For many Canadian families, September isn’t just back to school season but also a common start date for daycare. If this is your family’s first time in the daycare world it can feel intimidating, but below you’ll find everything you need to know and a few things to ask of your childcare provider. Our hope is that this information will relieve any concerns you have and lead to a smoother transition for you and your child. As you drop your baby or toddler off for the first time, the last thing you want to be thinking about is if you’ve remembered to pack everything, so savour the milestone and let us take care of the packing.
Start with a bag to contain all of their daycare needs. For a baby, any bag will do – a diaper bag, a backpack, etc. I love this diaper bag backpack duo from Storksak. Its neutral for mom or dad, plus its roomy enough for extras of everything – just in case! If your toddler is heading to daycare, it’s fun for her to bring her own bag to create ownership and excitement. I love these mini backpacks from Zoocchini – let your toddler choose the animal he likes best and let him help pack his backpack for daycare each evening. Involving your toddler in the process also allows him to feel more in control if he has any anxiety over going to daycare.
Get Ready to Love Routine
Something parents love about daycare is the routine it creates for your child. Daycare providers typically have a set routine each day, which allows them to meet meal and naptime needs for a large group of children at the same time. Kids thrive with routine! If you’ve struggled to get your toddler to nap at a certain time or eat certain foods, you’ll notice that daycare tends to set these habits firmly in place. My daughter would never nap at home unless the door was closed, sound machine was on, black out curtains closed, and a host of other high maintenance requirements. Then we sent her to daycare and were surprised to see her napping in a room of other children with moderate noise and light around her! Likewise our toddlers were quite picky at one time, and yet at daycare they would eat whatever the group was eating – tofu curry, quinoa stew, exotic vegetables, etc.!
Naptime and Mealtime Essentials
In exchange for this glorious routine that will render your child sleeping on cue and trying new foods without a fuss, comes your part – bring them the essentials.
For naptime, bring your child’s favourite sleeping blanket or stuffie and her pacifier is she uses one. To avoid replacing lost pacifiers every week, and the sharing of germs if her pacifier gets dropped or used by a friend, make sure to pack and use a pacifier clip like this cute one from Bo & Co. Even if you don’t use a pacifier clip at home, I can’t recommend them enough for daycare!
For mealtime, bring a few bibs for your child as well as bottles. If you’re pumping, make sure to store your milk in a heat-resistant bag like this one from Skip Hop. If you’re using formula, always pack enough for two extra bottles in case you’re stuck in traffic on the way home. A simple zip lock bag can hold carefully measured formula along with the scoop.
Diapers and Clothes
Your daycare bag should always have enough diapers and wipes for even the worst case scenario. If your baby is using six diapers per day, pack ten! Diapers don’t take up much room, but having enough will make or break your day. Having enough wipes is crucial too, so have a full package in your daycare bag at all times. I’m loving these adorable diapers and ultra-clean and safe wipes from Parasol, a new company that uses 5-time filtered water and contains no additives, alcohol, chlorine, dyes, fragrances, lotions, phthalates, parabens or preservatives.
Send your baby to daycare with two extra outfits, but keep them simple. Daycare is often a time when little ones will get dirty outside or covered in craft supplies inside, so don’t send them in your favourite outfits! For babies, a simple one piece pyjama will suffice along with two extras. For toddlers, pack simple tops and bottoms with elastic waist to make diaper changes easier on your childcare provider.
Part of the hesitation for many parents in sending their small ones off to daycare is the unknown. I always encourage parents to ask as many questions as possible whenever their children are entering new terrain. Don’t feel silly or shy about this – write out your questions beforehand so you don’t forget in the moment and be direct if you feel answers are too vague. Here are a few questions to help you get the ball rolling. The more you as a parent know heading in, the better you’ll feel and the easier you’ll be able to comfort your own child if they have any worries.
- What does the routine involve?
- How many children will be with my child every day?
- Do the children go outdoors every day?
- What time is nap time? How long are they expected/encouraged to sleep?
- What is a sample menu for a day’s worth of meals?
- How does this daycare handle arguments between children?
- How does this daycare teach or reinforce potty training?
- How does this daycare help homesick little ones?
Based on the daycare’s answers, you may need to alter some of your home routine, so it’s important to ask. For example, if the lunch meal involves mostly grains, you’ll want to make sure you aren’t planning pasta for dinner every night. If they aren’t getting much protein during the day at daycare, you’ll plan a high protein supper. If their nap time is going to shift to be on schedule with the daycare’s plans, you may push bedtime later or earlier, depending. If their days will be filled with many other children, you’ll want to keep your weekends calm. If their daycare is only a couple of others, feel free to plan a play date for Saturday morning. The better prepared you are, the better you can help your child adjust and make daycare a wonderful experience for her.
Lastly, it’s okay to grieve the end of the at-home season as you enter into this new phase. Allow yourself those feelings, but stay positive when talking with your child. Daycare is an incredible opportunity for your child to make friends, learn from other children, set a healthy routine, and grow in independence.
Remember, any stress you are feeling can be easily absorbed by your toddler, so educate yourself on the necessities and be light and enthusiastic about the move when talking with your child.
Enjoy this next step with your family! You’re ready and they’re going to love it!