The choice to put a child in daycare is never an easy one. It is normally a decision made out of necessity because the parent has to go back to work. They have to go out and support their family, so they need someone to watch their child while they are gone. Choosing the right daycare can be difficult as well, there are so many things to consider.
Is it a safe space, full of learning and fun? Will the child be happy there and thrive? These are all questions that are asked and thought about when trying to find the perfect spot. A question that is often not thought, however, of is if the child is ready for daycare?
A lot of children start daycare when they are babies, and this has one amazing benefit. They are already accustomed to being dropped off and spending their day somewhere. As the child gets older, they will start to understand more what is going on and they may not react in such a positive way. It is important that mom and dad really think if their toddler is ready to start daycare, as that may change their decision.
We have found 20 small signs to watch out for when trying to decide if a toddler is ready to be introduced into daycare.
20 How Independent Is Your Child?
Making sure the child’s relationship with daycare starts off on the right foot is very important. It can set the tone for the rest of the experience, and that is why it is so important to make sure your little one is ready. The first question you need to ask yourself is how independent your toddler is.
Daycares will vary on how independent they need the children to be, so it is important to research which daycare your little one will be attending. They should have the basics down though — toddlers should be able to entertain themselves to a certain extent. The daycare teachers won’t have the time to be one-on-one with each child.
19 Have You Ever Spent Time Away From Your Toddler?
This is a big one and it can be a common problem for children who are starting daycare a little later. If a child is not starting daycare until they are a toddler, there is a good chance that they have spent the first few years of their life with their mom. They have gotten used to having mom around a lot, and we need to decide how they are going to act when we suddenly leave.
Mom can make this easier by gradually leaving her child for longer periods of time. Go out and do some fun things with friends and family and ease your child into spending some time away from you. If you feel that your little one is not ready than you can try introducing them slowly, by gradually increasing the days they attend.
18 Introvert Vs. Extrovert
A lot of this is going to depend on who your child is as a person. What their personality is like and the only one who can answer this question is mom and dad. Even though they are young, toddlers have personalities all of their own and that can impact how they respond to daycare.
Some toddlers are introverts and they prefer to stay on their own and can become stressed easily. Others are extroverts and have no problem making new friends and interacting with others. If your little one is more of an introvert, this does not mean that they can not attend daycare, it just may mean a different strategy including some discussion with the daycare teachers.
17 Is Group Time A Good Idea?
Here is another great question to ask yourself, how much time has your little one spent in a group setting? Daycares are full of little children and there is always something going on, so it is important to make sure our little one is comfortable being in a group setting. A lot of daycare activities will also work on something like ‘circle time.’
This is when they all sit and share in some songs or stories together. If you have been routinely taking your little one to mom groups where there are a lot of children around, they may be okay. Mom can test out the waters by finding one of these groups and seeing how their child reacts to being in a group setting.
16 If A Schedule Does Not Exist, Make One
There are a lot of parents out there who believe in having a very strict schedule, everything happens at a certain time during the day. This can save the sanity of a lot of parents out there. Then there are parents that don’t really care for schedules and let their child guide the day activities. If they are hungry, they eat, and if they are tired, they sleep. Neither of these are wrong, but they can interfere with how your child responds to daycare.
Daycares have to run on a strict schedule. The teachers would not be able to get anything done throughout the day. It also allows the children to feel comfortable when they know what is going to happen. A toddler who does not have a schedule at home may have a hard time adjusting to the strict rules at daycare.
15 Are There Physical Limitations With Your Child?
There is more than just the emotional side of daycare that we have to think of, we need to think of the physical limitation. Daycares are always going to have children doing activities and running around, so we need to decide if our children are physically capable of keeping up in a daycare atmosphere.
If your little one has trouble moving from one activity to another without being a little cranky, they may not be ready for daycare just yet. If your child thrives on change and loves to run around and play than daycare may be the best place for them to be. Take a few moments and observe how your child acts when changing activities.
14 Check Yourself, Mom!
Even though a lot of parents don’t really have a choice when it comes to placing their kid in daycare, due to them needing to work, they need to observe their own thoughts. They need to evaluate why they are sending their kid to daycare. Is it because they want their little one to thrive and learn? Or, do they just need a babysitter?
Nothing is wrong with either answer, but it can affect how you introduce the concept to your little one. If you are doing it solely for you, and don’t think your little one is ready than they probably aren’t. it may be a better option to try and find a different daycare. Sometimes, at-home daycares are a better option because it is a home setting and usually a smaller group of children.
13 They'll Need To Follow Simple Directions Before Being Ready
It is no surprise that toddlers do not like to listen. It is like they only hear what they want too, and mom is constantly having to repeat herself. Daycare teachers don’t expect children to be perfectly behaved and listen like little robots, but they do expect some things. Children should be able to follow very simple instructions.
They should be able to listen to a teacher and follow simple commands. This can be tricky to decipher because kids are notorious for not listening to their parents but listening to other people. You can ‘test’ your child by having a friend or someone come over and interact with your child. Leave the room and see how your little one responds to someone else’s instructions.
12 Time Those Sitting Opportunities
If we know that children can not listen very well, then we sure know that they are also not very good at sitting still for an extended period of time. Toddlers are constantly on the move and they are too busy for things like stopping and sitting down. This is another skill that may need to be worked on before they start daycare.
Much like following simple instructions, daycare teachers know that toddlers can not sit in one spot for very long, but they should be able to sit for a few minutes. Work with your child on sitting still or the duration of a simple story or song. If you can master this skill, then your little one will be ready or the big leagues.
