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Transitioning Your Child from Home to Early Childhood Education: What You Need to Know

A baby pushing up off the ground

With the summer in full swing, many families with children are thinking about back-to-school planning. Some children will be attending an early learning environment for the first time, and it can be stressful for families and their little ones. Here at Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning, we have put together some strategies that we hope will help smooth the transition and ensure your family is ready for this next exciting step in your child’s life.

An early childhood education center is a new environment for your child, with new people and routines. And it’s important to recognize that while you may be used to entering new situations, your three-year-old (or younger!) is not.

  • Starting slowly. If it is possible for your family, you can think about starting with short days when you stay with your child at the center. Gradually, you can build up to leaving your child for the whole day.
  • Get organized! A great start to the day begins the night before. Whether it’s making lunches, packing a diaper bag, or finding the right shoes and clothes, taking care of practical things will reduce your stress levels and allow you to focus on your child and how they’re feeling. A calm start at home means you both are more likely to be calm when you say goodbye.
  • Allow downtime at home. Early learning is designed to be very stimulating, so your child may be tired and need recovery time at home. Consider an earlier bedtime, longer naps, or quiet play to give your child time to relax.
  • Make special time at home with you. Make the most of the time you have together. Connect with your child with songs and play at bath time or cuddle up with a book at bedtime. Ask the child care center, or your local library, if they can recommend books for your child’s age group.
  • Send along a family photo. Having a photo of a child’s family or family member can ease and comfort your child when needed.
  • Stay with your child. During the transition period, it’s good to make time to stay with your child as they get used to being without you. You could read together, play, or watch your child explore activities. As you and your child become more comfortable, you’ll develop a drop-off routine that works for both of you.
  • Say goodbye. Once the transition period is over, lingering during drop-off can be confusing. When it’s time to go, tell your child where you’re going and when you’ll be back, even if they may be too little to understand. After a hug and a kiss, say goodbye to your child and their educator and leave promptly. This makes it easier for your child to settle down.

Don’t forget that your child’s early childhood educators have a lot of experience with settling young children, and they’ll be able to share suggestions for your child and your family. Make a point of building a relationship with your child’s early childhood educators and remember that if your child sees you trust their educator, your child is more likely to trust them too.

We can’t promise there won’t be any tears (perhaps from you, as well as your child), but we can promise that preparation will help you give your child the best possible start to learning.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning are subsidiaries of Milton Hershey School and will be staffed and operated independently of the Milton Hershey School core model.

Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.