This year my big boy starts big school, and because of this move, his little brother will also start at a new childcare right next door.
I figure this will make drop off and pick up a lot easier for me. But it will also be better for my preschooler because he will spend the next two years there and then hop over the fence to school with friends he has already made at that preschool. Whereas the childcare he’s at now – and very settled in – is a couple of suburbs away.
But while it makes sense to change his childcare to me, it probably doesn’t for him. Which is why I want to ease him into things to make the transition a smooth one.
If you also have a little one who is settled in their old kindy but will be changing childcare this year, these tips might help you as well.
1. Talk to him positively about the change
This is pretty obvious, but I’m finding the more I bring up the ‘new kindy‘ to Sam, the more he is aware that change is coming.
I try to keep the conversations positive, reminding him that the new kindy has a fun playground and that he will be loved by his new teachers and will make some new little friends.
By talking about it as often as possible, say while in the car when he’s more conversational, he’s been able to voice his anxiety and feelings about it.
This morning, for example, he told me he doesn’t want to go to a new kindy. When I asked him if he felt scared, he told me he did and that “none of the grown-ups know me”. To which I was able to reassure him that I will help him to feel happy and safe there and that we will visit the new childcare together so he gets to know his teachers before he starts.
2. Make him a social story
Social stories – where you outline what is going to happen in pictures – are a highly effective tool for communicating a change to little ones.
You could simply draw this while talking to your little one about the new kindy. For example, you could draw a picture of the old kindy and a stick figure waving goodbye, then draw another picture of the new childcare with the child waving hello and lots of smiley faces greeting him, while explaining how he will be soon starting at the new childcare. I have been doing this with Sam when he’s squiggling at the kitchen bench and he’s really grasped what’s about to happen.
If you can get the new centre to send you some pictures of their classroom, the playground and teachers, you could even make this into a scrapbook and read it to him in the days or weeks leading up to the change.
There are also lots of great books you can borrow from the library about going to kindy, such as Maisy Goes to Preschool, that are wonderful.
3. Orientate him
Most childcare services recommend orientations days where you can visit for a set amount of time with your child to familiarise him with the new environment. This is a chance for him to meet his teachers and is really important in helping him to feel more comfortable on that first day.
You can gently encourage your child to play with the toys and do some activities while you’re there.
Do as many orientations as the new childcare can offer. They are invaluable. I have arranged four for my little Sam.
4. Give him a bookend to mark the change
Before starting at the new centre, it’s nice to be able to give your child what’s called a ‘bookend’. This is to help him process that one thing has finished, in this case his old childcare, and a new thing, starting at his new childcare, will begin after the bookend. The bookend could be an event like Christmas, or a holiday or something else that marks the end of something and the start of something else.
So you could say, “After we get back from holidays, you will start at your new kindy.”
5. Get to know his new routine
Have a chat with your child’s educators about their daily routine so you can start implementing this at home.
For instance, if your child still has a day sleep, you could make this at the same time slot as the new childcare so he is already adjusted to their nap routines before starting. Likewise with lunch and snack times. This will adjust his body clock and make it easier for him to slot into the childcare routines.
6. Get a photo of your child’s main educator
Ask your child’s new childcare centre for a photo of his main educator so you can familiarise your child to their face and name when talking about them. Don’t worry, this isn’t a weird request! Early childhood services realise how important it is to help make little ones feel at ease and they will be more than happy to email you a smiley headshot of the person who your little one will grow to love very soon.
I have just done this for Sam and I can’t wait to show him. His teachers look so nice and friendly!
All the best to you and your little love with the change.