Step Up To Quality Stories

5 Tips for a Happy First Day of Child Care

The first day of child care can be challenging for everyone.

For parents, even if they’ve done all their research and know that the chosen program is a good fit, it can feel like the most unnatural feeling to leave their child.

For teachers, a new little one brings new routines and behaviors, and the transition from home to classroom isn’t always a simple process.

And for the child, a brand new place with new kids to play with can be overwhelming and stressful.

The good news is that planning and preparation can go a long way in making a smooth and happy first day for everyone involved. Here are some tips for parents and providers to make the transition as easy as possible:

  1. Schedule a meeting and tour about a week before the first official day. This is when parents can drop off diapers, an extra set of clothes and anything else that will need to be stored at the facility that isn’t perishable (like breast milk). This is also when everyone can re-introduce themselves, the child can see the room(s) again and parents can familiarize themselves with teachers’ names. Paperwork can be finalized during this time, questions can get answered from both sides and the child will remember the visit when the first day comes around.
  2. Prepare and pack things the night before. Parents should decide on the outfit the child will wear, set out any bags that will be needed and run through the new morning routine to set expectations. Providers should make sure the new child’s spaces are clean and ready and remind the current children about the new friend that will be joining them the next day.
  3. Consider starting with half days. If an entire day is too much for either parents or the child, consider easing into child care by having the child attend until lunchtime. After lunch is often naptime anyway, so the child won’t miss much educational programming. And, if child care starts right after parental leave, it can make those first days back at work feel easier, too.
  4. Bring something special. It’s common for kids to bring a blanket from home as both a comfort and a practical naptime item, but what about the adults? It’s a nice gesture for parents to bring something small for the teachers to wish them a good first day, and it’s very much appreciated when child care providers give parents a little welcome kit. For example, teachers can sign their name to a card and pair it with something as simple as a plain gift bag with tissues, candy and a little craft that the current students made (like a tissue paper flower).
  5. Read a special book and take photos! We know that the first day of child care is a momentous day, so we created a book all about the experience that we’ve sent to every provider who is participating in Step Up to Quality. By reading “Stepping Into Quality,” kids will learn what to expect at child care and what quality early childhood education entails. It sets the tone for lots of fun and learning in the days and years to come. We encourage teachers to take photos of the special time and share the images with parents as a memento of the day.

All this thought and preparation serves another purpose: it helps prepare everyone mentally and emotionally for the day. While it will still be difficult for parents to leave their child, surrounding the day with happy moments and intentions will help make it a day to both look forward to and remember with joy.

If you are a child care provider who is not yet enrolled with Step Up to Quality, you can apply and complete Step 1 entirely online! If you’re a parent and your child care provider is not yet enrolled, send the director of your child’s program this link to help them get started.