Teacher with two children

No such thing as TMI when it comes to new enrolments

Woman and man with young child

Many of our readers will be familiar with the acronym TMI, which stands for “too much information!” and is usually used when someone is telling us way more than we need to know about a personal or sensitive topic. 

When it comes to children newly enrolled in a childcare program, however, there is no such thing as TMI! 

While parents sometimes feel like they are sharing too much information about how their child sleeps, eats, and behaves, all of these “tips and tricks” are invaluable to educators, offering the next best thing to an instruction manual of preferences and personality quirks. 

Armed with information, educators are much more likely to settle children into care, and help them to be happy and safe. 

Once a family has made the decision to enrol in care, the transition process begins, and often involves two or more short visits to the service, which allow the child to get a feel for the space, and gives the parents the opportunity to ask any questions they may have of the team.

During transition visits, parents often spend time with the child in the room, observing the educators and the rhythm of the day. 

The transition process is also the time when educators can get to know the child’s individual routines, and learn a little more about them. 

Questions such as “how does X like to go to sleep?” or “what sort of games do you like to play at home?” show parents that educators care about them and their child, but also help educators to work with already established behaviours and routines, maintaining consistency between home and care. 

While specifics are recorded as part of the child’s enrolment paperwork, transition visits are an opportunity for parents to discuss things such as sleep, bottles, food and the kinds of activities their child likes.

These visits also allow educators to get a glimpse into how children may respond once they are enrolled in care permanently. Asking parents to step out of the room for five minutes gives educators the opportunity to observe how the child will manage the transition away from their parent, and to plan accordingly. 

While making the decision to allow someone outside of the child’s family to care for them is a monumental step for many parents, relationships are quickly established, allowing children to thrive in care. 

For more information about managing new enrolments, from an educator perspective, please see the further resources below. 

Settling toddlers into childcare 

Promoting positive education and care transitions 

Using mindfulness to help settle children into care

Woman, man with two young children

Dial back the drop off drama! Simple tips to help children and families to settle in to care

Man and woman with two young children playing with blocks

For some children and families, the ‘daily drop off’ is a simple and quick process – a kiss on the cheek, and the child runs off to play. For other families, however, dropping children off for a day of fun can be anything but. 

For a number of different reasons, navigating the big feelings of drop off time is a complex mix of feelings, bribes, distractions, and long long looooong goodbyes!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel! These easy to implement tips can turn drop off from drama to dream.

Consistency

When children first start attending childcare, drop offs are crucial in helping them transition to care. If parents are anxious, and hovering ready to jump in at the first sign of distress, children will pick up on this. 

The aim should be for low key departures and excited reunions. If parents and families are able to consistently use the same routine and messaging when dropping their children off, putting all the emotional energy into a happy reunion, children will settle in to care much more quickly. 

Using the same language each day (“Mum is leaving for work now. Shall we stand at the fence and wave goodbye?”) can help children to feel more comfortable with transitions. 

Educators have a part to play here too. Wherever possible, educators should be consistently rostered in the same rooms at drop off times, so that the child and family have a familiar face to connect with. 

Keeping one or more activities or areas of the room the same can also be very calming for children – they then know where they can go in the room to engage with something comforting. 

Don’t be sneaky

While it can be tempting for families to “sneak off” once their child is engaged with an activity, this can do more harm than good in the long run. 

When parents sneak off, children respond by being hypervigilant the next time drop off happens, perpetuating the cycle of anxiety by clinging even tighter. 

Parents and caregivers should give children a warning that they will be leaving soon. Simple words on the journey to care, such as “First I’ll drop you off at childcare, then you’ll play with your friends. After lunch and a nap, I will come to pick you up again, and we will have spaghetti for dinner” can orientate the place of care in the child’s day. 

When it comes time for a parent to leave, the same technique can be used to create a smoother drop off process. 

“I’ll finish this puzzle with you, then I am going in to work. Do you see someone here you’d like to play with when I go?”

Communication

Communication, on both sides of the fence, is a really important component of the drop off process. 

Parents should communicate with educators, letting them know about any changes for the child since they were last in care.

Educators can communicate with children about what exciting things the day holds, and everyone involved can communicate with each other through tools such as Storypark, which gives parents a “real time” window into their child’s day, alleviating worries. 

Nothing soothes a worried parent mind more than a photo or video of the child they left crying 10 minutes ago happily engaged in play. 

Parents can also use resources such as Storypark to share more about their child’s world beyond childcare, making the transition from home to care even smoother. 

For more ideas on how to tackle drop off drama, see the further resources below: 

Settling your baby into childcare

How to deal with separation anxiety at childcare

Leaving your child for the first time: tips to help with the dropoff