In this episode, Courtney Zentz, the Founder of Tiny Transitions, takes us through the process, from research to drop off and how to help a toddler get adjusted to their first time at daycare or Pre-K.
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Welcome to the kids sleep show where we help tired children to fall asleep independently sleep through the night and build healthy sleep habits for Life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together. Hey, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of the Kids sleep show. My name is Courtney Zentz, the founder of tiny transitions. And I’m excited to chat with you today all about starting a toddler at daycare, it’s such a fun and exciting time for a little one, to be able to start daycare to be able to start to make friends and build relationships. Whereas perhaps coming out of a post pandemic world, they haven’t had that opportunity or haven’t had the opportunity as much as you would like. So we’re trying to develop them. From a social standpoint, help them ensure they’re ready for kindergarten. And there’s all so many things that can be going on in both of your heads around this start to daycare. So in today’s episode, I’m going to be candid about it. Both of my kids went to school from 12 weeks through five years, five days a week at daycare, my son he was like peace out and he would run in that door didn’t care. My daughter who is still very much this way today
puts on a whole theatrical display. Anytime I leave the house, right, and you know, some of it is exactly that a theatrical display. So as parents, like kids know how to pull on our heartstrings a little bit. So we’re going to talk about that right and and what it should look like to make this transition smooth for your toddler as they’re getting ready to jump into the world of daycare. So first and foremost, you want to figure out when the timing is going to be for your child to start and then work backwards. So you’re set up for the big day, whether it’s going to be in a couple of weeks from now or a couple months from now that you’re starting to get them used to the idea that they’re not going to be with you 24/7. Okay, so first things first, you want to identify the local providers in your area where you could potentially send your child for daycare. And then I would suggest you start with an assessment of the facility. Right. I live in Westchester, Pennsylvania. And within five miles of us, I can name probably six daycares. They’re all relatively comparable in price. So the next thing you have to look at is availability, structure, routine, ease of access, right during rush hour and stuff for pickup. But also do I get a good feeling when I’m there? Right? We went to two different daycares in our town here, when we first moved from out of the area. And we didn’t know any better. The first one was good. But we didn’t know any different, right. And then we started to see like a lot of staff turnover. And this was pre pandemic. So we started to see like a lot of staff turnover and like people just complaining and teachers complaining and parents complaining. And the last thing you want to do is be a part of a daycare where everybody’s complaining, right? So we actually left the daycare after my son graduated for pre K four, because I was like, You know what, if we’re going to move now make sense. He’s going to kindergarten, he graduated. And my daughter still had a couple years. So we switched to a different school, down the road. Both of these were national chains. And we had such a beautiful experience at the New School. The owner was amazing. The teachers were amazing. I just got this like warm and cozy feeling when I walked in the door. So like, the first thing you’ve got to figure out is like, make sure that you’re picking the right daycare, for your family, for your personality and what you’re looking to get out of that for your child. I always wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the staff making sure things like, you know, what are the safety measures in place? You know, I looked back at old pictures when my son first went to daycare. And it was a single location daycare that was owned. It wasn’t a part of a chain. And there’s pictures they’ve sent me of like, oh, Max is so cute sleeping in his baby Merlin magic sleepsuit, which is completely a safe product to use, at any point, right? He was on his back and he was in the crib. But you know, it was right next to his Bobby D. Bobby D was a lovey, they’re not supposed to be in the crib, up through the age of one but a daycare the pictures they sent me Bobby D was in the crib. And I like looked back now because I didn’t know any better at the time. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like that’s so unsafe, you know. So it’s just kind of understanding what the safety protocols are making sure that the staff is trained, what do they do in an emergency situation? You know, what are the room setups, like? Are they cramming in like 9 million kids into this like little area to sleep, you know, kind of understanding a little bit more about the staff, their tenure, and then their certifications, right? The school we went to without mentioning the names. They had a lot of like master’s degrees in education, right. They had CPR certified staff. They had, you know, a lot of different providers that not only had a longer tenure of being there, which tells me they like it right. But they also were very educated, you know, where’s that our first daycare, the turnover was like so constant, you know. And it was