You might think that going to pick up your child when the day is over would be something happy; after all, who doesn't get excited to see their mommy? Unfortunately, picking up after day care or preschool can be fraught with awkwardness and uneasy transition for a toddler -- especially if they are just starting to adjust to the routine of preschool or daycare and are starting to make new friends. Here are some suggestions that can help make this pick up time a lot easier for everyone.
Don't have unrealistic expectations from the reunion with your child. Often, that child who clung so firmly to you at morning drop off will act completely disinterested at pick up time (or they might repeat that morning tantrum.) Try not to take it personally.
Young kids can have trouble moving between places and activities. Act normal, just like you did during drop-off, be brisk, no-nonsense and cheerful. You might even want to echo the conversation you had in the morning, such as "wave bye bye" before you pick your child up and head out the door.
Try not to make a big deal of reuniting. You might feel like grabbing your child and loading them up with hugs and kisses, expecting that your little one has been missing you so much and is just dying for a dose of parental contact. However, this is the time to back off a bit. Kids, just like adults, need some time to unwind (how would YOU feel if you arrived home after a busy day and someone threw themselves at you?)
Unless your child has demonstrated that these hugs and kisses are what they want at this time, a low-key rejoining might be more appropriate and will allow your toddler an opportunity to adjust.
Once you get back home after day care or preschool pickup, here are some easy tips:
Offer your child some sustenance. Being in a school or day-care environment can be extremely stimulating and many kids don't take in the same amount of food or drink as they would normally do during a day at home -- this is especially true when they are just beginning to get used to going to preschool or day care. So, when you get home, give your child a glass of water and a little snack. This also gives you a great opportunity to sit quietly and ask about their day.
Help your child to open up. There are some kids who can't wait to tell you every detail of their day, much of what might be a bit incomprehensible, but you'll at least know the youngster had a busy day. However, other kids are a bit more tight lipped and if you didn't know better, you'd think they did nothing all day and had absolutely nothing to eat. Of course, if you're at all worried, speak with your child's preschool or day care teacher. You could also try these helpful tricks:
Don't ask your child what they did, instead ask them about what a friend did during various times; try to ask very specific questions. For example, What did Mary eat today for snack? What did Joey sing at circle time?
Ask them for extremes; such as, what is the worst thing that happened today? What was the best story you read at school? Or, even who is the nicest kid in your class. These specific questions can help toddlers come up with more details.
Get everything mixed up -- on purpose. Sing a song that you know your child sings at school, but get some of the words wrong. Your toddler will find it necessary to correct you and try to teach you the correct words. You might even want to try being outright zany to see what will get your toddler talking. For example, "We didn't eat BOOKS at snack time, Mommy! We all ate PRETZELS!").
Give your child some privacy. Beginning day care or preschool is probably one of the biggest ventures you child has taken without you. It's an environment where she is just one in a very big group of kids, rather than being that special little girl -- and, she's also learning how to assume her own identity that is completely separate from you.
Give the child some respect and privacy during this time. If you deep down still miss being the center of your little one's world, you should also experience joy in being able to let go and know that your child is adjusting to preschool or day care in their own way.
We hope these tips help - feel free to share your own tips or feedback in the comments below.