Transitioning from Homecare to Daycare: A Parent’s Survival Guide

There is a lot written about how to ready your little ones for daycare, but what about parents? This is a transitional time for you as well. Here’s a quick survival guide to get through the transition.

Visit the school often

Get to know the team that will be working with your child. Before your child’s first day, spend time shadowing the class so you are in tune to what your child’s day will be like. Being able to visualize what they are doing throughout the day will help you feel more connected. My daughter’s class always had playground time at 9:30, snack at 10:00 and lunch at noon. Just knowing what she was doing at different points during the day provided me with a lot of comfort.

Make Day 1, Just Daycare

Having a day that is just daycare focussed can ease some of the stress for parents. For example, schedule your child’s first day for a time when you are not working (perhaps a day before you return to work). This will help avoid added stressors like getting yourself ready, commuting to work and in general being focussed on work related items.

Use Technology

So many schools ofter apps like Munchkin Report where you can log in to see your child’s activities and pictures of them throughout the day. This is an amazing way to see what your child is doing and engage them in questions about their day as soon as you pick them up.

Create a Night Before Checklist

Mornings are often the busiest times in the house. Taking time each night to prepare will reduce morning chaos. Restock the diaper bag, make note of anything you might want to tell the teacher, check the weather to make sure the change of clothes is temperature appropriate.

Treat Yourself

Sending your child to school at any age can tug on the heartstrings of the most stoic parent. If you choose to do a just daycare day, use the time to do something nice for yourself – have lunch with friends, get a massage, go for a quiet walk. You deserve it!

How to Differentiate Your Preschool

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Preschool

When I talk to early childhood educators and ask them what makes their learning centers different from the rest, most inevitably say the quality of their staff. As a parent, I wholeheartedly applaud this, but at the same time I fear it.

I love my daughter’s pre-school teacher so much that when she has a well-deserved vacation I secretly wonder: Is she interviewing for another job? What would we do if she left?

There’s a danger in having your school’s entire brand tied up in the people because when I ask educators their biggest challenge, they say retention of staff.

Here are 5 easy ways to differentiate your school beyond the importance of attracting top talent.

1. Create a community

Having events outside of the standard back to school night where parents and children can spend time together helps bond the community that is your school.

Our daughter’s school does a Fall and Spring outing. And (wait for it…) they do it on a Saturday!!! This allows working parents who are usually rushed during pick up and drop off to attend as well.

Often times they get families together at a local pizza place or a park to keep costs down. As a working parent I really look forward to these outings because I get a chance to know the other kids and their families.

2. Increase Communication

Historically this has been done through daily activity sheets, but with the advent of online childcare reports, parents don’t need to wait until the end of the day to get an update on their child’s day. Getting daily reports via email or in real-time on their smartphone allows parents to feel more connected.

Online activity tracking also helps teachers save time by logging items on a computer or smartphone rather than writing details on a sheet for each child. Look for an app with a multi-log feature so that teachers can log an activity one time for the whole class (e.g., at 10am everyone sat for circle time).

3. Create an ‘ask me about’ prompt each day

How many times have a parent picked up their child and asked “What did you to at school today?” only to be met with a blank stare?

Creating a specific question for parents to ask their kids helps them feel connected to the school and being specific makes it easier for children to share something about their day. An added bonus to the teachers is it helps enforce lessons from the classroom at home.

The question can be sent in the child’s daily activity report so it’s sure to get to the parent each day.

4. Post Pictures

I love receiving pictures of what my daughter is up to throughout the day. Not only is it another great way to prompt dialogue about things she did, but it also makes me feel great to see her happy and playing. I like to save these pictures as a timeline and look back to see how she’s grown over the school year!

5. Connect Parents with Each Other

One of the many challenges with the rush of pick up and drop is getting to know the other parents. I remember when my daughter started school and saying she wanted to have a play date with a little boy in her class. I had no idea who his parents were or how to contact them. In fact, I didn’t even know his last name!

Consider creating an online community for your class where parents can connect. You could also send out mini bios of the family so that parents get to know one another.

Daycare Tracking Apps

Daily Activity App Makes Scary Mommy’s Top Reasons to Love Daycare

Scary Mommy is full of funny real world parenting anecdotes that make sure none of us feel alone when it comes to the crazy things parents experience. I love this site because, just when I think I might have hit the rock bottom of parenting, I realize someone else is right there with me.

And now this! In her top reasons to love daycare, this mommy blogger sites the app her school uses. The app allows her to check in on how her kids are doing throughout the day. This helps keep her connected and feel guilt-free about not having her children with her every second of the day.

I have found so much of my angst in leaving my children with someone else. It’s not the actual leaving that causes my stress, but allowing someone else to steer the ship.

I’m admittedly a control freak, so not knowing what is taking place or what I’m going to come home to frankly just bothers me.

Here are some things I love about tracking apps:

  • Enhanced communication. Rather than spending time when I get home asking for a detailed recount of who napped, who ate, who was happy or sad, I can just look at the daily activities.

