Transitioning children into day home care can be a bit of a trying time, especially in the midst of such a challenging time and Covid-19 keeping people at home a lot more than normal. Even though younger children may not know the difference, going from being home with parents or other caregivers to being in a day home can be frightening and stressful at first, making the job of ensuring children feel safe and cared especially important.
The fundamental principles of Family Day Homes in Alberta states, “the safety, security, well-being and development of the child is to be supported and preserved.”
So how to accomplish this?
Ensuring safety of the children in your care includes both physical and emotional safety. You will help children feel safe by making sure they are protected from any form of abuse and providing a space that is free from dangerous or harmful activities or materials. Emotional safety means you and your staff take care to engage with the children, acknowledge them when they are looking for attention, compliment them, encourage, and support them.
Well-being encompasses taking care of children’s emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. According to the Alberta Family Day Home Standards Manual, respecting, having knowledge of, and keeping children’s cultural background and heritage a central part of their development is an important part of this. Children need to know they are part of the group as well as respected as individuals. Making sure diversity is celebrated and talked about, as well as preventing bullying or any kind of discrimination will help to build a strong morale and a great culture in your day home.
Another way you can keep a pulse on the well-being of the children in your care is to keep an open dialogue with the parents. Checking in and asking how the children talk about going to the day home, if they have fun, if they enjoy their friends and teachers can help you catch anything you might be missing, as well as builds a positive relationship with family members. This article on Huff Post is a good resource for parents: A daycare teacher’s tips to make your child’s 1st day easier on you all. It highlights a few ways parents can prepare children at home for a smooth transition into the day home.
When considering the development of children in your day home, it is important to remember you will likely have a variety of children at different stages of development. Make sure you have age appropriate toys, games, activities, and books for the children in your care to keep everyone engaged and learning. The Harvard Center for the Developing Child highlights the importance of “serve and return” interactions for their developing brains, as well as building resilience. Anytime a child “serves” an opportunity to engage with them, it’s important they are “returned” with attention. If these serves are missed and children are left hanging, they miss out on learning appropriate social interactions, cues, and can result in feeling neglected.
Another critically important piece for development is outdoor play. Getting adequate amounts of movement, particularly outdoors, benefits children’s development both physically and mentally. The article, Nature is a Worthy Extracurricular Choice, discusses the way being in nature helps to dramatically reduce stress in both adults and children. It may not seem obvious that children are under any significant stress but new routines, like adjusting to a new day home, can cause some stress. Positive stress isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it is important to provide children with tools to cope with it so the stress does not become a toxic stress. Time outdoors is a simple, effective, and accessible way of supporting children through transitions, as well as providing the overall benefits of movement, exercise, and fresh air.
With all things previously mentioned in consideration, a little reminder that the greatest expression of care and welcoming is loving energy. If you extend love to all the children in your care by listening to them, getting to know them, sharing their enthusiasm and interests with them, they will feel it, and it will go a long way in helping them adjust.