The Daycare Phase-In: A Step-by-Step Guide to a Smooth Transition

by | May 14, 2018 | Parenting | 0 comments

Our son started daycare at four months old. As first-time parents, we were super nervous about leaving our baby in a brand-new environment, with people who were new to him. I’ll explain why we decided to do a daycare phase-in, but if you just want to find out exactly how we did it, you can click here to  skip to the tip.

Why We Did a Daycare Phase-In

We think it’s really important for D to be able to adapt to new situations and new people.  So I was a little surprised to find myself freaking out a bit at the thought of leaving him at daycare.

But when I thought about it, the anxiety isn’t because I felt they wouldn’t treat him well.  In fact, I was confident they’d treat him with love – we wouldn’t have chosen this placement if we didn’t have that confidence!

Instead, I was freaking out because: what if they don’t keep our schedule or our routines!??  We are big on scheduling and routines.  We were also just wrapping up sleep training, and I was so worried that they may undo our work.  I saw kids getting rocked to sleep, eating before going down for a nap, and getting so overtired it was impossible for them to sleep…all of which are big no-nos for us!

All of this made me nervous and even second-guess our decision to place D in daycare, but in the end, we decided it was best for him to experience different childcare styles and interact with kids that are raised differently.  He will, after all, meet and interact with wide varieties of people throughout the course of his lifetime, and we believe that the better (and earlier) he can appreciate and be comfortable with differences, the more enriched his life and relationships will be.

Since I wanted to (a) make sure that I understood what D’s daily routine would be like at daycare and (b) confirm that it wasn’t too far off from ours at home, I let myself be a bit of a helicopter mom even though I SWORE I’d never be one.  I spent lots of time at daycare with D to help him get to know the environment, his teachers, and his new friends.  And he’d know (or at least we’d communicate) that the place had mom and dad’s stamp of approval.

At the same time, I got to know his teachers and his new friends.  The teachers’ styles are definitely different from mine, the kids have unique personalities, so it was great to have that insight into D’s life away from home.  For me, a lot of my worry and anxiety comes from the unknown.  So learning all I could — the good, the bad, and the ugly — about D’s new environment really eased my worries.

Our Plan

We officially enrolled D a few weeks before I’d be going back to work.  D and I started visiting his classroom, gradually increasing the lengths of our visits.

During our visits, we continued with our usual routine, to familiarize his teachers with it and to get D used to following his routine in a new setting.  We also participated in daycare activities and made sure D got plenty of time to interact with the teachers and other babies.  His teachers were so welcoming and really committed to working with us to do what was best for our family!

D is on a part-time schedule at daycare, attending on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays.  Here is the schedule we created to get D acclimated to our new daycare routine:

Day 1 (Wednesday) One waketime visit (appx 2 hours) with me
Day 2 (Friday) Two waketime visits (totaling appx 2-3 hours) with me
Day 3 (Monday) Waketime visits (totaling appx 3 hours) and maybe afternoon nap.  I’d be there but make my presence as minimal as possible, and maybe leave for a short interval (or two)
Day 4 (Wednesday) Waketime visits (totaling 3-4 hours) and afternoon nap with me there.  Again, I’d be there during waketimes but make my presence as minimal as possible.  I’d put him down and get him up from his nap, to let D know this is a new place for him to nap and to show his teachers our naptime routine
Day 5 (Friday) Half-Day visit with me.  I’d be there just to observe
Day 6 (Monday) Half-Day visit in the morning for D only.  I’d come visit – simply to observe and help teachers with any necessary troubleshooting – in the afternoon
Day 7 (Wednesday Full Day with D only.  (I’d be at home.  Or getting a massage.)
Day 8 (Friday) Full Day with D only.   (I’d be at home.)

We also planned to evaluate along the way.  If D was struggling, we’d slow down the pace and repeat one of the planned days before we continued to the next day on the plan.

How did the plan work for us? Check out my post “Phasing in to Daycare – How It Actually Worked.”

Have any of you tried a daycare phase-in or phasing in approach to another kind of child care setting?  How did you go about doing it? And how did it work out for you?


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