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A new year with new experiences and challenges. One of the important decisions you’ll have to make is deciding if you want your little one to go to a day care/ pre-school or stay at home with a nanny. The reasons for having to make this decision varies depending on your work commitments, arrival of a sibling or that your maternity leave might be over. This can be a scary thought at first.

There is also the option for those of you who are lucky enough to stay at home with your little one or able to get a stay in nanny or granny to help you during the day. You can make use of Pienkvoet-Pret classes for additional stimulation and social interaction for your little one. These classes are developmentally appropriate and can open your mind to entertaining your little one with some household items, instead of expensive toys. These classes are fun for both mom and baby and a great benefit is that you get a chance to meet other moms with the same aged children. I met one of my best mom friends 8 years ago in a Pienkvoet-Pret class and we still see each other today.

But what about our current COVID situation?

Many parents are wary of allowing their children to be exposed to COVID and rightfully so. I myself have to face the decision of sending my 2 year old to pre-school or letting him stay at home. Certain age children do not know how to keep their space, others still put everything in their mouths to explore. So many factors to take into consideration! What I do know is that all schools need to follow a protocol and take every precaution to help prevent any spread amongst the children. 

The following advice is for when you decide to use a pre-school or day care facility.

I had the privilege to be at home with my first son for 18 months and although not without its own challenges, I enjoyed every moment. After about 18 months we realised that he was getting bored and needed more stimulation and interaction with other kids his own age. Staying at home was not an option anymore. Looking long and hard for a day care was not an easy process. We were looking for one that would be close to the way I would look after him and because he was my first son I was anxious and scared that he would not be happy. We finally found the perfect home away from home and he settled in very quickly thanks to these few tips I am going to share.

Many benefits are offered when your little one joins a pre-school or daycare. Valuable life lessons can be learned, such as how to share, take turns, and follow rules. It is a wonderful place for kids to interact and make friends. Preparing them for the demands when they go to a “Big” school is another major benefit

For both parent and child, preschool comes with some emotions. Both anxiety and excitement can be felt by a child, entering a new preschool environment filled with unfamiliar teachers and kids. Mixed emotions are felt by the parents wondering whether their child is ready for preschool.

Try to get comfortable with your decision as this will help your little one to adapt quickly as well.

What to look out for and how you can help your little one through the process:

When looking for a caregiver and school always ask what is the philosophy behind their child care. Look at their schedules and rules and if it suites your parenting style. Do they have age appropriate routines and allow for individuality and what happens around nap and meal times. Trust your gut, you should feel comfortable and not stressed about your decision.

  • Call and schedule a tour of the school. Staying a little while so that you can see activities taking place.
  • See how the teachers work with the children, ask to spend time in the room where your child will be.
  • What is the child to caregiver ratio?
  • Ask if all caregivers have a degree in a child-related field and if they have worked in child care before.
  • Chat with a few parents at the daycare.
A great tip- Watch the other children at the daycare and look for happiness and comfort in their behaviour.

How will it affect my child’s sleep joining a new day care?

Sometimes their sleep routine could be disrupted . Other-times, it can just be what your child needed, specially if your little one did not have much structure during the day. The additional stimulation and routine would be a great benefit to help your baby sleep well. On the other hand if your little one slept well and had a good sleeping routine, the change to preschool can lead to a short term disruption as the new environment and changes could affect your baby for a few days. But once children adapt to their new surroundings they too will start to sleep well again. Just remain consistent.

Tips on how to help with tears when dropping your baby off:

  1. First, prepare your child by talking about school and how exactly the drop off will happen and what is expected. (Even role-play this event)
  2. Model your own calmness when you are dropping off your little one, its best to do it confidently and quickly so they can pick up from you that this is the best for them even if they cry a little. “My days as a teacher I experienced children whose parents dropped off and left quickly, the child only cried for a few minutes and they soon adapted to their new environment. “
  3. Do not sneak out of the room. Let your child know that you are leaving and will come and pick them up at the required time. Respect your child and always keep them in the loop with what’s happening.
  4. Take their lovey and favorite blanket with them to school, this will help them feel comforted and safe.

What do I do if my little one is facing Pre-school and a new sibling on the way, or a big change in the family setup?

Unfortunately life happens and we do not always have control over it.  But when the situation is under control ,our advice is to give your little one 3 months to adjust before introducing any new events. So if another baby is on the way, either allow your first child 3 months ahead to baby’s arrival to join a new day care or do it 3 months after baby arrives. If its not possible, then expect a few rough days and nights, this too shall pass and your little one will adapt and get back on track in no time.  Some extra patience and comfort will be needed during this time from both parents. 

Wondering how to time Pre school and sleep training?

A general rule of thumb would be to give your little one at least 3 weeks before going to pre-school. Most sleep training programs are 2-3 weeks and thereafter your little one needs to practice their new found skill. If that is not an option, give your little one time to settle in first with the new school program and once you feel the time is ready then that would be the best time to start the sleep training process