a short-sleeve shirt and shorts if the day takes a warm turn.
The more options the daycare providers have, the more comfortable your child will be. And remember – dress your child so they’re ready to play!
5. Label Everything You Send
There are generally a good number of kids in a single daycare class and an even greater number in the entire building. To make sure your child’s things don’t get mixed up with everyone else’s, make sure you label everything you send.
All you need is a sharpie marker and a few minutes and you’ll be good to go.
You can write on the tags of clothing and on the bottom of things like lunch boxes and sippy cups. Make sure your child can see the labels too. And labeling things is doubly important for items that other kids might have.
If your child goes to school with a Chicago Cubs water bottle or a Lincoln Park Zoo sweatshirt, those are even more important to label.
A little forethought goes a long way when sending your child to daycare for the first time.
If you prepare your kids and use the tips above, they should be able to acclimate quickly to their new surroundings.
As for tips for you not crying the first time you drop them off, that’s a little tougher. But know that they are in good hands!