Temporary morning daycare can throw a wrench into the routine of an otherwise flexible homeschooling family. Chances are your preschooler has already worked on basic kindergarten skills such as coloring, the alphabet, and shapes. There's usually a lot of unstructured play dates, as studies have shown you that preschoolers learn best through play. There should be a lot of play in the daycare, right? Today's daycare centers, like Cottonwood Montessori, focus on more than mere mass babysitting services. They are learning centers. Most offer a blend of structured learning and unstructured playtime. You've carefully chosen this daycare because you like its mix of learning and play. But how do you get your preschooler to adjust to the new hours and routine?
Try Visiting The Daycare
Let your child visit the daycare with you. Some learning centers allow your child to "try out" part of a session in order to see what his comfort level is in a classroom. Unfamiliar places can make a preschooler feel like cringing in a corner. After all, mom is usually close by, even at the park. Get down at eye level and talk to your preschooler. Tell your child just what is happening, that it is temporary, and that he will have fun. Some preschoolers take to new situations quickly, but others need reassurance. Do expect your child to parallel play for a time until he gets comfortable with the other children.
Adjust Your Child's Sleep Schedule
Kids who are homeschooled tend to have flexible sleep schedules. Your preschooler may usually go to bed around 8 p.m., but now needs to be asleep at 7 p.m. for his 5 a.m. wake-up. Preschoolers are notorious for getting up early. However, being on an inflexible schedule may make for a grouchy munchkin at first. Try adjusting to the new temporary schedule a week or so before beginning daycare. Start putting your child to bed at the same time every night after dinner and bath. Don't give in to last minute excuses not to go to sleep. While it's true that many homeschools are very regimented in their schooling already, new routines are new routines. Giving your child a week's heads-up will help him adjust.
Bring a "Comfy"
Let your child bring a comfort item if the daycare allows it. Not your child's favorite toy or stuffed animal! These can easily get lost or damaged at daycare no matter how careful the teachers are in watching the classroom. One of the best comfort items is a small, laminated family picture. One that fits in little hands. Your child can keep it in his pocket or in his backpack. Explain to your child that it is his comfort picture should he feel like he is missing you. Sometimes just taking a look at mom can help ease tough mornings.
These three tips may help your preschooler adjust to a new morning routine with others, even if the child care services are a temporary fix to your particular situation. A visit, a new sleep routine, and a comfort item helps make the transition easier. After all, even working parents feel more at home on a new job after they put a family picture on their desk! Daycare centers are not much different.