Settling Into Early Childhood Education and Care
Starting out in a childcare setting can be a daunting experience, even for families who have been through it before. It can be an exciting, emotional and bittersweet moment for both children and adults. It is important to remember that it is a new environment for your child, with new people, new routines and new experiences to try.
High quality early childhood education and care has been shown to give children the best start in life. It helps children to navigate the world around them, while building the foundations for positive relationships, learning new skills, developing their social and emotional wellbeing, and increasing their confidence and independence.
Some key tips to settling in to your new early childhood education and care environment include:
Be Prepared – Know what you need to pack each day for your child to ensure their day runs as smoothly as possible. For example, nappies, sleep sheets, spare clothes. Having these prepared early is key to ensuring you are organised and ready for your child’s day. Usually everything you need to pack will be outlined in your centre’s family information booklet.
Orientations and transitions – Become familiar with the centre and the staff. Having some short orientation visits before your child starts is a great way to ease them into their new environment and help them become familiar with their new surrounding and their educators. This is also a great opportunity for you to see the daily routine and how your child’s day will go once they begin, as well as asking any extra questions.
Routines and requirements – If your child follows a routine at home or has any special requirements, it is essential to let the educators know this before you leave them for their first day. Ensuring the educators follow your home routine as much as possible helps your child to feel comfortable and supported, as they are familiar with what is occurring. Most children thrive with routines as they know what to expect next.
Communication – Be open to communication with educators and talk to them as much as possible on drop off and pick up. Call the centre throughout the day to check in and see how your child is doing, and keep an eye on the centre’s app for daily updates. Begin to build trusting relationships with your child’s educators where communication is open.
Talk with your child – If your child is old enough, talk to them about what is happening. Being open and honest helps your child to understand where they are going and what they are doing. Remind them that it is okay to feel sad sometimes, but their educators are always there to help them, and you will always be back to pick them up in the afternoon. This supports them to feel safe and secure within their new environment.
Say goodbye – Saying “Goodbye, I will be back to pick you up this afternoon” tells your child that you are leaving, but also reassures them that you will be coming back to get them once the day is over. With some children, lingering gives them the impression that you will be staying with them for the duration of the day, and sneaking out without saying goodbye can result in your child not knowing where you are or if you will be back for them.
Transitioning into a new environment can be different for each child, it is best to stay in touch with your child’s educators and support your child’s emotions through this new experience.