How to prepare for starting childcare?

It’s that time of year again, children are making huge transitions and parents may be feeling the stress as their toddlers settle into new care!

“When I dropped my toddler to childcare for the first time, I literally felt like I had dumped him with a bunch of
random strangers and run. It felt hectic, I didn’t know what to do with myself and the anxiety was next level.
Once I received a photo of him settled my stomach began to calm down, I soon realised that the first drop off is
usually the easiest, it all went downhill from there! Fair to say it was a rough few weeks”!

Listening to your child scream like a banshee as you turn your back on them, is one of the worst feelings in the world. The guilt, worry and double guessing yourself is rough, we get it, we are here to validate your emotions and walk you through one of the toughest times in those early years.
You might find yourself trying to rationalise your reasons for choosing childcare in the first place or whether
93-year-old Aunt Maggie is up for the babysitting gig after all. Full disclaimer, it won’t be easy and is very likely
to make your heart hurt a little bit. The truth is, feeling confident in your decision to send your toddler to care and the location you send them can translate to how well they settle in!

How to choose an early learning centre?

 If you haven’t heard a of childcare NQS ratings, google it!
 The website is an Australian wide, one stop shop where you can discover and compare
reviews and ratings, fees, and availability.
 Know your deal breakers and don’t settle!
 Do more than one childcare tour and trust your parent gut.

What about separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can look a lot like upset, panic, child glued to your leg, screaming at full capacity, clinging to you like a koala! This can be very normal as your toddler parts with you at drop offs. You are their security and as they develop new relationships with carers they will feel secure in those relationships too! This takes time.

There isn’t a band-aid fix, but a list of ways to get you to the end goal of smooth drop offs to childcare.

Surviving those first few weeks!

  • Preparation is key. Toddlers feel safe when they can predict and anticipate exactly what will be happening!
  • Focus on helping your toddler to build relationships with carers throughout orientations. Show your child
    that you are happy and comfortable in the environment too. (If possible take photos to create a story book to read together at home as part of the prep!)
  • Half days are great if financially viable as they can practice and be reassured that you always return, and the wait isn’t too long at first.
  • If possible, try and enrol your child for 2 +days, especially through the settling in stage, a whole week
    between visits can feel like a long time.
  • Routines and rituals can help so much. Special breakfast together, the way you walk to the door, little goodbyes they can predict all add to a toddler who feels ready! If you haven’t seen the “love heart- press for a cuddle” trending separation strategy? Get on it! Not
    sure who to give credit too but this is beautiful.
  • Ask your centre what activities are happening the following day or who your toddler has been playing with so that you can talk about what they can look forward to.
  • Try not to distract them from their big feelings about this change, welcome, validate and show empathy. Feelings are meant to be felt.
  • Offer their comforts as part of the transition e.g. their comforter, dummy, a book of their family.
  • Settle them in but when you decide it is time to leave, say goodbye confidently, sob later!

Help, I’ve tried everything, and my child still has separation anxiety at drop offs?

Give it time! Remind yourself how long it takes you to settle into a new job or home? It doesn’t happen instantly,
and you have the emotional maturity that your toddler hasn’t yet developed.  All toddlers will take to these changes differently too, so try not to compare your little one with others. The main thing to be sure of is if they are settling soon after you leave.
If your centre is reassuring you with happy snaps a few minutes after drop off, try to focus on that. Saying
goodbye just might be tough for a while, they will get there, and you will too. If you need any extra support or a listening ear! We are here!

Screen Shot 2021-05-21 at 8.56.56 am

About the author

Mandy Richardson is a qualified Early Childhood Educator and also holds a Masters in Childhood Studies. She is currently completing her PhD in Respectful Parenting Methods. She is passionate about promoting a positive parent-child relationship and a natural, slow paced, peaceful and fulfilling childhood.

Past Posts


The Regulation Station


Toddler Temperaments 101


Saying Goodbye to the Dummy

Scroll to Top