Switching Daycares: 7 Tips For a Smooth Transition

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Mia Evans

Thanks for pointing out that we need to ensure that we do a test run when transitioning to new day…

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In our recent post about what to expect when starting daycare or preschool, we said that starting daycare is a lot like flying. The first takeoff in particular can be stressful before the whole crew (you, your child and your child care provider) reaches a “cruising altitude” comfort zone. While switching daycares may not be as big of a change as starting the very first time, it’s not easy either!

Just as layovers are difficult for even the most seasoned travelers, switching daycares or preschools will have its own turbulence pockets for both parents and children. Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth crew change.

1. Ask the previous teacher to jot down some notes. You can do this during the last few days at the old daycare center. Child care providers speak the “child care provider” language, just like lawyers speak “lawyer” and programmers speak “programmer” etc. Their notes will be a great addition to what you share with the new caregivers and teachers in your “parent” language.

2. Make sure your child “says goodbye” to the old daycare. Switching daycares means saying goodbye to caregivers, teachers and classmates, obviously. Also, it means parting with toys, books and places he or she likes. You can even think about some kind of farewell party.

3. Set the scene. Make sure you talk a lot to your child in advance about the upcoming change. Reading books about the scenario is also a good idea. You can even do some “rehearsals” to help the idea sink in. Kids process information in a variety of different ways; the more the better.

4. Do a test run. Visit the new daycare or preschool facilities once or twice to grease the wheels a little before the first “real” day. Introduce the new teacher and say hello to the other toddlers or preschoolers. This is especially important if you’re going from the small family-like environment of a home daycare to a larger child care center or preschool.

5. Stick to what worked before. If you developed some “standard operating procedures”, aka kissing goodbye or reading a book before leaving the house in the morning, stick to them!

6. Try to be flexible time-wise. Especially for the first few weeks, you should plan ahead, just in case you need to stay a little longer in the mornings for drop-offs and come a little (or a lot) earlier in the afternoons for pick-ups. Be patient until your child gets used to the new environment.

7. Aim for a spring or summer transition if possible. Transitioning to a new daycare during cold-season is an excellent thing to avoid if you can! Let your child deal with the emotional and immunity challenges one at a time!

Have you recently changed daycares or preschools for your child? What tips can you share with other parents? If you’re a child care provider or preschool teacher, what tips can you offer parents who are switching child care programs to help with the transition?

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  • Thanks for pointing out that we need to ensure that we do a test run when transitioning to new day care. As you said, it could be done by pretending that it is your child’s first real day at the new daycare. I will keep that in mind since we might move to a different state next year. So we need to think of how to transition smoothly.

  • I really like the idea of visiting a new daycare with my son a couple of times before the first day so that we can get to know it. Then he won’t be as lost or confused.

  • It’s so smart to plan some extra time to stay a few minutes with your child for the first few weeks!

  • That’s a good idea to have the previous daycare provider take some notes on how they take care of your child. I would think that they would probably have some routines that they follow and somethings that the new provider could do to make your kid feel more comfortable. I’ll make sure to do that when I find a new daycare for my son to go to when we move.

  • I am glad that your article brings to light the importance of having your child say goodbye to the old daycare in order to make the transition easier for them as well as the other children and their old teacher. My daughter is currently three years old, and we are considering moving to a different daycare that is closer to our house, so my wife and I are looking into ways to make the process easier.

  • We switched daycare 2 days ago (well we got expelled from old school!)
    Yup, we read books about new school (search “new school” in the title area in your local library catalog! I’m a library professional:)) And we visited new school 3 times before transition.
    We also did a farewell party at old school. I highly recommend it. Obviously lots of kids transition, so teachers know how to do farewell parties like pro. They are great free party organizers! Take advantage of it.
    My son does complain about new school, but so far he has never cried nor had a tantrum. Compassionate conversation techniques work great. I say things like “Yeah, it is tough to go to new school. Must be scary” instead of “You should go there! It is your school and you can’t go back to old school!” I speak to my son like he’s an elderly person! With much respect, but lots of support.

