Social Development In Children – The Tricky Transition into Child Care

Social Development

Social Development In Children – The Tricky Transition into Child Care

Daycare is a great place to foster social development in children. However, that first day of daycare is an extremely emotional time for most parents, especially mothers; not to mention the children. Parents want to know how to successfully transition their child into a facility with minimal crying for both as well as with minimal stress.

Since each child is different each transition should be specific to the child, and this will be dependent on the childcare facility that you choose. When you are inquiring with a facility ask how they transition children into care. Typically, there is some flexibility with the time of day; some will also be flexible with the length of transitions.

I believe that infants require longer transition periods. This is based on attachment figures and separation anxiety. 

Transitions periods can be 1-2 weeks; in my experience most facilities offer a 1- week transition. In my opinion, 1 week is suitable for children 18 months and up. I believe that infants require longer transition periods. This is based on attachment figures and separation anxiety.   There are different stages of separation anxiety; it is heightened between 6-7 months then again at 10 months. Infants encounter anxiety when their primary caregivers leave, whether it is to go to work, go grocery shopping or at times as simple as leaving the room. Imagine how the child will feel during the transition to childcare when their attachment figure leaves for an entire day. To us it is a couple of hours, to a child it seems like forever as they have no concept of time, this leaves them scared, insecure, stressed out etc.

Infants encounter anxiety when their primary caregivers leave, whether it is to go to work, go grocery shopping or at times as simple as leaving the room.

An easy way to transition children between 18 months and up into childcare is to have a schedule prior to starting. I recommend asking the facility your child will be attending how their day is structured and begin the same routine at home. The childcare facility will provide you with a schedule; it should look similar to this one:

Day 1 9:30am-10: 30 am (parent stays with child)

Day 2 9:30-10:30 am

Day 3 9:30-12:30 am

Day 4 9:30-2:30 pm

Day 5 Full Day

In order to assist them successfully through this time I recommend having a special toy/animal.

Some children will still resist this schedule. In order to assist them successfully through this time I recommend having a special toy/animal. Sleep with the animal for a few nights so it has your scent. Bring a family picture for the child to carry around with them, tell your child that you love them and will be back after a certain activity (lunch time, nap time or outdoor play) this way your child can anticipate your return. Finally, I would also ask the childcare workers to have 1 teacher stay with your child until heshe is comfortable. This way heshe will have the opportunity to bond with 1 teacher and build trust with them.

For an Infant I would have a 2-week transition that looks similar to this:

Day 1 9:30-10:00am (Parent stays with Child)

Day 2 9:30-10:30am

Day 3 9:30-11:00am

Day 4 9:30-11:30am

Day 5 9:30-12:30pm

Day 6 9:30-1:30pm

Day 7 9:30-2:30pm

Day 8 9:30-3:30pm

Day 9 9:30-4:30pm

Day 10 Full Day

I recommend that you return to your child when heshe is not crying, this way you can praise them for doing a great job while you were away. This will also leave them feeling positive about their time spent in the classroom. The child will remember that each time you’ve returned they were happy. I have made this transition long, most infants can handle 4 hours of being away from their secure attachment (parent) with a few sad moments; anything longer can be harder on the child and make the experience negative. If you have flexibility with your work I would recommend the above for a few weeks and then extend the time once your child is more comfortable with the facility, routine and teachers.

Speak to the supervisor of the childcare facility to ensure they can work with you and your child to ensure a smooth transition.

Remember that your child will still love you at the end of the day no matter what!

Read more on child-parent attachment and social development.

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Amy Gibson BCD, RECE

About Amy Gibson BCD, RECE

Amy, having earned a Bachelors Degree in Child Development, has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for the past 10 years. First working in an infant classroom, and then moving to JK, preschool and toddlers. Currently Amy works as a Supervisor of a childcare facility in York Region.

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