8 ideas for daunting daycare drop-offs with clingy kids

Kinderling News & Features

No parent is alone in that anxiety of dropping a kid of at daycare. And when they’re anxious as well, it just sucks! Lana Hallowes knows the feeling well, so she researched some ideas that will help both you and your baby.

This morning at daycare drop-off my toddler was doing his usual koala cling to my leg, making it almost impossible for me to walk. As I shuffled us to the sign in desk and shoved his little backpack in the designated basket, I could feel his separation anxiety rising.

Then, when I hoiked him up on my hip to say goodbye, his little face dropped and the tears and wailing erupted out of him. Sigh. Drop off can really suck some days.

Then, his gorgeous teacher, Ellie, did something rather cool.

She spoke to him gently and held up a little bottle of lavender oil for him to sniff. In a matter of seconds his distress was replaced with intrigue. Next, he wriggled down off me and toddled over with her to investigate some other smelly things she’d brought in.

Now, I don’t know if it was the calming effect of the lavender, the distraction it provided or the bond Ellie has been carefully finessing with my little Sam that did trick, probably all three. Whatever it was, I was able to kiss him goodbye and walk happily out the door knowing my boy was settled and happy. 

So it got me thinking, what other tricks can we learn that might help our clingy little ones with saying goodbye to us at daycare? Here are a few I found.

1. Build your child’s bond with their carers

The relationship your child has with their teachers is so important. If they feel comfortable, safe and loved by careers, kids will be more able to settle. This is something that will grow over time but you can help to foster it in lots of ways.

Talk to your kids about their teachers when at home and on the drive to daycare. If they’re up t talking, help them to say and learn their names. Show that you like them by always greeting them and talking to them warmly – even babies pick up on your emotional tone and get a sense of reassurance from this. 

Encourage your child to bring something from home to show teachers or even pick a flower from the garden for them. Assure your kid that you also trust these adults by handing them over to carers after you say goodbye and then leaving, so they can help your child to settle in their own way – this will build trust and a healthy dependence.  

2. Start a drop-off routine

Just like a bedtime routine helps your little one anticipate that it’s time for sleep, a daycare drop-off ritual will be comforting and reassuring to them.

Have an age-appropriate sequence of things you do when you get to kindy, such as put bag away, wash hands and kiss mummy goodbye so your little one is prepared for you going.

3. Don’t hang around

Stick to your drop-off routine and try not to linger as this can make the goodbyes harder for your child. They also won’t want to be settled and soothed by a teacher if you’re around to cling to. 

4. Compose a goodbye speech

As part of the daycare routine, having a goodbye script (something you say to your child every time you leave them at kindy) will help them to learn when it’s time to say goodbye to mummy and that you will come back.

Listen to Kinderling Conversation:

This could be something simple like, “Time to say goodbye. Ellie (or whoever the teacher is) is going to look after you now until I come back to pick you up. Bye bye.”

5. Always say your farwells

As tempting as it may be to slip out the door when your little one is happily distracted and playing, doing this may make it harder when they realise you’ve gone and don’t have any reassurance from you that you will be coming back for. Always say goodbye, even to babies.

6. Bring a comfort item

A comfort item such as a blanket or a soft toy to snuggle when you leave will help to soothe your child. Likewise, anything that smells like home for babies, such as your t-shirt will be of comfort. A laminated family portrait they can look at during the day is also a great idea.

Bringing something from home to share with teachers and classmates when you leave is also nice. This could be a loved book or a favourite toy. 

7. Make daycare mornings all about daycare

When your child wakes up on kindy mornings, tell them it’s a daycare day. This will help give them time to process it before being dropped there.

Read a story about daycare, such as Maisy Goes to Preschool as this will get kids excited about the day. Then talk over breakfast, when getting dressed and on the drive to daycare about what fun things they might do, such as playing with playdough, singing songs and painting. Also, mention the teachers and certain friends they can expect to see today.  

7. Discover their favourite daycare activities

Chat to your child’s teacher about what toys they like the most at kindy and ask if these can be put out when you drop them off. That way after you do the drop-off ritual and say goodbye, teachers can do a combination of soothing and distracting with their favourite toys as you leave. 

8. Be patient

If your little one is new to daycare, drop-off tears are to be expected. You can help to reduce these though by making sure you transition your child into daycare to ease them into it. Most centres recommend orientation visits anyway. Try going with them for an hour on a few days and then leaving them there for 20 minutes to play while you go get a coffee. Then you could start off with half days and build up to full days.

This article was originally published on Babyology.