  • I think a farewell party might be a little much for a child still in daycare. It’s a big transition to switch daycare but it’s really not that serious. You don’t want to add emotional attachment to something that doesn’t need to have it.

  • This si some really good information about daycare. I like what you said about being flexible time wise during the first week of the daycare. That way, if you child needs you to stay longer you can.

  • I think it’s important for the child to say goodbye to the old day care. Sometimes kids don’t really know what’s going on, and if they don’t realize that they are going to a new daycare, I’m sure they will put up a fuss. I also liked the tip that you should stick to what worked before. Everyone, especially kids like what’s familiar to them, and if there are similar rituals in a new situation, it’ll be a better transition.

  • My sister recently moved to a new state and is looking for a new daycare for her kids. She’s a little worries about the transition, so I think she will find these tips helpful. I like the suggestion to stick with what worked before. Keeping part of the routine the same will help them a lot. Thanks for all these great tips!

  • Great tip about asking the previous teacher to write down some notes for the new teacher. That sounds like a great way to help the new teacher learn about your child and interact with them. I need to choose a daycare center for my daughter because we’re moving, so I will be sure to do that before we leave.

  • It is a great idea to ask the previous teacher to jot down some notes when switching daycares. My family is moving across town, so we have been looking for a new place that our kids will like. I will be sure to give them a chance to say goodby to their friends as well as their favorite toys. Perhaps I can find similar toys to make the transition easier.

  • I’m freaking out! Next week is my first day of work, which means I have to find a daycare center for my son. I don’t know if I can separate myself from him. Isn’t it supposed to be the kid that has a hard time separating? These notes are going to be a big help to me, thanks.

  • Thank you for the article. We are in a tough bind. Our child is 4. She has grown out of naps but her daycare demands that all children nap. They offer no alternative. The result is that she is up and awake until 11 pm some nights on days when she is at daycare. She goes right to sleep on days when she doesn’t nap and she’s not cranky.

    It’s been going on for months. We resent the daycare owner now but feel like we are stuck as we don’t want to move out daughter now and then again in a year and a half for kindergarten. I However, it’s not good for any of us. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Hi Will, sorry to hear about your situation, but you’re not alone… Naps are a common issue. It’s disappointing to hear that you child care program won’t work with your to develop an individualized solution that would still be manageable for the teachers and staff. In any case, if you feel this is not the right fit for you and your child, you should certainly consider changing (a year and a half is a LONG TIME to keep your daughter unhappy!) At the very least, go and visit other programs, you can then decide what’s best.

      Good luck!

      • Will, I am sorry to hear that as well. I don’t know what state you are in, but Texas regulates the daycares. One requirement is to have alternate play areas/quiet activities for children that are not napping (regardless of age/class). Good luck. I am dealing with my own issues.

        Our daycare has decided to leave our daughter in the “wobbler II” room which is for 18mths – 24 mths, she is 2 1/2 years old now. Kids younger than her have moved up – while she has remained in a room now full of 18 mths old. We worked hard on her integrating with the children, socializing, improving her speech only to have all of that undone within two weeks of being surrounded by 18 month olds. Now we are seeing her revert to solo play, less clarity in speech and using less words and more baby like behavior to ask for things. It isn’t good. My concerns were voiced and yet, they want to wait until August to move her. Meanwhile she looks at me like she is being punished when I drop her off. Small town means I have to not only find another daycare I feel will be safe and good for her development, but also one that has openings for her age. So I know how you feel…stuck and struggling and I feel like I am failing my daughter. It’s just a horrible feeling.

  • The article is really nice! The transition phase is always difficult for children as they find it difficult to adjust to the new surroundings, but i made sure my daughter adjusted well in her new daycare, I made her say good bye and told her that she can always be in touch with them!

