By Jillian Ritter
Child care has been a hot topic in recent years, garnering a lot of attention at the federal, state, and local levels as decision makers, early care and education professionals, and families struggle to find a balance between quality, availability, and cost. As working parents, we know how expensive it is and how difficult it can be to find openings in a quality program. These are issues we all work through on a regular basis.
There are many other decisions families must make when it comes to starting child care. One is when to send children to formal daycare settings.
My children entered child care as infants when I returned to work after maternity leave. They have never known anything different, so aside from some brief separation anxiety at drop-off as toddlers, we haven’t had to worry about them being nervous or worried about going. Many other children have similar experiences, but there are also children who enter child care when they are older. This transition can be difficult for some children.
I have worked in the early care and education field for 16 years and have worked with many children who struggle with a new setting after staying home with a parent or other relative for an extended period of time. While this is a wonderful option for those families, it might create some anxiety for children entering a new setting and routine for the first time as toddlers or preschoolers.
After a discussion with a child care professional about transitioning to child care, I decided to look for a children’s book on the topic. To my surprise, I could not find one. That is when I decided to write one.
I Go to Child Care is a picture book geared toward children ages 3-5 who are entering child care for the first time. It is written from the perspective of a child who is familiar with child care as if he is speaking to another child. The book shares some of the activities that can be expected throughout the course of the day. When children are prepared for new experiences they can be more comfortable and confident.
Families and early childhood professionals can use I Go to Child Care as a tool to help young children transition to child care successfully. Parents can read the book with their children as they talk about what to expect. Early childhood professionals can use it in classrooms as they welcome new children and have discussions about child care with the class.
If you have a child starting child care soon
Here are some tips to help you and your child make a successful transition to this new environment.
Before your child begins attending child care
- Talk with your child about what to expect in advance and let him or her ask questions.
- Visit the child care facility for a tour and let your child speak with the teacher. If possible, visit more than one time.
- Ask the child care professional about the strategies he or she will use so you can be consistent in your message and approach.
When your child attends child care
- Let your child take a family picture or other comforting item along to look at throughout the day.
- Do not sneak out when your child is not looking or leave without saying goodbye to your child, even though it might be difficult. Remind him or her that you will be back. Do not go back in once you leave until you are ready to take your child with you.
- Stay upbeat and positive about child care in front of your child.
There are many long-term benefits for children attending quality child care. Transitioning to a new setting may be difficult at first but will be a positive experience in the long run. Stay patient and positive and help your child enjoy this new adventure!
Jillian Ritter is a former regular contributor to WMAG (read her previous posts here). She’s the proud mother of two young boys, and began writing as a labor of love for her sons. Jillian has a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and a Master of Arts degree in Youth Development. She has worked in the early childhood field for more than 16 years.