Helping your child adjust to daycare is challenging, partly because it’s hard for us, too.

So, I like to think of daycare a little bit like coffee. Sounds crazy, right? But have you ever given up coffee? A lot of people decide to stop it quite suddenly. And they have headaches and feel unwell for a few days.

When you stop giving your body something it relies on, it retaliates. There are consequences.

Your child is also reliant on you, in a way that some people are reliant on coffee. He or she is used to having you around to get through the day.

When it comes to starting daycare, or changing carers, you need a stepping down program. Helping your child adjust to daycare should come with a manual.

If you go cold turkey – like people do with coffee – the impact is going to be greater for both of you. If you ease into things, it will go more smoothly.

So, what are some strategies to easy into it? I’m glad you asked! Here’s eight steps for helping your child adjust to daycare:

  1. Tell them what is going on, and answer their questions. Tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing.
  2. Visit together on a few occasions. Show your child where they will be going.
  3. When you are both happy, leave them for a few minutes.
  4. Tell them that you’ll be back soon – and follow through. You can start by telling them you’re going to the bathroom, if you like, and returning in a few minutes. Maybe next time you can say you have to go to the shop quickly, or meet someone for coffee, and you’ll be back in a little while.They need to learn to trust that you will return, as you say and building up your absences, and returning each time, is a great way of doing this.
  5. Allow yourself plenty of time to get them settled. Arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off to work. They are less likely to be upset when you leave, if they are involved and having fun.
  6. Take familiar objects such as a favourite soft toy, to give them security. Your child may find it easier to adjust to a new environment, or carer, when they have something familiar with them. And a soft toy can help them settle when it’s nap time, too.
  7. Never sneak out without saying goodbye, even if your child is upset. This creates more problems. Your child will start worrying you’re going to disappear, and may become clingy – unwilling to let you out of sight for a minute – even when you are at home.
  8. If your child reacts strongly, know that this is transient, and try different options. A partner or friend could do drop off, for example. They might actually be protesting your departure more than the particular child care environment.
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  • yep cheers on this article Cate, awesome job


  • My youngest has not settled into daycare at all


  • these are handy tips to know and share around


  • Great tips! It’s always a good way to give your child some time to get used to the place and find fun things to be busy with. If you need more help on settling your child, here is a resource on what to expect http://goo.gl/1Iu2o7


  • So good tips here. I didn’t use daycare but these tips are also good for pre-school. I initially made the mistake of sneaking out (as suggested by the staff), only to have them ring me a couple of hours later because my daughter was sobbing uncontrollably by the window…. where she’d stationed herself shortly after finding me gone :(


  • Great tips I’ll be using child care soon and am feeling quite anxious. Great read

    • Glad you liked the post If you want more information on child care, I have a free training module on my website – just look under the freebies heading.


  • All helpful good advice. I’m a childcare educator & I encourage parents to use these strategies too.


  • Some really good tips that I will take on board need to return to work early next yr and worried about my little man he wont stay with anyone

    • Glad you like the read. If you want more information on child care, I have a free training module on my website – just look under the free updates heading.


  • Great tips. Will be using them in the future. Thank you


  • Very good article. Lots of tips that I will take on board in the future. Thanks


  • Very happy to have found this article – I’m planning a family and find this to be very helpful in the future.


  • We started off with just short visits gradually getting longer.

    • Glad it worked for you. If you want more information on child care, I have a free training module on my website – just look under the free updates heading.


  • Once your child has got used to the routine, with some children it is better for them if you leave reasonably quickly and don’t hesitate too much. The quicker you leave the quicker your child settles, .. I have witnessed this with a few children, including those I mind on an occasional basis and a relative’s children (now adults – the more their Mum or Dad hesitated the more the agitated they became. They settled much quicker since they knew she/he had gone).

    • June, you’re so right. I fell into this trap – thinking I could stay a few extra minutes and console my daughter – but it doesn’t work. It’s much better to take the bandaid approach, and just wip out the door. As long as we say goodbye, and leave before the tears, they adjust quickly.


  • Some really useful tips I’ll refer back to when I need to face the return to work early next year!


  • None of this worked with my little one at first! but it does take time for them to get used to their new surroundings. the hardest part for us, was initially going from a few hours, to suddenly she needed to be there for 10 hours due to a change in my work hours. It made it hard, but once we increased to two day a week we found we had a lot less problems.

    • Yes, going only once a week can be hard for a child because the routine isn’t frequent enough. I know some centres that have a ‘minimum of two days a week’ policy for this reason.


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