Tips for an Easier Daycare + School Drop Off

Tips for an Easier Daycare + School Drop Off

Written by Jade | Midwife, Mama of 3 & Tiny Hearts Educator

As if the guilt you feel while dropping your little one off to daycare or school isn’t enough, your little one crying and struggling to go can make the whole experience so much worse. As a mama of 3, all of whom went to daycare at various ages, and recently started school, these tips are tried + tested and might help you and your little one with daycare/ school drop offs.

talk about what's going to happen beforehand

For some kiddos, the unpredictability and fear of the unknown is what can be most scary or upsetting. Talk to your little one well before drop off begins about what’s going to happen, who will be there with them, when they can expect you back and how much of a great day they will have. When you’re leaving in the morning and on the way to daycare or school, remind them where you’re going, and about what’s going to happen, like you’ve already spoken about.

tell the truth about where you're going

This is particularly important for building the trust your little one has with you. If you tell them that you’re going somewhere fun, then change the story when you arrive, it’s going to be much harder for them to cope, particularly if they’re a bit older and can understand more than a very young bub can. Whilst they may not like that they’re on the way to daycare, it’s much better than saying you’re going somewhere fun and them arriving and realising you’ve tricked them.

send a special little object or photo with them

This could be a picture of your family, a comforter like a teddy or blanket, or a small item you’ve got together that is special to them. When my daughter started school, she struggled with the separation, so I brought her and I matching necklaces that were small, simple and cheap so she could wear it underneath her school shirt, and it didn’t matter if it got lost or broken during the day. For her, wearing it meant she felt closer to me and drop off was so much smoother. I’ve also met a little boy whose mama would give him a hairband to keep in his pocket. She would ‘put kisses into’ the hairband in the morning, so if he was missing her during the day, he would pull it out and get a kiss from mama, to help him get through. Things like this seem small to us, but to our kiddos, they are magical.

don't hang around

I know you don’t want to walk out and leave your baby screaming – no one does, and it’s so biologically engrained into us that when our child is distressed, we run to them instead of away from them. But for daycare and school drop off, lingering only makes it harder, and makes them cry for longer. It’s going to be hard at the start, but you’ll soon come to realise that after you walk out that door, they have almost always settled and are happy within 2 minutes of you leaving.

Call the daycare a bit later to check in

I’ve been the mama whose kiddos scream and cry because they don’t want you to leave at drop off. In fact, it still happens now from time to time if we’ve had a big weekend, or I’ve been working over the weekend, or something is different about the morning. And when you do walk out and they’re still crying, you’ll probably go sit in your car to have a little cry. But you can always call your daycare or school to check in on your little one, even if it’s just for your peace of mind to know they are ok. And in the large majority of cases, they are.

Hand them to an educator, or sit them at a group activity instead of all alone

If you think about it, as adults who are faced with a tough situation, it’s always nicer to face it with people around you who can comfort and distract you. Same goes for our kiddos. I know this one isn’t always possible, but if you are able to, try to hand them to a daycare educator, leave them with their classroom teacher or sit them with a group of kiddos you know they play with to try and distract them.

make it a game

When my little one was really struggling with daycare drop offs, I decided one morning to get him out of the car and play Simon Says while walking in [holding hands in the carpark of course] e.g., Simon says to hop on one foot. We’ve tried Leapfrog, we’ve tried act like this animal, we’ve tried I Spy. This one again comes down to distraction and it’s a great way to get them excited and happy about showing their teachers and friends the game we’ve been playing.

give them a job

Again, another distraction technique. This could be holding their hat, putting in the code on the door with your help, holding open the gate for you, putting their water bottle away, getting some sunscreen and showing you where their bag needs to go. The possibilities are endless, and the jobs don’t need to be big or significant, but just enough to make them feel like they’ve got no time to be sad, because they’ve got jobs to do.

Drop off their water bottle, put on their hat + shoes before you say goodbye

Once you’ve made that transition, you don’t want to be lingering around the room doing little things and putting things away, because it’s harder for your kiddo. Make sure that when you come into the room, you do those jobs first. It’s going to buy you time for your little one to settle and feel comfortable in the environment while you’re still present, but also make for a quick walk out once you’ve said goodbye, especially if they were happy to go. This is also really good to create a routine, so it’s predictable for kids. Eventually, they will pick it up and might start to remind you of what you need to do before you go.

hold in your tears unitl you're back in the car

Distressed parents = distressed little ones. You know yourself that if you see your mama or papa bear upset, your instinctive reaction is fear, anxiety or becoming upset too. I know you want to tear up and tell them how much you’ll miss them or how guilty you might feel for leaving them there. But crying in front of them only sets them up to feel like they need to be upset too. I know it’s tough mama and papa bear but hold it in and keep smiling to remind them that this situation and they are ok, at least until you’ve left the room.

Tell them when to expect you back [if they are older]

This one is particularly good for older kiddos. You can say things like, after lunch, you’ll have rest time, then go outside. Once you’re outside you have afternoon tea. After you’ve had afternoon, mama will be back. For kiddos who are at school, you could say something like, after lunch, you go back to class for a little while and then the bell will go. When the bell goes, I’ll be there with all the other adults picking up your friends to pick you up too. If they’re starting to tell the time, you could say, I’ll be here around this time. Taking the unknown elements out of the situation as much as you can, can really help kids to go, because they know when you’re coming back.

find a distraction in the room

In my son’s daycare room, the educators have put a fish tank on one of the cupboards. You can bet that every time we walk into the room, we spend 5 minutes looking at the fish tank, naming all the fish, describing their colours and telling funny stories about what they’re doing [chasing each other, playing tag etc]. On the days that they’re cleaning the tank, drop off is SO much harder, because there’s not that usual routine drop off, and the distraction is gone. So, find a distraction, make a routine and stick to it.

Always give them a kiss, cuddle + say goodbye before leaving; never just disappear

You know when your little one is playing quietly on the floor in front of you, and you briefly get up to get something or do something and they haven’t realised you’ve moved away? And then they start looking around you for you, and panic once they realise you’re gone? That’s why it’s so important to say goodbye to them. Yes, they might get upset, but if you’re slipping out by surprise, the next time that you go there, they’re really going to struggle to let you out of their sight.  

  I hope these tips help you with your daycare or school drop offs. I know it can be hard and make your heart hurt but remember that you are a good parent. On the original post, I’d love to hear any tips and tricks you’re tried and tested to make daycare or school drop off smoother.

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