  • This is some great information, and I appreciate your suggestion to be flexible when switching day cares so your child can adjust. I’m moving to a new area, so my daughter needs to attend a new day care. I want that transition to be as smooth as possible, so I’ll definitely try and be flexible with my schedule so she can adjust. Thanks for the great post!

  • My brother in law and sister are in the process of switching day cares after being there for three years. They aren’t sure what to do and need help knowing how to make this an easy transition for their daughters. This article helped a ton and I hope that this can help them do just that.

  • Sticking to what has worked before seems like a good idea when you are switching child care programs. Change can be a hard thing for a child to deal with. Keeping some things similar, like reading a book before you leave the house, seems like it can really help make the transition go smoothly. Thank you for sharing.

  • I like how you said it’s important to aim for a transition in the spring or summer. It makes sense that switching to daycare in the cold season is a good thing to avoid. My kids definitely have a better time warming up to a place if they can go outside and feel free. Thanks for posting.

  • Thank you for the help. My family and I just moved, so my daughter will be going to a new daycare in our area. She had some great friends at her last daycare, so it could be a rough transition. I really like the idea of doing a test run. I think that would help her realize that it is a new place, but she will grow to enjoy it as well. Do most daycare facilities allow you to do a test run like that?

  • I really liked your post! My family and I are going to be moving soon, which means that our kids are going to be changing where they go to daycare. I think that your tips are great, and will help us make the transition easy for them! One tip that I really liked was to make sure that our children say “goodbye” to their old daycare. I think that this will help make the transition easier, because they will have a feeling of closure. I’m going to make sure that we do this before our family moves! Thank you for the great ideas!

  • I really think that the tip about having the previous teacher write down some notes about your child is very useful. Right now, I am in the process of moving my family to another state and I will definitely need to witch daycare centers. I want this to be a very smooth transition for my two sons and I am sure that they will have great experiences at their new daycare. However, I know that my children are shy and take a little while to adjust to new circumstances. What can I do to help my children engage socially with the new children that they will be around?

  • Thank you so much for sharing all of this advice on switching daycares! My son and I are moving to a whole new area soon, but I’m worried that the transition could be a bit tough for him. Once I find a new daycare, however, I will be sure to make the routine stay as similar as possible! Your advice on having your old teacher jot down some notes is also really nice; I’ll be sure to do that as well.

  • That’s a good idea to have the old teacher write down some notes for the new teacher. That way it is more likely that they will have a smooth transition. Keeping as much of your routine the same as possible before you drop them off would help as well. Children like their routines.

  • These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to make your child aware of the change when transitioning to a different daycare. I recently landed a new job, and my schedule is going to be changing quite a bit, so I need to switch daycare services for my daughter. I’ll definitely talk to her about the transition frequently so she’s aware that it’s coming. Thanks for the great post!

  • My wife and I are taking our two sons to a new child development center, and we found this article to be very helpful. We loved the advice to do a test run, and so we decided to take them to the school a couple times to show them around. They already feel much better about it so thanks for sharing this with us!

  • I think it’s so important to talk your child through what’s going to be happening. Children are so affected by change that it can be pretty traumatic. One thing I like to do is read books that will help them prepare for upcoming change. It really seems to make a difference!

  • I like the idea of doing a “test run.” I just got a new job so we will be moving to a different city. Unfortunately we won’t be able to keep the same child care facility for our boy. I think it would be smart of us to take him to the new place and introduce him to the teachers and the classmates before leaving him there by himself. I think it’ll help him adjust and make friends a little easier. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

  • We’ll be moving to a new place because of work and we’re trying to find a new daycare center. We’ve been finding places that my wife and I think would work out great, but our little girl is not taking it very well. She’s been fussy about the whole thing all the way long. I think these tips on this post are really great and I think to start off, we’ll have her say her proper goodbyes to her little friends that she’s made over the past year. Thanks so much for this article.

  • Wonderful tips and steps to follow when transitioning to a new daycare! I think allowing your child to say goodbye to the old daycare is a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

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