  • Recorded history. It’s impossible to remember the details of each day. So when the baby’s fussy and I’m wondering if it’s something she ate or if she’s overtired, I can simply look back in the logged activities to help solve the mystery.

  • Memory maker. I love that child activity tracking apps like Munchkin Report allow you to post photos and mark milestones. This replaces the handwritten baby book so many people use to record these memories.

Read Scary Mommy’s post here for more reasons why daycare is such a beloved place.

What Makes a Great Pre-School Teacher?

Sometimes I sit in parent teacher conferences at my daughter’s pre-school and wonder if it’s a case of mistaken identity.

Who is this angelic good-listener they speak of? This child who readily helps others and always raises her hand or better yet places a “gentle hand” on the teacher’s shoulder to get her attention. It certainly doesn’t sound like my chatter box child who interrupts me so much that I once told my husband I would just talk to him in 18 years when the house is quiet.

But lo and behold it is my daughter. She has simply (as most parents find) fallen for the magic of a great pre-school teacher. It is one of life’s great mysteries how these amazing educators can draw the best behavior from our children.

Parenting.com recently published this article on the secrets of pre-school teachers and it’s worth a quick read.

I especially love #2 (kids can handle scissors and pens earlier than you think). I remember when my daughter came home from pre-school and asked to use the scissors. I couldn’t believe she could do this. I’ve been guilty of underestimating her time and time again. It’s not for my lack of confidence in her, but she just always seems so little to me (perhaps my subconscious wish to keep her this way).

I’ve found over the years the more I let her do, the better behaved she is. She loves the independence–whether it’s helping with dinner or riding a bicycle. Giving her this freedom is often the longer path to getting things done, but it builds her confidence, shows I trust her and is definitely one of the things she gets at pre-school.

Pre-school teacher secret #4 provides advice on how to get your toddler’s attention–what parent doesn’t need some assistance with that? It’s really hard sometimes to get our daughter to listen, yet this is one thing her teacher always tells us she does so well. Some of the suggestions like being more playful in our attempts to get her attention are super helpful.

Now I just need to channel a little early childhood educator patience to ensure the child I pick up at pre-school this afternoon is the same one who will be sitting at the dinner table tonight!

Tired of messy paperwork? Munchkin Report is easy online daily sheets for parents, caregivers, and schools. Try it free!

6 Questions to ask on a Daycare Tour

I remember being 8 months pregnant, touring a daycare that seemed like a great option for our new baby girl.

Our tour guide was great! She was rattling off important information about ratios and food allergies and fire drills.

Even with what I thought was a very thorough list of my questions, there were things I did not anticipate needing to know as a first time parent.

To give you a head start, here are 6 questions to ask on every daycare tour.

1. What are the child to teacher ratios?

While these numbers are state regulated in the US, it’s important to ensure the prospective school is in compliance. It’s also important to ask if these ratios can change and under what circumstance. Some standard ratios include:

  • 4:1 from 6 weeks to 3 years old
  • 10:1 from 3 years to 6 years
  • 15:1 for kindergarten

2. What are the qualifications of the staff?

Ideally staff will have would have degrees and experience in Early Childhood Education. It is also important to confirm that all staff members are CPR and First Aid certified and that these skills are retested every year.

3. Do you conduct background checks on all staff members?

Many parents ask this questions regarding the teachers, but it is critical to confirm all staff that have access to the school (cleaning service and kitchen staff for example) are checked as well.

4. What will children eat and is the school nut free?

Even if your child doesn’t have an allergy, it’s important to know the rules. If you’re packing lunch, you will have to be aware of the labels. Nut-free includes any product that is made in a factory with nuts. This may include many granola bars, breads, crackers, etc.

Any time I start to get frustrated with having to double-check everything, I put myself in the shoes of the parents who have a child with allergies and imagine the stress they feel.

5. What type of discipline policies are in place?

It’s most common that day care centers will use time outs as a method of discipline, but you should understand what circumstances warrant a time out and what they do about repeat offenders (ie: the child who bites repeatedly). Every school should have a documented discipline policy which they normally distribute as part of their enrollment packet. Not distributing this to a perspective parent should raise a red flag.

6. How will the school communicate my child’s daily progress?

Many schools will provide you with a paper daily sheet at the end of the day. This can be a life-saver, especially for parents with infants. When you pick up your child after a long day at work, you want to know their status. Did she eat her bottles? How many ounces? What about naps? Did my toddler have any accidents? Is he being respectful?

Online daily sheets are a big bonus, and are a great sign that the daycare really values parent-teacher communication. There’s nothing like getting an email update on my phone each day (with photos!) and being able to quickly look back in time and find trends.

If the school your touring doesn’t do online tracking, tell them about Munchkin Report! It would mean the world to us! 💖

How to Find and Hire a Trustworthy Nanny

Hiring a responsible, caring, and trustworthy nanny is one of the most important things you can do for your little one, but it can be painstaking, too. This free guide is designed to save you time and give you an action plan for finding and hiring your super nanny.

