By Emma Thomas

It’s the start of the new year and for many families that will mean a new start! This may be starting at a new centre, starting in a new room or starting in care for the first time! It can be a daunting and overwhelming experience so here are some of our top tips. 

Orientation Program

Most centres offer an orientation program to familiarise new families and children with the environment. We would love for you to join us for some ‘stay and play visits’ before your child officially starts. This gives us a chance to get to know you and your child and helps them to settle in with you around. Feel free to take some photos of your child in their new environment and with their educators, then look at this together before they start. 

Be prepared

Make sure you know what to bring! It doesn’t feel good to start the day rushing around looking for things so make sure you’re prepared the night before. Check the information that you were given on enrolment for a list of what to bring. 

Think about clothes

Your little one is going to get messy – and that’s a good thing! Don’t send them in anything precious or clothes which are hard to move in. Accept hand me downs from friends or hit the op shops to find clothes which can live another life. Make sure your child has shoes which are easy to put on and off, we love going barefoot! 

Think about short days

For some children, having a few short days when they start can help them settle in. Particularly for our youngest children who may not eat or sleep well in a new environment. Think about how tiring it is as an adult when you start a new job! Our children are experiencing something similar as they develop new relationships and get to know their new routine. As they settle in you can slowly make their days longer. 

Name everything!

If you want it to come home again, put a name on it. Shoes, socks, hat, clothes, undies, water bottles, bags and cuddle toys! There are lots of children in and out of centres every day so it’s easy for things to go missing (or even end up in someone else’s bag!).

 A little bit of home

Pack something to help your child settle. This could be a family photo, soft toy or cuddle blanket. Anything which helps to build a bridge between home and care. 

There will be tears

Accept that there will be tears (and it might be you!). Some children experience separation anxiety when they start at a centre, some get ‘3rd day blues’ (when they realise they have to keep coming) and others are fine until there is a big change in their lives (like moving home or a new baby). 

Here are some helpful tips for separations:

  • Have a consistent drop off routine:
    • Mentally prepare your child for the day, talk about which friends will be there and what they might do.
    • Remind them of your routine, it might be something like, ‘when we arrive I’ll help you do your jobs, we can do 1 puzzle together then I’ll leave you with Miss Nat and we can high 5 over the fence’. 
    • When it’s time to go, clearly say goodbye, remind them when you will be back to collect them and then leave.
    • If your child is not speaking yet, I still encourage you to talk to them and explain what is happening, they understand much more than we often realise! Also your tone and body language will support them through the transition. 
  • Share your routine with your child educators and find a consistent person to leave your child with. 
  • Don’t sneak away! It’s tempting when our children seem settled and playing happily. However it’s better for them to have the opportunity to say goodbye, even if they will be upset. 

Connect with the Centre

We post regular updates on StoryPark – share these with your child and use them to prompt conversations about their day. You can also share about what you’ve been up to! We love to extend on the children’s experiences outside of the centre. 

 Accept the sickness

Despite everyone’s best efforts children tend to pick up a lot of illness when starting at an early learning centre. Washing hands (you and your child) on arrival and pick up will help limit the spread of germs. However some bugs are unavoidable. Have a plan ready for who will take sick days and make sure we can contact you if your child needs to be collected. 

Talk to us!

We want to get to know you and support your child in the best way we can. If you have any feedback or concerns please talk to us. If it’s a simple matter relating to your child’s room, have a quick chat to the educators at drop off or pick up. If you have other concerns you can make a time for a meeting with educators or chat to the centre management. 

Also we love to receive your feedback as we are always on a journey of continuous improvement.