just a very interesting space looking back on things, right. So making sure you take a look at that. Now, once you’ve identified the daycare, you’ve got to start date or you’re on the waitlist. So you know what’s happening. As soon as they have a spot open for your toddler, right? You got to talk about preparing your child for that start. And it starts in two different ways. One, it’s preparing them without them knowing, right? So making sure that they’re eating a balanced diet, that you can send that food to daycare, and they’re gonna eat it or find out is daycare providing the lunch for them, and then asking what’s on the menu, right, the second school we went to, they did that and the menu was beautiful, right? The first school didn’t. And we had to provide the lunch. And I will say the prices were relatively comparable. Maybe we paid a little bit more, but for the convenience of me not having to pack lunch, like cool, go for it. You know, I’ll pay the extra 25 bucks a week, so that I don’t have to deal with it. And you know, they’re eating a really well balanced lunch. Plus, it gives them things that I wouldn’t frankly cook at home so it’s exposing them to other foods. Okay. So you want to talk about the importance of like that routine, getting them up at the same time every day for a few weeks before you start getting them to bed at the same time. Every night. The biggest thing that derails a toddler sleep, overtired. overtired triggers adrenaline cortisol, which stimulates a child. So if your kids running around the house, like they just snorted a pixie stick, they’re probably overtired, they’re gonna cry and take a long time going down, then they’re going to have trouble settling, they’re going to probably wake frequently or early in the morning. And then the rest of their day sucks because they’re miserable, right? So establishing a really good routine about sleeping eating can help them because it also creates consistency at home. daycares are very regimented, you do the same thing at the same time, every single day, they operate off of routine for a variety of reasons, right one, cuz it’s good for the kids too, because they gotta manage it, right. And so helping your child to know that like, life just isn’t a big free for all. Like it might have been for a couple years at home can be super helpful consistency, helps your child feel secure, whether they’re at home, or whether they’re at daycare, okay? Then you’ve got to get your kids buy in, but you got to be careful, just like my husband, the other day was like, Hey, guys, you want to go to the gym? And like, dude, they’re never gonna, why would you ask that? They’re never gonna say yes. Right? But you don’t give them the choice. You say, all right, would you like to go to the gym now? Or in 20 minutes, right. So they at least have a say in it. But either way, they’re going to the gym, because they have a great kids facility. And my kids need to get out and run around because it’s freezing here in Philly right now, you know. So you know, it’s preparing your toddler to make that transition, you’re going to talk to them a little bit about daycare, even visiting the facility, but not necessarily telling them why. Right? So you just say alright, Mommy’s gonna stop in somewhere, let’s go. And then you don’t get them any anxiety built up, right? They just come in with you. And then they see like kids their age, and they’re playing and they run off and start playing. They can meet the teachers, you can meet the teachers, right? Help your toddler to become familiar with the environment without any pre emptive education, right? Like, sometimes not telling them is the best thing you can do. And just watch them assimilate into the environment, right? And then you say, Okay, next, maybe we’ll schedule a half a day where they come and they get to play and then a full day or you start them part time, depending on a daycares availability, maybe, hey, we’re going to start with two days a week now. And then in the fall, they’re going five days, right? It’s going to help your toddler to become more familiar. My friends here in Westchester. They have a little guy who has been home with mom for three years, just started in the three year old room at our school. And he is losing his marbles before noon, because he just wants mommy. Right? He’s very attached to mommy. And she’s like, you know, the school isn’t helping him to make the transition. They basically just call me to pick them up every day. So then he knows if he acts out, I’m going to come pick them up before lunch, but yet I’m paying for full day. And they’re not giving me my money back, you know. And so it’s just such a dowel, a debt, a delicate balance, right? Because she’s like, well, you guys have to teach him to learn. And you can’t just keep calling me to rescue him like, you know. So now what they’ve got going on in March after six months, is she comes in and eat lunch with him every day. So instead of picking him up, he knows that he gets to see her at lunch. And then she leaves so it gets him to lunch. So that next year when he’s in the four year old room, he’s there all day. So we’ve all got to make sacrifices based on what we’re trying to do to help ease that transition for kids. But we also have to be careful because like I said, it’s behavior based right? My daughter you would think like you were murdering someone what And you would drop her off at school was like screaming clenching onto my leg. And I was like, Dude, we do this every day, since you’re 12 weeks old, like this is nothing new. And it was