Introducing children to their first day in childcare | Care for Kids

Blog Image for article Introducing children to their first day in childcare | Care for Kids

Written for Care for Kids by Dr Kaylene Henderson

“How can I best prepare my child for this big change?”
“How long will it take them to settle in?”
“And when will I finally feel less guilty??”

Starting your child in childcare is often a time of mixed feelings. On one hand, it can be a relief to know that you've found the right child care centre for your child; yet at the same time, it can feel daunting to entrust your much-loved little one into the care of another. 

As parents, we can often feel guilty, unsure and apprehensive about what lies ahead. And this is understandably so, since starting your child in child care, especially the first day in childcare, can make your child feel anxious and scared. Thankfully, it does get better and soon you and your child will adapt to your ‘new normal'. 

In the meantime, here are some tips for preparing your child for this new beginning, for a smooth transition from home to child care.


The key to a settled start is building familiarity, so make the most of any ‘stay and play' opportunities on offer. Orientation sessions provide a wonderful way for your child to become familiar with their new room, routine, classmates and your child's educators ahead of time, while in the safety of your company, and help your child settle into childcare easier.

While you're there, make sure you ask for a copy of your centre handbook and don't hesitate to ask any questions you have. You can't be expected to know it all already - this is new for you too after all.

Building relationships

Foster a strong bond between your child and their educator. Your child will feel much more settled once they develop a trusting, warm, nurturing relationship with their educator, so make this a priority. 

Consider taking a photo of your child with their educator together and popping this on your fridge door, allowing them to become a familiar face in your home.

Future planning

Talk about what's to come. Young children understand language long before they can use it themselves, so talk to your infant or young child as much as you can about all the new experiences that await them in the early learning centre or child care service.

Playfully practise

As much as you can, practise through play. We know that children learn through play, so play out situations that your child might find challenging, using either play characters or role play. Consider practising how they might ask to join in with other children or ask for help from their teacher; Perhaps they might benefit from practising sleeping in a new environment or even saying goodbye to you in the mornings. 

If you do play out morning goodbyes, be sure to also play out your return at the end of the day, to alleviate any fears your little one might have. As your child begins to feel more at ease in their new environment, soon they won't feel anxious when you leave them. When your child is given lots of opportunities to playfully practise new tasks, they achieve a sense of mastery over their new environment more quickly.

Read all about it!

Picture books are a great way to expose your child to new situations. Head along to your local library and find some stories written on the topic of ‘starting childcare' to share with your little one.


It's important to establish a means of helpful two-way communication with your child's educator team. Keeping the line of communication open will help both you and your child's educator to ensure that your child is adjusting well in childcare. It's important to make sure that you're just a phone call away. Be sure to also share information ahead of time about your child's behaviour, likes, dislikes, interests and routines, and, once they've started, feel free to ask about their day and how they're settling in.

Stay grounded

Ditch the guilt and keep your emotions in check. Our children are like barometers of household tension. If you're feeling highly anxious about this new beginning, chances are your child will pick up on this and end up feeling anxious too. If you're feeling guilty, they'll assume that they're heading into a less-than-ideal situation and take longer to settle. No doubt you've tried hard to make the best choice for your child and your family. It's time to see this change for the wonderful new opportunities it will bring and to share this positive outlook with your child.

Be patient

Big changes like these often take children time to adapt to. The settling-in period for most children lasts 6-8 weeks. In the meantime, your job is to provide plenty of patience, understanding and cuddles.

Starting out in childcare for the first time can feel like a big change for your child (and let's face it, for you too!), but with a bit of preparation, practise and patience, your little one will soon be thriving in this new routine. 

You've got this.

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