5 Parent "Must Knows" for Preparing Your Child (and Yourself) for Daycare

Updated: Jun 23, 2018

It’s no secret that being a daycare provider has a lot of “behind-the-scenes” stuff, mostly bookkeeping, planning, shopping for groceries and supplies, etc. but there’s a whole ‘nother sector of home daycare, specifically my program, of things that I do on a regular/consistent basis that may go unnoticed. Here’s the list!

  1. Cleaning– it seems a never-ending thing with cleaning with children. There’s tidying, dishes, sanitizing, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning children after eating. Our mealtimes plus clean-up can easily last 1.5 hours.

  2. Behavior Modification– A good daycare provider knows how and when to implement different styles of behavior modification. For me, that means: redirection, positive discipline, briefly explaining a rule, reiterating expectations, natural consequences, and time out for aggressive behaviors.

  3. Social Skills– Being able to function in society is important and children who learn how to relate to peers in the infant/toddler years will have better interpersonal, school, and society success.

  4. Contract/Policies– Business is ever-changing and any provider that wants to stay in the game for the long-run needs to review policies, contracts, rates, and make changes/updates.

  5. Planning- This can take a lot of time, for planning can be activities, meals, needed supplies or equipment, advertising and follow-up with prospective clients, etc.

  6. Record-Keeping– from receipt filing, attendance records, keeping track of weekly time spent doing daycare-related activities, mileage for business, etc. it can add up to easily 20 hours a week extra on top of business hours.

  7. Safety- From kitchen and bathroom cabinets to laundry room soap and chemicals to escape hazards, safety is an ever-upgrading process. In one year, I had to install chain locks up high, get cabinet locks, code locks, baby gates, keep scissors and sharpies in an upper cabinet, move kids medications to the highest shelf in the kitchen, and put a locked knob on a linen closet where we store first aid and hygiene items. All preventative, thankfully, but still necessary.

  8. Unique Items– I just recently bought 6 “milk jug” lidded cups with straws for the kids’ smoothies, which are so cute! But it set me back $24. Art materials can add up fast, too, especially if you’re buying for 6-8 children.

  9. Cleaning Dishes- Ohhhh the dishes seem bottomless some days… most days will include 2-3 loads of dishes. Cooking from-scratch meals has that as a part of it, which is great health-wise, but does take time and effort to keep under control. I’m a “family of 6” on days I currently do daycare.

  10. Taking Out the Trash– There’s usually 1-2 trash take-outs a day in a home with so many kids in diapers, cooking from scratch, tissues, and wipes, etc.

  11. Deep Cleaning- Moving out the fridge, cleaning behind and inside the stove, wiping down baseboards, daycare linens laundry.

  12. Yard Maintenance– Mowing, edging, blowing walkways clear, weeding, planting, pruning, raking, ensuring the sprinkler system is working.

  13. Activities- Coming up with activities for infants and toddlers can pose unique challenges since they are still mouthing toys and can choke, so creativity is key. Keeping a rotation of activities can also be challenging with limited supplies.

  14. Keeping Healthy– Since every day of being available is important to families in my care, me being well is important. That means eating well, frequent hand washing, and using preventative measures to avoid illnesses.

  15. Loving Your Kids– There is a big difference in the attitude of someone who is just going through the motions versus someone who is fully vested and loves what they do. Loving the children in my care may not seem like an obvious thing, but it is vital to attachment, trust, and the parent-provider relationship.

  16. Honesty– It can be hard to be honest, especially if it’s something dealing with an injury, something unpleasant, or dealing with a policy infraction. But integrity is also vital to the parent-provider relationship.

  17. Ever-Improving– The quickest way to fail is to remain stagnant, not changing. Successful daycare providers know they need to stay ahead of the curve and learn new things, try new techniques, and be open-minded to what new technology and new ideas bring. Change can be hard, but it’s good to keep moving forward.

  18. Professionalism- From the way your provider talks to you, to how she handles conflict, and especially how she handles the kids, it’s vital that the tone is of a knowledgeable provider who is professional and polite. This will make you feel like a team, combating any miscommunications.

  19. Preventative Measures– We daycare providers get really good at reading a child’s behavior that we can actually prevent accidents, injuries, incidents of biting, among other things. We’ve seen it enough times to have a sense of what it looks like.

  20. Learning/Training- Here in Florida, home daycare providers have to have 10 annual hours of in-service training to keep up with industry standards. I don’t ever let that be my limit, but instead I learn year-round from other businesses, local women’s business groups, books, articles, etc. I can never know everything!

After being on both sides of the parent and provider spectrum, there are definitely some things that I wish I had known and also some things that I wish parents would do when preparing their child for daycare. So, I’ve compiled a list of the biggest things that parents should work on with their newborn and young child from the beginning (or as soon as you read this, because it’s never too late!)

#1 Feeding a Bottle

Regardless of if you’re breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or combination feeding, your child will need to be taking a bottle good and well before their first day of daycare. If your child is exclusively breast-fed with no bottle feeding, you will need to work with your child on taking a bottle to be able to go to daycare. A provider cannot breastfeed a child and it’s not fair to the child to be hungry and unable to get their nourishment from a bottle. Both provider and baby suffer in this situation. A provider may need to call for pickup if the baby cannot or will not eat from the bottle. So please… put the work in at home to get your child fully acclimated to a bottle at least 2 weeks before their first day of daycare.

#2 Sleeping

At daycare, regulations for sleep can be quite rigorous and they need to be. Regulated providers (ie: licensed and registered providers) are required to sleep children on a firm, flat surface with no bedding or blankets, stuffed animals, etc. in the crib. A pacifier is permitted but that’s it. So while it might be great to use a rock-n-play at home, to bed share, to have baby fall asleep on you/in your arms/at your breast, in a carseat, stroller, etc. a childcare provider legally cannot do these things.

There have been so many reported deaths from unsafe sleeping practices at daycares that follow safe sleep procedures 80% of the time or even at unregulated daycares where this percentage is a lot less and where unsafe sleep is the norm. While it might be easier for a child to sleep in your arms (in terms of less fuss and protesting), it doesn’t help the child in any way transition to daycare. To go from sleeping in someone’s arms to being alone in a pack-n-play with no one around is a major transition shock and is possibly even frightening.

I encourage you to work with your baby from as early on as you can to be able to lay them down, alone, in their sleeping area, give them a kiss goodnight, and to leave the room. Or to work on getting to that point if you’re not there yet. A work in progress is better than keeping a bad habit. Because at daycare, your provider will have 3-7 other children to care for and they simply cannot lay next to your child until they fall asleep. Or hold a baby until they fall asleep. Or walk around with a child in a stroller to get them to sleep. It’s a lot harder to do this transition to good sleep habits with a 1 year old than it is with a young infant.

#3 Eating

Regardless of if you’re into baby-led weaning or into feeding baby food/purees, there are a few things you have to understand about daycare and feeding. There are regulations in place for how much and how often a baby must be fed breastmilk/formula and also for at what age a baby needs to be eating something else. Regardless of parental preferences, providers have to follow feeding laws if they are a regulated provider. We cannot restrict breastmilk or food for a child just because the parent requests it of us. That’s neglect. Essentially, if a child is hungry, they need to be able to eat.

Encourage your child to self-feed from as young an age as possible. If a child is particularly interested in food, they may be able to self-feed as young as 6-7 months old. It can be messy, but children and their clothing are washable. Self-feeding is beneficial in many ways but especially in a group care setting, a child who self-feeds can eat at the pace they like and stop when full and they aren’t waiting on the provider to spoon-feed them. It’s also good for developing independence, autonomy (the “do it yourself” mentality, which toddlers LOVE!), and ensuring that we can keep to a schedule at daycare. While it may be tempting to offer your child puree pouches and easy foods like that, they will still need to learn to eat table food and eventually use silverware. I’ve found that most children who are on purees too long (like still eating them at 9 months or so unless a medical reason) are more likely to be picky and have texture aversions. If you’re nervous about choking, then I highly recommend taking a CPR/First Aid/AED course. They are offered through the Red Cross in-person or can look up an online course.

At daycare, when it’s mealtime there is 1 thing served for everyone. It might be a casserole with ingredients all mixed together, it might be an assortment of 3-4 separate things on the plate, or it might be a blended smoothie. A daycare provider can’t (and likely won’t) make an alternate meal because 1 child has a dietary restriction or “doesn’t like” something that is being served. For a documented allergy, then the parent can likely opt to provide food if the daycare cannot accommodate the child’s allergy with their menu offerings. Special diets can be expensive and take extra time to plan menus.

It’s not likely that a child will not eat, unless they have been conditioned at home to be the one calling the shots. A child should decide how much and if they eat and it’s up to the adults in their life to give them what to eat, where (ie: high chair or picnic al fresco), and when. If you’re going out to eat, that’s the perfect time for your little one to order what he/she wants. At home, though? Not so much. Just tell your child that today for breakfast you’re having “xyz”. Leave it at that. Avoid the temptation to have them “take just a bite” or similar. If they don’t want to eat, then that’s ok. Let them know that they will not be having anything else until the next meal (lunch) in a few hours and keep to your word. Avoid having a food war.

#4 Play and Exploration

Children at daycare are encouraged to play, to explore, and to learn. It’s essential that they are in an environment where they can touch things, look at books, play outside in a safe area, and explore a playground. I believe that children as young as 10 months can start exploring a playground. Maybe they’re only interested in the grass or dirt, but it’s still good for them.

I’ve seen too many children hesitant to play and dive into their surroundings for whichever reason but I encourage them to play and explore! My daycare is set up in a way where everything is child-friendly, touchable, and explorable. It’s vital to children’s health and mental well-being that they be in an environment that is mostly touchable.

#5 Following Policies and Rules

I am a firm believer in respect and of following the rules. If a daycare has a policy about “no outside food or drinks”, then you need to abide by that. If they require 2 weeks’ notice to terminate the contract, then you need to give that. A business has these things in place for a reason and anyone agreeing to service agrees to the terms in which the business operates. Don’t sign on with a program if you don’t agree with how they do things, if you don’t agree with their policies, time off, closures, etc. Save yourself (and them) the headache of dealing with these issues later on. Find the right place the first time.

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