On my son's first day of day care, I was surprised at just how much was involved in the care and keeping of children. Allergies were managed, there was a potty schedule, cubbies were filled, and there were so.many.children. It was bedlam, and the day care teacher wasn't even phased. Meanwhile, I broke out in hives just from observing the odd mix of organization and chaos. Curious as to how it all ran, I was curious about the things a day care teacher wants you to know about the first day of school. I mean, honestly, there's a lot going on.
When you trust your child in the care of others, it can be pretty emotional, but rest assured, these providers are well-trained and only have the well-being and safety of your children in mind. They take their jobs very seriously, training and learning the best ways to encourage your children to grow and thrive both in an out of the childcare environment. They become a part of your team, helping you raise your child and assisting them in reaching those ever-important milestones, so it's crucial that you have an open line of communication and know what the expectations are.
I spoke with several day care teachers and asked them what they want parents to know about the first day of school, because making a good start is an important step in having a great year. Plus, your anxiety's probably at an all-time high — it helps to have some direction.
1. We All Need To Be Flexible
Elizabeth Fleming, early childhood education teacher in New York, tells Romper that "sometimes parents come in and have a laundry list of expectations or schedule that we just can't fulfill. I understand your child's need to go to the potty every few hours, and I will accommodate that, but things like when your little one takes a nap or eats lunch and snack are generally pretty set by our schedule unless there's a health reason for it. A part of being at day care is learning different expectations and new parameters for learning."
2. Please Follow The List
Fleming says there's an approved list of what your child can and cannot bring to day care with them for a very good reason, so follow it. Whether it's a food restriction because of allergies, a ban on electronic devices — because yes, parents have tried to send iPads with 3 year olds — or something as seemingly silly as lunchbox rules, they all have a purpose. "Please don't send your child with lunch boxes that have a shoulder strap, kids throw those things around like a medieval flail, and it hurts when it hits you," she adds. I'm filing that under "things I never thought about, ever."
3. Sweatpants & Leggings Are Your Child's Friend
Maggie Browning of North Canton, Ohio, a day care administrator and teacher, tells Romper, "I know all those cute outfits look great. I love putting my kids in them as well, but for day care, easy and comfy is best. Pants that can go up and down quickly in a potty emergency will serve your child in the long run. And, if they can do it themselves, they feel more independent." She says that one-piece rompers and overalls are the enemy of childcare. "Every day care and probably every parent has had a wet overall incident." (Does it count if mine happened to me when I was pregnant?)
4. Pack Finger Foods In Their Lunches
Browning says that it doesn't matter what you pack for your kids, if you do, just as long as it's easy to eat. "I love the bento box trend for this reason. It's usually a bunch of reasonably healthy foods that can be easily picked up and eaten. It's better for the teacher and easier for the child, plus, if they don't make a mess, they don't need to change clothes or wear something dirty the rest of the day."
I sent my son in with dumplings and chunks of bitter melon. I made easy to eat foods that he loved, and that made it easier on everyone.
5. Let Us Know If Your Child Is A Biter/Spitter Before Something Happens
It happens — some kids are biters, some kids like to spit. According to Browning, it's usually just a phase, but it's better if they know about it beforehand so they're not scrambling if it does happen. Also, she tells Romper, "If it happens repeatedly, children can be removed from the program. It's a matter of safety for the other children." It sucks, but it happens.
6. Please Drop Off & Pick Up Your Child On Time
They get it, sometimes things happen, but try your best to pick up and drop off your child on-time. April Diamond, pre-K and day care teacher in New York, tells Romper, "A lot of day care has scheduled drop-off and pickup staggered so that the teachers and students aren't overwhelmed. When someone is late, it throws off the whole line and kids get frazzled, not to mention that teachers are as anxious to get home as parents are at the end of a long day." Day care teachers often work from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. with minimal breaks — keeping them later isn't very kind.
7. Let Them Know Your Child's Phobias
Everyone is afraid of something. Personally, I think that spiders are eight-legged demons hell-bent on stealing my soul through their freaky eyes, and I think that eggplant is trying to kill me. Teachers, more than anyone, get it. Kid phobias can be big, and Diamond suggests letting the teachers know if your child is afraid of the dark, of bugs, or whatever else before dropping them off. It just allows them to create a more welcoming environment for your little one.