just a performance. And I would rip her off my leg, hand her to the teacher walk out why she was screaming, and I wasn’t in that parking lot, two seconds, and she was playing with her friends in the corner. It was an act because she could get a response out of me. Maybe it was an extra hug or a kiss or a cuddle or something, right. But it was a performance more than anything, right? Like I said, my kids went to school from 12 weeks on, so they didn’t know any different five days a week, right? So you just have to kind of balance like being accessible without being excessive for kids. Because you don’t want to create those types of behaviors. But understanding the environment and helping them to ease into that environment can be helpful. Okay. Now, you want to also talk to them about their sleep structure. If your kid is just going to school for the first time, and they’re a toddler, they’re likely on one nap a day where they should be. Okay. So understanding what the daycares timing is, and I’ll tell you why. Because if you don’t like or follow what that daycare is doing, you have to go somewhere else. Because if your kids sleep gets imbalanced a daycare, no matter what you wish, as a parent, it’s never going to regulate and your kid’s gonna be terrible sleeping, okay. And a lot of families that are like later families, and they’re like, no, no, we don’t want that time to be to like nine o’clock because we got older kids, and we’re doing sports, and we’re doing all the things and we’re out and about. And I’m like, You can’t do that to a 17 month old, who takes a nap from 1245 to three o’clock. They cannot stay awake until nine o’clock. You are setting them up for failure. They are going to freak out going down and they are going to be up every morning at 5am. And sure enough, they are right. Because kids get overtired, they’re not getting the right sleep, and then you get into this hamster wheel of a mess. Okay, so understand what their schedules are. Most daycares will tell you their nap schedule is typically after lunch, children settle on a mat, basically, from 1245 till about three o’clock and then each year, they sort of dial it back a little bit. So like 1245 to 245 1245 to 230 when they’re getting ready to drop the nap like going into the summer for going off to kindergarten, right? Because in kindergarten, you’re obviously not taking a nap. So especially full day, like here, we have full day kindergarten. So you know the daycares, you got to understand the timing and make sure it works with your family. Right. Because if if it doesn’t, you’re going to have a pickle of a situation. Kids need to go to bed, right? Most kids that are in daycare that I know go to sleep at seven o’clock. And then they wake anywhere between six and seven in the morning. Because their nap is 1245 to three and that’s what closely aligned with the toddlers body clock and the balancing of a hormone that’s going to help them to sleep well. Okay. So you’ve got to understand also your child’s ability to sleep well. Okay, if you’ve laid with them for a nap for three years, and all of a sudden you expect they’re gonna sleep alone on a mat. Good luck, right now they might, I will say a lot of people that come to me have the reverse problem, their kids are in daycare and they nap fine. But at home, it’s a huge issue. And I’ll tell you why it’s behavioral. Right? Kids know how to sleep, they’re choosing not to, because at home, they know I can get in mommy’s bed, I can have daddy rub my head for two hours, right. So those behaviors shift their sleep patterns at home. But at daycare, they sleep really well. So, you know, kind of understanding what the process is to get kids down to sleep, you know, oftentimes, they need to bring a mat. So my kids had to bring a mat, they have these amazing roll up mats on Amazon and it has a blanket attached to it and pillows stuffed in it. So they’re like 50 bucks, they’re not bats for daycare, you can find them on Amazon, I could probably even link one in the show notes that we used. And I loved it because I could like watch the whole thing. One piece, I could roll it up, put it on my back. I wasn’t trying to lug in all this other crap, you know. And every Monday I would bring the nap mat and it was nice and fresh. And I would wash it. And I didn’t have to worry about like sheets and stuff. Everyday care is different. So you got to figure out what yours is going to do. But also allow your kid to pick it out. They have stars and stripes and unicorns and rainbows and butterflies and all the things right like let your kid pick their nap at let your kid pick their lunchbox and their water bottle. Like let them have some say into what it is that they’re bringing to daycare so they feel involved and excited about their transition. Right. Definitely make sure you order some labels labels, which I will also link because they are awesome. And they stick to the nap mat they stick to the water bottles, you can wash them and they don’t come off. Those are a great addition as a parent when you start sending your kids out and about an order like 9 million of them because you’ll use them all through elementary school as well. But talk to your toddler about the transition. And also make sure that their sleep habits are good right help make sure they’re falling asleep independently. If they’re not you’ve got to reach out to a sleep consultant right we will help you with this because it is almost always behavior related in the home, when you’ve got these sleep issues happening, right, they’re like non clinical sleep issues.
