5 Questions to Help with Daycare Transitions

5 Questions to Help with Daycare TransitionsLate last year, my husband and I started the search for a new daycare for our daughter (now 2.5). While some parents dread the seemingly endless process of calling, touring, interviewing, decision-making and checking references, I am an anomaly because I quite enjoy it! Before I share a few tips for daycare transition success, here’s a bit about our child care history with our daughter:

Our daughter has been in an in-home daycare setting since she was 3 months old. Our first provider, Ms K., only cared for infants 0-12 months of age. We feel very lucky to have had our daughter in the care of someone who knew all of the ins and outs of infant care, and our daughter thrived in the smaller, in-home setting. We are looking forward to taking Baby #2 to Ms. K. in the fall! After a wonderful in-home experience from 0-12 months, our natural inclination was to move our daughter to another in-home setting. We also interviewed/toured some group daycare  facilities at this time, but ultimately decided on another in-home provider.

Our second in-home provider had 5-6 kids in her care of all ages. Our daughter was the youngest when she started, but after a few months, there was another new baby, which brought new learning opportunities for our daughter. In this setting, there was also more of a focus on “circle time” learning and basic educational curriculum, which was very beneficial. However, after about 15 months at her second provider, we started to notice our daughter plateauing a bit in her interests and abilities, so decided to start our search again.

Since this was our third search (in under 3 years), we wanted to be a bit more strategic in our approach. We defined a list of questions/answers that would help us to keep our strategy and goals in mind (my husband and I have also used this list when making career moves, buying a car and buying our home – works like a charm!):

  1. What is your primary motivation for considering a change? (Our answer: To give our daughter more educational and social growth opportunities; Stability, a set open/closed schedule, and more flexible drop-off/pick-up times)
  2. What is the most important thing to you? (Our answer: To see our daughter challenged to [and beyond] her ability level by her teachers, peers, and educational material) To/For your child? (Our answer: Variety of learning environments-indoor, outdoor, practical learning [potty training, chores] toys, games, books, group teaching, independent learning)
  3. How will you measure success? (Our answer: By seeing her learn and retain new things [songs, stories, letters/sounds, new friends’ names]; by her ability to tell us what she did each day; by seeing her interests and abilities broadened)
  4. What is your timeline for success? (Our answer: 2-3 months)
  5. What is non-negotiable? (Our answer: Teachers who are passionate about their work who we can build a relationship with)

This time around, we knew we wanted a group daycare setting, so we toured the four different options closest to where we live in western Shawnee. Our final decision came down to nuances in parent/teacher relationships and involvement, educational materials/teaching style and environment (indoor/outdoor). Our main goal was to staying true to our answers to the above list of questions.

Our daughter started at her new school the first week in March, and day 1 went great! However on the morning of day 2, drop off was much harder, including tears and the dreaded emotional wail, “I don’t like my new school!” The teachers were reassuring that this is normal (after 1-2 days in a new place, reality sets in and children realize that this is not a one-time thing: it’s the new norm). When we called to check in a few times during the first couple of weeks, we learned that our daughter’s crying stopped shortly after we left and that she was playing and making new friends easily.

The bottom line is, transitions aren’t easy (in addition to tears at drop off, we dealt with zero/very little napping, days of minimal eating and a couple of falls on the playground that made her hesitant to go back). Part of me felt badly for upsetting our daughter’s routine and taking her away from the friends and teacher she was comfortable with, while the other half of me felt excited for the new opportunities she would have and knew her new school would better for her in the long run. It was rough at first, but I had to keep reminding myself to trust my gut and that kids are resilient.

After almost 2 months at her new school, I’m happy to report that my husband and I are thrilled with her progress in terms of her learning and interests (see #3 above), and we feel like the most important things we listed for us and for our daughter (see #2 above) are already being accomplished. We are also getting to know the teachers (see #5 above) and the other kids and their parents, which makes us feel like part of a close community, learning and growing together.

Hi, friends! I’m Erin and I've called Kansas City home for over nine years. I am the girl who always thought I’d have kids by the time I turned twenty-five and swore I’d never meet my husband in a bar. I moved to KC right after college and lived it up for several years as a single, working woman for a wee little greeting card company here in town. Not only did I not have kids according to my self-imposed timeline, I ended up meeting my now-husband Eric at O'Dowd's on the Plaza! I have lived all over the metro and have explored the city as a single gal, a married woman, and now as a mama to my daughter, Lilly (born October 2012) and Baby #2 (due June 2015). This city has something for everyone—artists, musicians, farmers, athletes, technologists, families, innovators, and more—which is why I love it! I now live in western Shawnee, KS where my husband and I tend to a 500 square foot vegetable garden, host barbecues on our deck, cheer for the Chiefs, and pray for the day when Glacé or BRGR open locations that are closer than thirty minutes away.