How to Get a Toddler Ready for Daycare: Essential Preparation Tips

Preparing a toddler for daycare is a significant milestone for both parents and their little ones. Starting daycare can be an emotional experience, filled with excitement, nerves, and anticipation for the new journey ahead. As parents, it’s crucial to ensure your child is well-prepared and comfortable with this new environment, which will help them adapt to their surroundings more easily and make the transition smoother for everyone involved.

One of the first steps to getting your toddler ready for daycare is to visit the facility together, allowing them to become familiar with the environment, the staff, and how they will arrive each day. Involve your child in the process by letting them choose their own bag, outfit, and breakfast for their first day Parents. Another effective method to ease their transition is to incorporate pretend play, where you can act out daily routines they’ll encounter at daycare, such as saying goodbye to you, sharing toys, participating in activities, and taking naps Zero to Three. This practice helps children become more comfortable with the idea of attending daycare and equips them with the necessary skills to navigate their new environment confidently.

Understanding the Toddler’s Age and Development

Milestone and Developmental Stages

As a toddler enters daycare, it is important to be aware of their developmental milestones within their age group. These milestones allow you to better understand their capabilities and what to expect when supporting their growth.

For instance, young toddlers (12-18 months) often begin to use a few words, start developing basic life skills, and imitate others’ behaviors. These new skills reflect their growing understanding of social behaviors and language.

At 2 years old, your child will usually start to run, jump, and climb. They become more proficient in their motor skills, as their muscles develop and enable them to move with more agility.

Emotional and Physical Development

In addition to milestones, toddlers go through various emotional and physical stages that impact their readiness for daycare. The “terrible twos,” a period of increased independence, is a common phase during which your toddler may be more challenging to manage. Understanding this stage allows daycare supervisors to better prepare and provide appropriate guidance for your child.

Moreover, toddlers experience rapid physical development, improving motor skills, and coordination. By age 2, most toddlers are able to:

  • Stand on their tiptoes
  • Climb over furniture
  • Run short distances

This physical advancement helps them adapt to new environments and activities available at daycare or preschool.

Keeping these milestones, emotional and physical development stages in mind can provide valuable insight into your toddler’s growth and help to establish appropriate expectations when introducing them to daycare.

Preparing for Daycare Transition

Establishing Routines and Schedules

One important aspect of preparing your toddler for daycare is to establish routines and schedules. By doing so, you can help your child become familiar with the structure of the day, which can alleviate some of the anxiety they might have when starting daycare. Start by creating a schedule that mirrors the one at the daycare, including timing for meals, playing, and napping. Also, practice some daily routines like getting dressed, packing their bag, and saying goodbyes. This will help your toddler to adjust more easily to the new environment and feel comfortable with these activities once they start attending daycare.

Visiting the Daycare Facility

Before your toddler begins daycare, it’s crucial to visit the facility together to help them become familiar with the environment. Tour the spaces where they will be spending their time, including the play area, the nap area, and the eating area. As you visit, talk to them about what they can expect to do at daycare, such as playing with other children, learning new songs, and participating in group activities. Encourage your child to ask any questions or express their feelings about starting daycare, as this can help alleviate any concerns they may have.

Managing Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a common issue for both parents and toddlers when adjusting to daycare. One way to reduce anxiety is suggesting that your toddler brings a comfort item – like a favorite toy or blanket – to the daycare. Familiarity can help in easing the transition, so consider providing a photo of your family to stay in their cubby. Additionally, you can establish a goodbye ritual that you can practice during your visits to the daycare facility. This routine provides a sense of security and predictability for your child. It’s important to be patient and reassure your toddler that you’ll return for pickup as they begin establishing trust and becoming more comfortable in their new setting.

Choosing the Right Daycare

Evaluating Licensed Providers

When selecting a daycare for your toddler, it is crucial to choose a facility that is licensed by the state and has no citation for any violations 1. Licensing ensures that the daycare meets health and safety standards. You can check the facility’s status using your state or territory’s online resources2.

Consider the following factors when evaluating a licensed provider:

  • Staff-to-child ratio
  • Group size
  • Qualifications and training of caregivers
  • Safety and cleanliness of the facility
  • Age-appropriate activities and curriculum

NAEYC Accreditation

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation is a sign of high-quality childcare3. NAEYC-accredited daycares meet the following 10 standards:

  1. Relationships
  2. Curriculum
  3. Teaching
  4. Assessment of Child Progress
  5. Health
  6. Teachers
  7. Families
  8. Community Relationships
  9. Physical Environment
  10. Leadership and Management

Choosing a daycare with NAEYC accreditation can give you confidence in your child’s care and school readiness.

Meeting Caregivers and Staff

It is essential to visit the daycare and meet with caregivers and staff before enrolling your child. This will help establish a sense of attachment between you, your child, and their caregivers. While visiting the center, consider the following:

  • Observe the interaction between staff and children
  • Assess their communication skills, both with children and parents
  • Determine their approach to discipline and conflict resolution
  • Check if the facility encourages open communication and parental involvement

In conclusion, selecting the right daycare involves evaluating licensed providers, considering NAEYC accreditation, and personally meeting caregivers and staff. These steps will help you find a nurturing and supportive environment conducive to your toddler’s growth and development.

Developing Social and Emotional Skills

Encouraging Playdates and Group Activities

One essential aspect of preparing toddlers for daycare is to develop their social and emotional skills. An excellent way to do this is by encouraging playdates and group activities, such as attending playgroups or taking them to the playground. This exposure to other children fosters valuable skills, such as sharing, taking turns, and communication during play.

Pretend play is another essential aspect of social and emotional development. By engaging in role-playing games, such as playing house, supermarket, or doctor, toddlers learn to empathize, express their emotions, and better understand social interactions.

Fostering Independence and Confidence

As you work on improving your toddler’s social skills and promoting new friendships, it’s also crucial to foster independence and confidence. Developing a consistent bedtime routine can help your child adapt more quickly to new routines at daycare, making the transition a more positive experience.

To foster independence, you can encourage your toddler to engage in tasks such as:

  • Dressing themselves
  • Picking up their toys
  • Brushing their teeth
  • Serving their food

It’s essential to nurture a healthy balance between independence and discipline, as this contributes significantly to their social and emotional development. Provide encouragement and praise when your child succeeds, and offer guidance when needed.

Remember that every child’s personality is different, and the methods of building social and emotional skills may vary. By leveraging playdates, group activities, fostering independence and confidence, you can help prepare your toddler for daycare and set them up for future success.

Acclimating to Preschool and Classroom Settings

Visiting the Classroom

Before your toddler starts preschool, it’s essential to help them get familiar with their new environment. One effective way to do this is by visiting the classroom together when it’s empty or less crowded. This will allow your child to explore the new surroundings, play areas, and meet some of their future teachers. Introducing your child to a new environment without other children present can help ease anxiety and lessen the stress of the unknown for your little one.

Practicing Good-Bye Rituals

Starting preschool often includes creating new routines for your toddler. One significant change is the moment you say good-bye to them at drop-off time. To make this transition smoother, establish a consistent good-bye ritual that both you and your child can follow. It might entail giving a hug, sharing a high-five, or offering words of assurance like “I’ll be back soon.” Practicing this routine before the first day of preschool will help your child feel more comfortable when the time comes for you to leave.

Engaging in Reading and Learning Activities

An essential aspect of early childhood education is developing early literacy skills. Incorporate age-appropriate reading and learning activities into your daily routine to help your child become more accustomed to the activities they’ll likely engage in at preschool. This can include shared book reading, flashcards, and letter tracing activities.

When selecting materials for these activities, choose those that are related to preschool themes. For example, books about starting preschool, making friends, or being a good helper can help prepare your toddler for their upcoming classroom experiences. Additionally, engaging in play-based learning activities at home, such as role-playing school scenarios or practicing turn-taking, will provide your child with the necessary foundation for a successful transition into their pre-K program.

While each child’s journey toward acclimating to preschool and classroom settings will be unique, these strategies can help you support your toddler as they embark on this important milestone in their early education.

Promoting Motor and Cognitive Skills

Building Fine Motor Skills Through Play

Encouraging toddlers to engage in play activities that involve the use of their hands can help develop their fine motor skills. One way to do this is by providing crayons for coloring and drawing. This will help improve their hand-eye coordination and strengthen their hand muscles. Additionally, you can introduce simple puzzles, which will not only enhance their problem-solving abilities but also improve their grip on objects.

Nature play is also essential in promoting cognitive development. Allowing toddlers to explore their environment and interact with natural elements like rocks, leaves, and water can help them develop their recognition skills, motivation, and attention. Furthermore, incorporating obstacle courses with items such as logs or playground equipment can enhance their gross motor skills, which involve balancing, climbing, stretching, and reaching.

Introducing Simple Instructions and Expectations

Establishing a routine with simple instructions can help prepare a toddler for daycare. This includes basic activities such as washing hands, packing their bags, and putting on their shoes. You can also teach a toddler about community by introducing the concept of sharing and taking turns during playtime.

Reading is an important aspect of cognitive development in children. Engaging your toddler in reading activities, like showing them colorful books with images and narrating stories, will help them recognize pictures and learn new words. Encourage them to be engrossed in the stories you read to them, which will help develop their concentration and memory skills.

Lastly, potty training is a crucial step in preparing a toddler for daycare, as it teaches them independence and self-awareness. Introduce potty training gradually by discussing the process with your child, setting a consistent routine, and celebrating their accomplishments. This will help them understand expectations and adjust to a daycare environment.


  1. How to Get Kids Ready for Child Care – Parents

  2. Getting Started: Simple Steps for Finding and Choosing Child Care

  3. How Do I Find and Choose Quality Child Care? |

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