And, you know, we got to get those things sorted first, before your kid starts daycare, and then it just goes downhill from there because they’re gonna miss you, right? Like, and it sucks. You know, I dropped my kids off every day at 730 in the morning, and I pick them up at five o’clock for five years, same every single day. So, you know, sometimes sending them with like a picture of you that you print on their pillowcase if they take a pillow or you send them with a picture of you. So if they miss you, they have it right, helping them to pick out a new lovey that they could take with them to cuddle with, right? I just purchased a bunch of slumber kins. They are a great product. And my kids take that little slumber kins and they snuggle with that thing, right? So let them have some attachment type products that they can take with them, that the daycare allows, right? The daycare doesn’t want a bunch of tchotchke stuff coming in. But if it’s like, okay, let’s you know, I’m gonna print our family picture on a pillowcase or, you know, iron on transfer it onto their nap mat or something, you know, like you should see all the crazy stuff that we’ve done as parents, you know, just to make sure you’re easing the transition, I can tell you, most kids, it’s going to take a couple of weeks to transition, okay? Routines are great. prepping them in advance is great, and making sure you’re comfortable with the place where they’re going. But to be honest, it’s just rinse and repeat repetition. Usually after the first week, things calmed down, it’s new for them. It’s scary for them. It’s the first time they’re making relationships with new friends. They’re trying to figure out their space and place. They’re trying to learn their teachers, they’re trying to adjust to sleeping on a mat in the room with a bunch of people. The daycare knows what they’re doing. They’re very good at it, they handle it. I drop my kids off, and I do what they say which is get out, right, you prolonging the issue by staying there for three hours and sitting and having breakfast with them and stuff. Like it doesn’t help. Maybe the first couple days, like if the daycare wants you to do that, but find out what they want. Is it easier if I just drop and run? Right most of them it is because the kids it’s it’s usually an act. Now again, some kids are going to have a little bit of a separation anxiety. So it’s important to have that consistent routine. And you just do it every single day. And after about a week your kids are pretty responsive to it right? Oftentimes, things like a little sticker or reward chart can be helpful. When you pick them up. You talk all about their day and their artwork. And some of my favorite things were like just things my kids brought home from daycare, you know, that they made and they’re still hanging on the tree and, and such a lot of times daycares will send pictures to you now so you can see that your child is okay. So as a parent, you’re not an emotional mess. I always loved my kids go into daycare, right? I thought they made relationships. I thought it fostered independence, I thought they enjoyed the learning and education. I’m not a good stay at home mom, I recognize that and I’m okay with that. I am better when I am working. We all do daycare for different reasons, right? Whether we’re transitioning back to work, or whether we’re trying to socialize them in preparation for school. Just take a breath and know that they’re in a safe space. They’re going to make friends. Yes, every transition and change in anything we do in life is hard. And it can seem like a daunting task. But if you’re thoughtful in how you do it. And if you make sure things like after pickup, you come home and say, Billy, what would you like to do today? Right? And then you let Billy have that first choice as soon as you get home for like what he wants to do with mommy, or daddy when they pick up right? Like you’re filling their cup in different ways. Okay, so you make sure their cups filled emotionally, they’re going to be exhausted, get them down to sleep. All right, don’t don’t sacrifice sleep for the sake of something else. The kids need sleep, especially with daycare, because they’re busy all day. They’re outside running, they’re inside run and they’re doing things they’re playing games, like it is a busy environment in there. And their minds are pooped, you know, so just give yourself some grace. Give them some grace. And you know, know that if you need help, we’re here to help. Okay, so that concludes this week’s episode on transitioning your toddler to daycare. Remember out in our free sleep library which I will link in the show notes. You can access a beautiful toddler freebie, it’s like the five changes that you can make with a toddler if their sleep is not going as well as you hoped right now. So definitely grab that and set up some time to chat if you need help with this. We’re very good at it. We’re all parent coaches, sleep coaches, you know, amongst many of the other backgrounds that we bring here, from a practitioner standpoint to tiny transitions. So hopefully you have a great rest of the day. And I look forward to talking to you next week here on the kids sleep show. Bye for now. One more thing before you go, did you know that we offer a risk free guarantee on all of our private sleep coaching services. In addition, we have the largest library of free sleep training content available for children of all ages. Jump on over to tiny transitions.com and learn more about how we are supporting and changing the quality sleep that your family gets one family at a time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai