Starting your child in a new preschool or child care program can be exciting, nerve-wracking, and everything in between. One key component to a smooth transition is open and frequent communication between you and your child's provider, and a transition plan. This article will provide suggestions and a sample transition plan.
Many parents find it helpful to visit for an hour with their child prior to their first official day, especially if the child did not visit during the initial tour. During this visit talk with your provider about their typical transition plan, and what drop off typically looks like at their program. Things to consider:
- Is there a sign in/out area, a cubby for your child's diapers and extra clothes, anything else the provider wants you to know?
- What do you think will work best for your child for drop-off, or would you like the provider to suggest strategies to you? Some commonly used strategies include:
- After a hug goodbye, the provider holds your child as you leave
- Engage your child with an activity, then say goodbyes
- Read a book before leaving
Another key strategy is a transition plan. Below is a sample plan; keep in mind you may need to modify with your provider to meet the specific needs of your family.
Sample transition plan:
Day 1: Parents come before snack time, spend one hour at program with child, leave for the day
Day 2: Parents participate in a brief drop off (10 to 15 min max), then say goodbye and leave the child for 1 to 2 hours as their comfort and schedule allows
Day 3: Parents drop off in a manner consistent as the previous day. Child stays for a longer period of time – 2 to 3 hours, can include lunch time if all is going well
Day 4: Follow the drop off routine established and have a child stay through lunch
Day 5: Follow drop off routine established and child stays through nap and/or for full day
Day 6: Child stays for full day
You can and should modify this transition plan with your child care provider to meet the individual needs of your family. Some families will need a shorter transition time due to work or other obligations, and this is fine. A modified plan could include a brief visit with parent and child, then several longer days (visit, stay through lunch, stay through nap) or can duplicate days within the plan. Each family is unique.
Here is a great transitions article, written for teachers but great for parents, too!
Here is a great list of books to help children cope with different kinds of change.
Remember that it can take several weeks for a child to fully transitioned to a program, and that consistency of visits is very important during this time. It is OK for a child to take a little more time, or a little less time, to settle into a new environment.