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The 6 very distinct phases of your toddler's first week at childcare.

KU Children's Services
Thanks to our brand partner, KU Children's Services

Parenting in the internet age is a constant reminder that my experience is not unique. 

Yes, every child is special, et cetera, et cetera, but there’s a reason parenting memes are so relatable. 

Here’s why: we’re all having the same core experience, just in different packaging.

You’ll notice it if you bravely venture into the world of online parenting groups for advice around firsts – first foods, first poos, first holidays, first time away from you. 

There will be no end of opinions, but ultimately the core experiences seem more the same than different. It’s actually reassuring, and as a novice parent it’s really helpful to know what’s ahead. 

Recently, I enrolled my daughter in a new preschool. When I looked for tips on the transition, based on their advice, I realised there are six very distinct phases of your toddler's first week at childcare.

Oh, and I see you there, first timer. You will read most of what I have written and scoff. I once did too.

I was sure I was different, more rational, more emotionally prepared. Turns out that my “research” did not trump 200 other people’s real world experience.

So if you’re a newbie, take note, or if you’ve been through the trenches of The First Week Of Childcare… well, you will know these six emotional stages all too well.

1. The anticipation.

Okay, so this is technically BEFORE the first week, hitting peak levels. 

The anticipation stage is all about preparation. Or more accurately, over-preparation. It manifests as a trip (or three) to the shops for a new lunchbox, new water bottle, new clothes, new gumboots, new hat, new bag and let’s not forget those fancy personalised labels your targeted Instagram ads convince you to buy. 

In reality, there’s a lot you don’t need. 

Comfortable, practical clothes are a much safer bet than a new outfit, and the lunchbox and water bottle you have at home will be fine until they end up in lost property. 

As for the special labels, I’ll save you some late nights of re-application (and buyer’s remorse): use a permanent marker instead.

Image: Supplied.

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2. The pre-drop-off pep talk.

It’s natural to have initial uncertainty about whether you've picked the right childcare. On your way to the first day you’ll find yourself listing off all the reasons you chose this centre. Out loud. In an overly animated voice you normally reserve for trips to the dentist and toilet training. You’ll pretend it’s to reassure your child, but let’s be honest: it’s for you. 

Obviously, feeling better about your choice is heavily reliant on making the right choice in the first place. 

If you’re currently trying to decide, make sure you consider a KU Children's Services centre, one of Australia’s leading providers of high-quality early childhood education and care. KU has been a not-for-profit organisation since 1895, so everything is invested back into children's early education and that’s reflected in the fact that 100 per cent of KU preschools and childcare centres are rated as 'Meeting' or 'Exceeding' the National Quality Standards (the highest in the sector). 

Pro tip: Make sure you make the most of KU’s orientation processes, where educators will take the time to establish a connection with you and your child, so they can create a genuine sense of welcome and belonging. While you’re there also check out the physical environment, where water and sand play feature heavily alongside the use of natural found objects and carefully selected learning resources. Many centres also focus on sustainable activities such as gardening, recycling and worm farms.

3. The post-drop-off meltdown.

You’ll walk out of the centre. Immediately the tears will start – yours, not theirs. 

Your toddler is now fine, already in a huddle with their primary educator, with much talk of play dough and watering the kitchen garden (aren’t you thankful you did that tour during orientation?). 

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You’ll be a basket case, though. 

Message your parenting group, and immediately you’ll be flooded with supportive “I’ve been there” messages, reminding you to go and sit in a cafe and enjoy a hot drink in peace. 

Do it. It’s blissful. No need to navigate a pram or wrestle sugar packets away from little hands. Calm.

Image: Supplied.

4. The first day waiting game.

Also known as the longest day of your life. 

Wiser parents will tell you to take the first week off work to allow time for the transition. Whether you work or stay home, productivity will be at a minimum as you watch your phone “in case of updates”. 

KU Children's Service's centres cleverly keep parents in the loop via the Storypark app, with updates about your child’s learning and photos of them engaging  in a range of fun, play-based learning activities like gardening and block building. 

So, instead of watching your phone, you can use it to spam your family chat with pictures of your toddler enjoying their first day. If you’re at work, annoy your colleagues with the same spam. They’ll tolerate it today only because they can tell you’re an emotional wreck, so really milk that.

5. The post-pick up recap.

By far the best phase. 

The first stories your child tells you about childcare, often accompanied by a drawing or an item they created, will no doubt reassure you that you’ve made the right decision. 

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Heart-melting highlights will include stories about new friends, favourite educators and all the new skills they have. You’ll be holding back proud tears that they are having the first independent adventures of their lives. 

Cherish these because soon your toddler will turn into a 4-going-on-14-year-old whose response to “what did you do today” will be a nonchalant “I don’t know”.

Image: Supplied.

6. The recovery.

As you get in the swing of a new routine, there will be some hiccups. Lost items (that magically reappear in lost property), a few rejected lunches, and some painfully slow mornings. 

But all is forgiven because of the joy that is the post-childcare sleep. The parents of the internet promised 12-hour solid sleep, and my toddler did not disappoint. 

Despite having rest time at childcare, all the activity, time outdoors and mental stimulation make for an incredible night sleep all round. So enjoy the rest, because goodness knows it’s been a big week for you.

For high quality and supportive childcare, check out KU Children's Services, one of Australia’s leading providers of early childhood education and care.

Feature Image: Supplied.

KU Children's Services
At KU, children find their voice. Curious and social, they’re ready for the world. They’re happy with who they are, and interested in who you are. KU Children’s Services is one of the largest not-for-profit providers of high quality early education in Australia.