It can be heartbreaking to watch your toddler cry.

Helping a Toddler Adapt to a Daycare

by Jennifer Zimmerman

It's hard to imagine that the toddler who wails when mom takes a shower is going to adapt to a day care, but it is possible. With preparation and time, a toddler can start looking forward to going to day care or at least not dread it. This adjustment is probably harder on mom or dad than it is on the toddler, even though the little one is undoubtedly louder about it.


Toddlers can be slow to warm up to new settings and new people. Do your best to ensure that the day-care setting is not so new when you have to leave your toddler there for the first extended time. Visit the day care with your child and explore the surroundings together. Let her learn to recognize her teachers and friends, then practice leaving her there for short times. Start off at five minutes, if you need to. You want him to feel safe.


Toddlers aren't the best conversationalists in the world so it's doubtful that your child is going to say, "Well Mommy, I'm sad about going to day care because I don't know where they're going to change my diaper." But toddlers do listen to you what you say, so focus on the positive aspects of going to day care. You can also ease anxieties by reminding them of what they saw on your previous visits such as particularly fun toys and where the diaper changing area is.


If possible, don't schedule starting day care with other big changes in your toddler's life. Even adults get stressed out when they have too many changes at once. Also, get your toddler on the day care's routine before she starts attending. If she'll have to get up at 7 a.m. when day care starts, begin getting up at that time. Try to stick to the same approximate snack, lunch and nap routines as the day care. That way, his body will be ready, even if his mind isn't.


When it's time to leave, be calm and consistent. If you run back into the room every time your child screams louder, guess what's going to happen all day? You're going to be running into the day-care room instead of going to work. You need to let your child know that you love him and that you'll be back. If you know what time you'll be coming back, ask the day-care provider what your child will be doing at the time. Then you can tell your child a specific time you'll be back, such as, "Mommy will be back when you're done playing outside." Then hug her and leave.


Reassure yourself that everyone is fine with a call to the day care about 20 minutes after you leave. Hopefully, you'll find out that your child is playing happily. If he's not quite there yet, try bringing a lovey like a beloved stuff animal or shirt that smells like you the next day. Having something familiar with him might ease his anxiety. Remember that it's normal for toddlers to have a hard time with transitions and that it takes them time to adapt to new experiences.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

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