Are you a first-time parent about to send your little one off to their first day of childcare? A repeat parent who is using a different childcare method this year? It can be nerve-wracking to trust someone else with your precious babes, especially if that someone is a total stranger! We are coming up on the anniversary of the day I sent my oldest to daycare for the first time, and I remember feeling totally unprepared. Here are a few things I learned that can help you prepare both mentally and physically while prepping for the first day of daycare/preschool.
- Practice your morning routine, and prep for that early wake time. Everyone needs to be clean, fed, and dressed in time for drop off. This means you have to add that drive and drop off time into your morning routine and wake times may move a little earlier to accommodate that. Don’t wait until the first day of daycare to wake up at that earlier time. Slowly acclimate yourself and your kiddo to that earlier time so that you are both in a pleasant mood to greet that first day change.
- Practice drop-off or time away from each other. Maybe you enlist a babysitter a few times the weeks before your first day of daycare. Maybe you trust grandma to handle it for a day or two. Practice being away from one another, especially if you are parting with your newborn to return from maternity leave or your kiddo has never napped away from home. That practice time should include any logistics you will face during the first day — pumping, taking a bottle instead of nursing, naptimes, meal times, etc.
- Meet the teacher. If there is an option for you to meet the person who will be caring for your kiddo, take it. It will calm your nerves to know the name and face of that teacher, and it will help your little one settle in faster if they have seen them before too. We do this with babysitters as well, even though we typically plan date nights for after our kids are in bed.
- Label everything! When there are 10 kids all around the same size and age, it is easy for sippy cups and tiny pants to get mixed up. Put your kiddos’ names or initials on everything! You can do this the old fashion way, with a fabric pen and Sharpie, or you can invest in name labels. Pro tip: If you have more than one kid and a last name unique enough there probably aren’t multiple kids with that name in their class, just get labels with your last name. (Sorry to the Smiths and Johnsons of the world.)
- Use a packing checklist. It’s really easy to forget something that first day, with the hustle and bustle of morning routine and the nerves associated with such a big milestone. If you’re anything like me, you’ll do a little at a time over weeks to get ready. Don’t stress if you do forget something. Childcare facilities are prepared to accommodate forgotten items occasionally.
- Bottles and milk – Ask about milk storage if you breastfeed. Some facilities have very specific guidelines on how they want the bottles prepped and labeled.
- Lunch box – We love our Bentgo boxes. We have one for each kiddo that has a built in freezer pack in case we send cold items, but also share regular ones with the whole family, so no kid specific designs for us.
- Water bottle with a covered spout/straw – I promise you want the option to protect their straw from daycare germs.
- Ready to go lunches and snacks – If your facility does not provide lunch OR they charge and you are on a budget, be ready to prep lots of little sandwiches and snacks. Our daycare does not refrigerate items, so we have gotten creative on what to include, and also invested in the freezer pack BentoGo boxes for that reason.
- Diapers, wipes, and cream – Baby booties like consistency. Make sure your littles have enough supplies to keep their brands on their butt while they are there.
- Extra clothes – I recommend having separate daycare clothes. They paint, play in the dirt, and are generally more messy. We even invested in a cheap daycare coat, so that we could our nice things nice. Be sure that you pack a spare pair of everything: shirt, pants, underwear, socks. If you’re potty training, I recommend packing a few pairs of all bottom items.
- Sunscreen/bug spray – Ask if they will apply sunscreen if you send it. Some facilities require you apply before they come. We went with a combo sunscreen/bug spray from Bullfrog this summer to cut down on items.
- Paperwork – Be sure you have vaccination records and all documents turned in for their first day.
- Naptime needs (if they nap at school) – If your little requires a lovie or a blanket for nap, be sure to send them. If it is a sentimental item, I recommend finding a daycare replacement and practicing with it before the first day.
There is so much to think about before starting at a new childcare setting. I know that my mom nerves can get the best of me sometimes. My advice is to relax and let them adjust in their own time. Kids are so resilient and amazing, and they can flourish if we just step back long enough to let them figure it out on their own terms.