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Is My Toddler in The Right Daycare?

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | November 10, 2011 | Child Development

When my first child started daycare, I made the same rookie mistake many new parents make – I didn’t ask any questions. I felt embarrassed – that somehow, asking questions made me look dumb. Four kids and several daycares later, I now know what I wish I’d known then – there’s no such thing as a dumb question, especially when it comes to settling your toddler into the right daycare.

Knowing your child is in the right daycare isn’t a one-step decision – it’s an issue that needs to be considered on an ongoing basis. Little kids grow quickly, and their needs and preferences change just as fast. That’s why it’s so important to have an ongoing conversation with the most important ally in your child’s development – his or her teacher.

Added to the problem is the fact that your young child isn’t exactly the most reliable reporter on how school is going. For instance, two-year-old Matthew recently complained, “Me no like school. No more school.” What should his mom, Maria, do? Worry that his teacher is neglecting him? Keep him home for a while? Hope he grows out of it? Transfer him to another daycare?

I gave Maria some tips, and here’s what she did:

  • Listen. Maria asked Matthew why he didn’t like school. She also asked him what he DID like about school. She was surprised to hear that he actually loves school – but a little girl in his class was “bothering” him.
  • Sit down. Maria made an appointment to sit down with Matthew’s teacher to discuss the situation. She approached the teacher in a friendly way, making arrangements at the teacher’s convenience. Matthew stayed at home so Maria and the teacher could talk without distractions.
  • Listen some more. Maria was surprised to hear Matthew’s teacher’s version of the situation. She praised Matthew’s ability to listen and follow directions – but she saw that he has difficulty interacting with other children, at times. The little girl who “bothers” Matthew is actually a friendly little girl who wants Matthew to join in with her block-building projects.
  • Make a plan. Maria and the teacher planned to encourage and praise Matthew for joining in with others at playtime. His teacher promised to support Matthew so that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed – and has a good time. They agreed to talk in two to three weeks to see how Matthew feels about the classroom then.
  • Check in. Maria saw positive changes in Matthew’s attitude toward school right away. He became more enthusiastic about going to daycare, and even started talking about his friends and their projects together. Three weeks later, his teacher was happy to report that Matthew was quickly becoming a very sociable little member of the classroom.

I also showed Maria some of my other tips about making school a successful experience. Here’s some information about a common cause of crabbiness among young children, and here are my suggestions for building a great relationship with your child’s teacher from the start.