How do you prepare a young child for an inclusive child care environment?
There are a few simple steps that families can take that will help most young children feel better prepared to start any child care program. First, they can talk positively about starting a new child care program but also allow the child to talk openly about fears or worries. Reading children’s books about starting a new school or going to child care can be a big help for parents in getting a conversation started. Be sure to also read books that include children with disabilities. Parents can help a child create a paper chain with just enough “links” until start day. Make it part of the daily routine to have the child tear off the link for that day, then count how many days/links are left. This representation of time will help many children feel less anxious and more excited about starting child care. You can also create a photo album or video featuring the new child care environment to share with your child. Include important places, such as thebathroom and the place where meals are served; important people that the child will see every day; and the most common toys, equipment, and activities, especially those that are the child’s favorites and that will help the child feel more comfortable on their first day. Finally, give your child “practice” in the new environment. Plan to visit the child care several times prior to your child’s first day, first when there are fewer children present and play is unstructured and again during the busiest time of the day.