Preparing for Daycare
When figuring out how to prepare for daycare, there are a lot of factors. Add in preparing for daycare for the first time in a pandemic and it can feel super overwhelming.
This last year changed a lot for our family, just like I’m sure it did for yours. In pre-pandemic ages, our household had two parents working which meant Sam had to go to daycare. Initially as a young, first-time mom, this was incredibly difficult and riddled me with guilt. I wanted to stay home with my tiny baby, but I also needed, and liked, to work.
After going through the motions on this list, we chose a daycare facility we were comfortable with and Sam began attending at 8 weeks old. With Bennett, though, things were a little different.
When March 2020 hit and the world stopped, I was 35 weeks pregnant with our second child. His C-section had been scheduled for April 4th and suddenly, I didn’t know if my husband was going to be in the hospital with me. It was a crazy experience, but that was just the beginning.
As many of you know, I’m a teacher and so I’m lucky enough to have my summers off with my kiddos. That worked out really well for Bennett’s birth as I had an extra long maternity leave with him. We had initially planned for him to begin the same daycare as Sam in August. However, with my stepson’s school being fully virtual, we needed someone home with him. We decided then that my husband would quit his job, the kids would stay home, and we’d just get through it.
Don’t get me wrong, that was a great time for the boys and for Josh. They had a lot of fun and bonded a ton. However, in February, a new job opportunity presented itself, just when schools started to open back up. So, we planned for the boys to go back to daycare.
Sam was an old pro and he was excited to get back to his friends. Bennett, on the other hand, had only been held by maybe 20 people in his entire life and that made this momma nervous. However, I did my planning and at 11 months old Bennett began attending daycare. It took a few weeks for him to warm up, but we’re almost 3 months in and both boys are thriving and happy at daycare.
How to Prepare for Daycare
1. Do Your Research
The first step in knowing how to prepare for daycare starts way before your kiddo’s first day: do your research. First you need to choose the daycare program that’s right for your family: center-based, in-home, family childcare. Our boys go to a center-based daycare. After you decide on what type of program, start diving into the individual providers. Where are they located, what are their hours, how much does it cost, what are their schedules, do they serve food, etc. The list can be endless. Make sure the daycare you choose provides everything you need.
2. Do Your Research Part 2
Now that you’ve done your research and you’ve narrowed down your choices, the next step in how to prepare for daycare is to ask around. Ask your friends, neighbors, co-workers who they use for daycare. Ask who they do not use, as there’s good info there as well. Make sure you’re asking people you trust who will be honest. You can also schedule tours and walk-throughs with the daycare providers you are interested in. This allows you to see the facility/home, ask questions, and get a feel for the vibe of the teachers/directors/providers. You’ll know right away if this is someplace you don’t want your child, or someplace you could see them being.
3. Talk to the Teacher
After you’ve chosen a provider, you want to make sure you connect with your child’s actual daycare teacher. If you chose an in-home facility, the teacher and provider are probably one in the same. However, if you chose a center-based daycare facility, you may have only briefly met with the teacher. Go back in or give the teacher a call. Let them know what you’re worried about, excited about, and any other specific things you want to share about your child. While it’s likely you’ll also fill out an intake form with all this information, I felt so much better connecting with the teachers and telling them the specifics of certain things that were important to me.
4. Start a List
I love lists. I make lists for everything. When the boys were getting ready to go back to daycare, I made a list that literally said “How to Prepare for Daycare.” Once you’ve decided where your child is going to go, you’ll need to decide what they need and what you need to prepare for them to go to daycare. If you have more than one child, you can make more than one list. If you’re weird like me, you can make one list with subheadings – whatever floats your boat. Think of everything you use for you child on a weekly basis – that’s what you should write on the list. I don’t mean toys or bath supplies. The things that baby decided were essential during maternity leave or what you need to get through your day with your toddler. Make sure you add any and all forms you need to turn in to the provider.
5. Pack a Bag
Here’s a mini bonus tip: before you pack a bag, pick a specific bag that you use only for daycare. We picked up a large, re-usable bag for a dollar from The Disney Store (surprise, surprise) and designated that to be “the daycare bag.” Weekly, it carries the boys’ sheets, blankets, diapers, extra clothes, etc., back and forth from home to daycare. Then, take the list from #4 and pack the bag. This first pack will have a lot of things, but continuously you’ll just have to “refill” as needed (diapers, formula, diaper cream, etc.).
6. Cry (or don’t) All You Want
Preparing for daycare is a big deal. I cried the week leading up to Bennett’s first drop off, even though I had already been back at work for months. Trusting someone to care for your baby while you’re away can be scary, but it can absolutely be a positive experience. That doesn’t mean it’s not emotional for you and your kiddos. Enjoy the snuggles and feel the emotions, momma.
BONUS TIP: TRUST YOUR GUT
Alright, momma. Listen up. You know your baby. You know what’s best for your kids and your family. You are your children’s best advocate. And, at the end of the day, the daycare provider works for you. Most daycares and providers are amazing humans who just love kids, but if things are happening at daycare that you do not agree with, please do not brush it to the side. Talk to the provider or teacher and express your concerns and/or expectations. Of course, some things just have to happen differently at daycare than they do at home. But there are lots of things that can be modified and worked around so that you and your baby are comfortable and happy at daycare. If things don’t get better or there’s just that nagging feeling, don’t be afraid to walk away and find a new provider that works with your family.
What are your tips? How did you prepare for daycare?