11 (Maybe) Potty Training
This one is going to vary greatly on the daycare. It is important to make sure that your toddler is ready for the specific daycare in question, and not daycare in general. Some daycares require children to be potty trained, especially if it is more of a preschool environment.
They may require some help, but it is great if they can understand and vocalize when they need to go and need minimal help from the teachers. Again, this is going to vary depending on the daycare, so it is important that mom does her research and sees if this is a requirement for the specific daycare mom has in mind.
10 How Many Questions Does Your Toddler Ask?
It is hard to find out exactly what our toddlers want. We could ask them, but we can never fully trust the answer they give us. This means that we have to look for the subtle clues along the way. If you ask your toddler if they want to go to daycare, they will probably say no. Now, they have no idea what daycare is so their answer cannot be trusted.
What mom can do is observe her toddler and see if they are showing an interest in learning. Are they constantly exploring their surroundings and showing an interest in books and music? These are all good signs that your little one is wanting to learn and needs an outlet.
9 How Easy Is Communication?
Communication is not a toddler’s strong suit. That is why tantrums exist, they are the only way toddlers know how to communicate their emotions. Now, they are never going to go off to daycare being able to recite Shakespeare sonnets, but their communication should be (somewhat) understandable.
This can be another hard one for mom to figure out because we pick up on our toddler’s language and we have this amazing ability to understand their language. That means we may think that they can communicate well, when really, we just know what they mean. It is a good idea to have someone else come over and see if they are able to understand your little one.
8 Anxiousness Is Never A Good Sign
This is another one that involves mom a lot more than the toddler. Mom needs to make sure that she is emotionally able to drop her child off at daycare. If mom has been a stay-at-home mom until now, she may have some reservations of leaving her child at daycare. While it may not matter anyways, mom needs to keep her emotions in check.
If mom is not ready, then the toddler won’t be either. Toddlers pick up on their mother’s emotions and if mom is feeling anxious than the toddler will as well. They won’t understand what is going on, but they will pick up on something being not quite right. This will turn into fear for the little one and drop-off is not going to go so well.
7 Always Getting Sick?
All toddlers are different when it comes to how often they are sick. There are no real indicators on if your baby will turn into one of these toddlers, but it may play a part in if they are ready for daycare. It is not uncommon that children are often all sick once they start daycare or even school.
That is because they are in a new environment and there are a ton of new germs floating around. If your toddler is always getting sick with the common cold, it may mean that their immune system is just not as strong as other children. This may make it more likely that they will fall ill much easier while they are attending daycare.
6 Naps Might Be An Issue
A lot of toddlers still take naps. There are a few out there who drop naps completely, but a lot of them still require that time of rest. It is important to make sure that the daycare you are choosing allows nap or rest time throughout the day. If they don’t then this may be a case of the daycare not being right for you.
Make sure you find a daycare that caters to what your child needs. Another option is to try and find a daycare that does half days. That way, the toddler can go to daycare in the morning and have a nap in the afternoon. Of course, the problem will be what to do with your child for the rest of the day, because it is unlikely that you can only work half days too.
5 Is Your Baby A Boy Or A Girl?
It is interesting to know that what may be holding your baby back from daycare is whether they are a boy or a girl. There has been a lot of research that has indicated that boys develop slower than girls do in a lot of areas. This may mean that a toddler girl may be ready for daycare when a boy counterpart is nowhere near ready.
This is not a rule, because we know every child is different, but it is an important thing to think about. We don’t want to set our toddler up for failure by enrolling them somewhere where they won’t thrive. If they can not developmentally participate, it can make it all a negative experience.
4 Is It The Toddler Or The Daycare?
No one knows your toddler better than you, and it is important to know what your child is capable of and what they enjoy. Even though your little one may leave for daycare fine, does not mean that will stay. There could come a time when your little one starts acting differently, and you may start to think that they must not be ready.
It is important to make sure that it is your toddler and not the daycare. Make sure that there is not something going on at the daycare that is changing your toddler’s reaction to it. Constant communication with the daycare teachers is so important and it is the only way you are going to know what is going on when you are not there.
3 Developmental Delays Can Cause Even More Delays
Knowing your child’s medical history is an important factor if they are ready for daycare. If your toddler has any developmental delays, then that may mean they are not ready for daycare at the same time other children of the same age are.
This would be another scenario where you are unknowingly setting up your child to not succeed. If they are not developmentally able to participate in a lot of the activities, they are going to get frustrated. When a toddler gets frustrated it can make them quite upset and less likely to want to participate again. It is important to work with your medical team on setting up a plan that will work.
2 Sensory Sensitivity
Does your toddler seem to have any sensitivity to different sensory stimulations? Some toddlers can get stressed with too much noise, smells, and sights. If this explains your child, then they may not be ready for daycare. Daycare is full of different toys, colors, smells and it is quite a noisy environment.
If that is not going to be good for your toddler, then they are likely not ready. This is another one where the only solution may be to talk to your medical team on how to make it less stimulating on your little one. No one wants their toddler to be left out, and they shouldn’t have to be.
1 Older Toddler Or Younger Toddler?
The last one relies a lot on knowing the daycare. There is a big difference between the skills and ability of a younger toddler and an older toddler. A 2-year-old is not going to be able to do as much as a 3-year-old. It is important to make sure the daycare separates the groups based on ages and ability.
If the only daycare near you caters to toddlers, but their whole class is filled with older toddlers (and you have a younger toddler), then there may be a problem. It is important to voice your concerns with the daycare teachers and see if there is a plan set up to handle the younger toddlers.
References: babycenter.com, care.com, momjunction.com, parenting.com