Are you a first-time parent? Take a look at the top tips to make the most of your toddler or preschooler's first early learning and child care experience.
Tour the Classroom
Your child isn't the only person in your family who should get familiar with the new daycare classroom. You also need to learn the ins and outs of the safe play space your child will spend their days in.
Ask the center's director or your child's teacher for a mini tour of the classroom. This seemingly simple activity can make a major impact on the transition between at-home and center-based care. You can learn more about the different areas or centers (such as the art, reading, or literacy centers) in the room and what activities your child will do every day.
Not only can the tour help you to feel more comfortable about your child's first daycare experience, but it can also provide ideas to extend in-school learning at home. You'll get familiar with the toys, educational materials, and supplies your child regularly uses. This can help you to plan art projects, science explorations, or story-time activities for after school, weekend, or holiday break times.
Get to Know the Other Parents
The child care center is more than a place where your toddler or preschooler will learn their A,B,C's and 1,2,3's. Along with early literacy, early math, science, social studies, and other academic areas, your young child will build social and emotional skills. Foster the new relationships your child will build with out-of-school experiences.
The more parents you get to know, the better able you are to schedule playdates and other social activities for your child. These will add to your toddler's or preschooler's social development and reinforce skills they'll learn in daycare.
Create a New Sleep Schedule
Now that your child is in out-of-the-home care, they may need a new sleep and wake schedule. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), toddlers ages one to two-years need 11 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period and preschoolers ages three to five need between 10 and 13 hours. If your child's bed-time was later in the evening, you may need to re-adjust their schedule for early center drop-offs.
Before you completely overhaul your child's sleep-wake schedule, ask their new teacher about naptimes. The recommended sleep totals for young children include all rest periods in a 24-hour time-frame. If your child will nap for an hour or two during their daycare day, they may not need as much sleep at night.