Grab the guide now

Topics we cover:

  • What to do before you start your search
  • Where to look
  • Interviewing
  • Doing a trial day
  • Finding your sweet spot
  • …and more!
Sleeping baby

3 Sleep Training Books You Can’t Live Without

Unlike many teachers you’ve had before, I will admit my faults. The first one you should know is that I am a total control freak. Nothing can make your world spiral out of control more than sleep deprivation.

So here are some bibles–I mean books–on sleep training that were invaluable to me along with my key takeaways from each one.

1. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Get it on Amazon

Key lesson: Look for the sleepy signs and follow a routine.

We had to learn Emma’s sleep patterns by watching carefully for signs that she was getting tired (rubbing her eyes, yawning, etc.). The moment we noticed a sleepy sign, we began her sleep routine: carrying her up to her room and rocking her for 5 minutes while singing “My Favorite Things” (oh, yes, I can sing it with various accents and even like a rap song). The trick is to repeat the same steps, in the same order, every single time without fail.

After doing this for a few days we noticed a pattern develop. Emma’s sleepy signs would show up around the same times each day, so we were able to get on a schedule, which made planning our days much easier. She was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks!

Thanks Dr. Weissbluth!

(Footnote: one of the absolute best things about this book is that it’s broken down by age, so you can read chunks at a time. We found ourselves referring back to HSHHC multiple times as Emma grew and changed.)

2. The Baby Whisperer

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Get it on Amazon

Key Lesson: Independence is not neglect.

Anything that takes away a bit of the mom-guilt is great advice to me! But this one really resonated. Meet your baby’s needs and give her comfort, but once her needs are met, allow her to fall asleep on her own. Yes, it was very hard not to get up at every whimper and cry, but I firmly believe, much like you and I, babies go through cycles of sleep throughout the night. They stir, they wake (and may cry) but need to learn to fall back to sleep without constant comfort. This one is definitely in the category of thinking with your head (because my heart most certainly would have picked her up every time :-)).

3. Happiest Baby on the Block

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Get it on Amazon

Key lesson: Use the 5 S’s.

The three I remember–because they worked–are to rhythmically repeat “shhhh” (it mimics the sound they hear in the womb) and sway (easy to do with the perfect glider) and swaddle (think baby burrito).

The other two S’s are suck and side-stomach, which we didn’t personally use, but might work for you.

Homework

Keep a daily activity sheet to log sleep. We wrote down every nap and of course bed time and waking. This was so critical in helping us understand what was working and if Emma’s sleep patterns were changing.

Here’s to sleep!

Image credit (cc): http://www.flickr.com/photos/minoru_ntt

Little boy potty training

Potty Training Bootcamp

In school, we all had subjects that caused us undue stress. In the school of parenting, mine was potty training. My anxiety around starting was so unreasonable you’d think I was the one who might wet my pants in public! I couldn’t decide when to ‘enroll’ — two? Two and a half? What should we use — a small plain potty, a small potty adorned with cute characters, a potty seat atop of big potty?

I read so much on the dangers of getting this potty training wrong and how horrible setbacks could be that I was virtually frozen for a period of time. But there was so much peer pressure to start. I had friends tell me we ‘missed the window’, my parents were saying “she is too big for diapers!”.

But I knew a few things for certain 1) my daughter is a worrier (sorry kid, I did this to you!) and if she wasn’t ready the frustration could get the best of her. 2) I wanted to be the one to train her (not so easy for a working mom). 3) Because of #2, I needed something that would work quickly.

Enter Dr. Suzanne Riffel’s “The Potty Boot Camp”. There are so many great things about this book. Most important to me:

  • It is a very short book (call me a lazy student, but I just couldn’t read a lengthy book on this subject).
  • It’s a simple straightforward concept.
  • It worked!!!

We started at 26 months and Emma was accident free by the end of her first week. I used a seat on top of the big potty (the Baby Bjorn Toilet Trainer works great because it’s a secure, easy fit) rather than buying her a little potty of her own. I’m a fan in all circumstances of limiting the number of transitions, so if we could get her trained on the big potty from the beginning, we’d only have to conquer potty training once. Plus Emma loved the idea of using the big potty just like mommy.

If the Boot Camp is too extreme for you, I looked into some other books before picking this one. The most recommended by my trusted circle of friends was “Oh Crap” by Jamie Glowacki. I bought it, but Emma finished the Boot Camp before I could crack it open!

OK, so before you think I’ve aced this entire subject, let me tell you the place I continue to struggle–getting her to go in public (by the way I totally need to call this something else as I do realize peeing in public is not desired behavior at any age, but you know what I mean).

I think it’s my fault. She asked me to go while we were out to dinner and I did not foresee the blood curdling scream and terror that would ensue when the automatic flusher flushed whilst Emma was mid-pee. Thinking on my feet, I cheered wildly exclaiming this was a magic potty! The most awesome thing I’ve ever seen, and Emma must be magical like Abby Cadabby, but it was too late and this fear has continued for the past month.

I just read this great post on ParentHacks that made me realize I’m not alone. If you have any other tips, would love to hear about them in the comments!

Image credit (cc): http://www.flickr.com/photos/jbird