The first day of childcare is often an exciting and nervous one for both the child and parent. Especially for first time parents where they do not have past experiences to compare to.
To make this transition easier, here are a few things to keep in mind on that first day as a parent.
"When Do I Drop My Child Off?"
Each service will have their own opening and closing time.
It is best to check with the service. However, it is encouraged to drop your child off closer to the open time so they do not miss out on the daily programs that the service will have planned for the day.
During drop-off, you will sign your child into the service.
Each service will have their own process , but most use a sign-in/out app (like OWNA). If that is the case, simply enter your unique PIN code on the tablet in reception and you're good to go.
"What Should I Pack?"
Again, each service is different and you may have already received this information.
Some services (typically Long Daycare) include daily meals whilst others (typically OOSH/Preschools) require you to pack your child's healthy snack and lunch.
Most services will provide things such as sunscreen, spare clothes and other daily essentials.
Generally, you can't go wrong with a list of these items:
Clear water bottle
Spare set of labeled clothes
Snack/lunch (if required)
Medication (if required)
Specific products (such as suncreen) if allergic to some common brands
"What If My Child Is Upset at Drop-Off?"
It is natural for children to feel upset at drop-off on their first day.
They've just been plunged into a new environment, and the only familiar face they know is now gone.
But don't worry.
At drop off, if your child does get upset, the service will generally have an educator there to help comfort them. It is generally best not to linger around as this makes the separation process longer.
In most cases, the child is settled once the parent/caregiver leaves and the service can let you know.
If your child is old enough to understand, speak to them about attending the service before the day and be positive about the experience. Reassure them they will make new friends and learn new things. And most importantly, they are there to have FUN.
Most services will use an app (such as OWNA) to communicate with you throughout the day so that you can see exactly what your child has been doing, how much they have eaten, whether they have had a nap, any toileting updates etc.
Apps are great for that first day. You can keep up-to-date with your child's first day in real-time.
It's not uncommon for parents/carers to be more upset than the child on the first day.
Whilst you're away from your child, it's very easy to think of the worst case scenario, but the reality is that your son/daughter is in safe hands, learning new things and meeting new friends.
In most cases, even if the child is visibly upset at drop-off, it is usually the parent that spends all day worrying, whilst the child is having the time of their life!
So don't worry.
Your child is being educated and cared for by trained professionals, learning alongside their peers and having a great time doing so.
"What Happens at Pickup?"
You will give your child a big hug and ask them all about their day.
Remember to collect all their belongings and encourage your child to keep their items inside their bags. And remember not to be too offended when they didn't miss you as much as you missed them - they were too busy having so much fun!
Similar to drop-off, you will need to sign your child out of the service once they leave the premises by entering your PIN on the tablet, or signing a piece of paper.
Educators will sometimes debrief you on your child's first day to make sure you're comforted. They may come up to you directly, but it's also a busy time (depending on pickup time), so it may come in the form of a message on your app.
If you would like to speak to an educator at pickup about your child's first day, they'll usually be more than happy to chat.
Make sure you give yourself enough time. It can be a busy period for educators, with lots of families being reunited.
If you don't get to speak to an educator right away, you may have to wait a few minutes as there can be several conversations happening at once.
Alternatively, you can ask educators to put notes in the app if there's anything you need to know at pickup.
NOTE: check with pick up times as some services may charge a late fee if you pick up your child after their closing hours.
What Not To Do (or try to avoid)
So you've dropped your child off, dealt with that initial separation, refreshed your OWNA app 148 times to see if there's any new posts, came back to the service and picked your child up.
Success! Your child has come back in one piece, and they can't wait to tell you all about the amazing experiences they had.
To make sure the first day runs as smoothly as this, here are some things to try and avoid.
1. Calling the service multiple times per day to ask for updates
You're worried and you want the best for your child. It's a natural reaction.
But calling the service every hour for updates is just taking them away from your child and away from caring for them.
Let the educators do their job, and trust them to do the work they're trained to do.
Most services are pretty good at updating families on the first day, and if anything were to happen they'll be the first to let you know.
So if you haven't gotten any phone calls in the last few hours, assume that it's for a good reason. And remember to check your OWNA app for posts & daily information.
2. Hanging around after drop-off
It's best for your child to fully embrace their new surroundings.
Whilst you might think having a comforting figure lingering around may be good, it usually ends in them crying for you through a window and causing them more stress.
Of course, we want to prepare for every scenario. But if you pack too many things, you can almost guarantee something will go missing.
So if you're scared about losing it, don't pack it.
Unfortunately, these things happen - especially with children around.
You're all set for your first day! Good luck, and remember - DON'T WORRY!
Your child is in the capable hands of educators who have been trained to do this all day, every day.
And don't forget to download the OWNA app.