Six ways to survive the day care drop-off

A mum’s guide to making the early days of childcare easier for you and the little ones, by one who’s done it twice

Erin Patel is our first iBlog Friday winner for 2014 with her post Survival tips for starting daycare…a mother’s story. Congratulations Erin! Your Tina Arena pack is in the mail.

It is day three. The walk to daycare at the end of the street is very slow. My eldest daughter is skipping away excitedly. My youngest is dragging her heels, clinging to my hand. At least she is still walking. Recent trips have required me to carry her and her backpack while holding my big girl’s hand.

I remember this walk with Olivia, my eldest when she first started daycare. She was maybe a month or two older than Maggie is now. We had to sing songs on the way to keep her from crying. She would cling to me as I handed her over to the sympathetic teachers upon arrival. The fear which was written all over her little face broke my heart into a million pieces. I would lie awake at night tossing around the idea of pulling her out despite the fact it took me two years on a waitlist to get her in. If I pulled her out, would she miss out on early education entirely? Was I damaging her? Would she ever forgive me for abandoning her?

Now I look at Olivia and she is cannot wait to cross that threshold. She hardly looks my way as she greets all of her little friends that cry out when she arrives. “Hi Olivia! Olivia is here!” They hug and kiss. They are so excited to see each other after the Christmas break. They are the big kids now with the big kids toys. Maggie moves to go and play with her sister as she always did on drop offs but I need to take her to her own room this time around.


The first day Maggie went to her new teacher quite well. Meanwhile I was a mess. I managed to make it out of the centre without crying before bursting into tears. With three weeks to go until I head off to work, I put on my gym gear and head off for a stress busting workout. I felt lost, wandering around the shopping centre afterwards. Usually I am on a time limit. Get home before lunch. Get the shopping done before she gets too hungry or tired. Today I could take my time but it felt wrong. It was the first time I have three weeks (three days a week) to myself in almost four years and I couldn’t relax.

I spend the day doing housework (a sure sign I am missing my children because I usually avoid it at all costs). I go to the gym again. I go for a walk. I dust (I can’t remember the last time I did that). I am more exhausted than when they are at home with me. I watch the clock until three o’clock and then head off to pick up my girls. Olivia refuses to come home. She is having too much fun and usually she stays until at least four thirty. Maggie is a mess when I arrive. “She will adapt”, her lovely teacher pats my shoulder. She knows I am this close to crying and I want to seem positive about this whole thing.

I feel like shit.

It takes every person I know to remind me that Maggie will one day soon be like Olivia. She will race away from me, excited to play with her friends, showing me all of the things she learned that day like numbers and letters. She won’t want to come home either! And that is a good thing. I just need to get through each drop off and pick up as it comes without losing my cool.


What can make it easier? These little tips are from my own experience (twice) and I am writing this for you but also for myself as I need to remind myself that little steps can make the whole experience less painful.

  • Try to make the drop off and pick up times the same every day. Littlies may not be able to tell the time but their little body clocks seem to know when it is time for you to arrive. If you know you might be late, call the centre so that they can let your child know and prepare them.
  • Don’t loiter too much on the drop off. As much as I would love to hang about and make sure Maggie is ok, the sooner I leave, the sooner she (hopefully) will calm down. I have found that dragging it out is more painful for everyone involved.
  • Allow your little one to take a comforter from home. Maggie has a blanket (which serves well for sleeps) and Olivia used to take her bear. After a while she started forgetting to take it and that was when I knew she had settled in.
  • When you are leaving, say the same things every day to prepare your little one for when you will return. This builds trust. NEVER just sneak out. This is way more upsetting for them (even if it is easier for you). I always say “Mummy will come to pick you up after your sleep, afternoon tea and a bit of a play.” Olivia used to repeat that all day long when she first started so I think it helped her.
  • After you arrive home, try to do something together to diffuse some of the built up stress in their little bodies while also giving them some one on one time with you. Rough housing is a great way to get rid of stress. We love to play chasies and kissing tummies. Laughter is really important right now.
  • Finally, so that your mornings are as stress free as possible, prepare your little one’s daycare bag the night before. That way you aren’t rushing them out the door.

What are your tips for when kids start childcare or school?

Read more from Erin at Coffee Talk With Erin.

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