I’m returning to work in a few months and I plan to enrol my 18-month-old in a childcare centre. What can I expect and how can I prepare my little one for the changes ahead?
Bridging the transition from being home with mum or another family member to being in a childcare setting can be challenging for a toddler. Your excitement and positive energy are important in starting this journey on the right foot.
Getting your child used to the daily childcare routine is a good first step and your child might take less time to adjust when school starts. Ask the childcare centre for a copy of its daily schedule and try to adopt this routine at home in the weeks ahead of the start date. You can also make a game out of practising self-help skills such as taking off and putting on shoes and socks, dressing and undressing, using a spoon to feed himself/herself. This will give your child a head start for the experiences that he/she will be exposed to.
Another strategy is using pretend play to explore the idea of preschool. Take turns playing the role of a parent, child, and teacher. Act out common daily routines, such as saying goodbye to mummy and daddy when they have to go to work, singing songs, reading stories, playing outside, and taking naps. Reassure your child that a preschool is a place of fun and learning.
You can also borrow children’s books from the library that talk about first preschool experiences. You can discuss how the characters feel while at the same time teach your child vocabulary to express his/her feelings. It is good to include all the feelings and experiences your child might go through – happiness, fun, friendship, sadness, anxiety, etc.
While counting down to the first day, do also take the time to pack items your child would need, such as bottles, formula, diapers, spare clothes etc. You can also consider packing special comfort items if the setting allows them, such as a cuddly toy or blanket.
Lastly, be mindful in easing your child’s separation anxiety. Accompanying your child for the first few days can help ease the transition. Together, the two of you can explore the classroom, meet some other children and get to know the teacher. When you see that your child is comfortable, say a quick goodbye and reassure him/her that you will be back for him/her. If your schedule permits, pick him/her up early and gradually lengthen the time that he/she remains in the preschool until he/she is comfortable in staying for the full preschool programme.
Question answered by:
G8 Education Singapore