Toddlerhood heralds a whole new phase of learning and development. Before you know it, the door opens on early childhood education and your child heads off to preschool. Barbs Tozer, Communications Manager for Kindercare Learning Centres, shares her advice on transitioning your toddler into preschool or childcare.
Your child will deal with the changes of being in a new environment in their own way and in their own time. He will need your support and patience, and lots of love and reassurance to settle into a new childcare setting. Whether you’re placing your little one in care for the first time, or changing your current childcare arrangement, it’s helpful for parents to know as much as possible about the centre so as to make an informed decision about which care provider works best for your family. This will also help you deal with the transition confidently, and make the experience as exciting as possible for your child. Ideally it’s best to plan several transition visits before leaving your child on their own at a new care provider or ECE centre. These visits give you and your child an opportunity to:
● Become a little more familiar with the environment.
● Get to know names and faces of the staff.
● Spend some time observing the room – routines, atmosphere, interactions between teachers and children, how engaged and settled the other children are.
● Get down on the floor and enjoy some activities with your child. Children take their cues from you so if you’re relaxed and having fun, your child will be positively influenced to do the same.
● Chat to the staff and watch how they connect with your child. Do they make an effort to build a relationship with your child and encourage them to participate in activities?
● Chat with your child about what the other children are doing. Suggest he joins in with an activity when he's comfortable doing so. Talk with him about making friends and give him time to ask you questions or express how he is feeling.
How many transition visits your child needs, how he responds to his new environment and the teachers, and how confident he feels to explore on his own will depend on his individual nature. Some children can be left on the second visit for a short time while you pop out for a coffee, others may take a couple of visits before you feel comfortable leaving them. Talk with the staff at the centre to ensure that you know their policy on dealing with your child should they become distressed – and always ensure that staff have a contact number for you so that you can be reached immediately.
Most importantly, always say goodbye to your child happily and confidently – even if you are struggling with leaving him. While there are times when it may be tempting to ‘slip away’ when your child is occupied and happy, discovering you have disappeared shakes his trust and sense of security. And remember to assure your child that you’ll be coming back to pick him up at the end of the day, or after morning tea/lunch, and that you can’t wait to hear about his day and all the fun he has had.