Choosing childcare is difficult and time-consuming. There is a lot to be thought about; flexibility of employers and of the childcare options, cost, how your child is with strangers, proximity to childcare options and workability of it into your commute to work in the morning… the list goes on and on. There are lots of different options that may be available; childminder (in or out of your home), au pair, Montessori, creche, family friend/family member. There are pros and cons to all of them (particularly when it comes to cost and flexibility; some work out better than others!), but it will be down to your circumstances and wants as to what option you will end up going for. If that option happens to be creche, then welcome to the gang.
Initially, we didn’t choose creche for our little boy when I went back to work. A family member offered to step up to the bat, and as she cared for him and knew him and he knew her, this was a situation we were pleased with. As time went on the situation began not to be the best option on both sides; as he turned from a baby to a toddler, he became a whole lot more to keep up with, and different things popped up meaning it didn’t suit us to continue. We began looking at different options available to us, living in Cork city, and realised creche was the best option for our child at that time. It’s a decision I’m incredibly glad we went with, as I’ve seen him come on in leaps and bounds with his social skills with other children, his language skills and other developmental bits – it’s amazing what a bit of trying to keep up with the older kids will do for him! However, it was a transition for him at the beginning, so these are a couple of tips to hopefully make your child’s transition into creche as easy as possible.
1. Do your research
Before picking a creche, it’s a good idea to do a bit of market research and see what is out there – the one in closest proximity to your house or workplace may not necessarily be the best choice for your child. Most creches will facilitate a look around for interested parents, for you to check out the rooms and the general day-to-day of the place – it can be useful and reassuring for you to know what you’re signing up for as there may be some practices which you’re not happy with which would be good to know from the get-go. Use this time to ask as many questions as you’ve got – these people are going to be in charge of caring for your precious child, so it is best to be as reassured that this is the right choice for your child. Check for things like child-to-adult ratios, qualifications of the minders, whether or not the child receives food from the creche or if you must pack a lunch, what food policies might be in place, what activities they do with the children. Most will be able to give you a leaflet or an information pack to look at, and their contact number for if you’ve got follow up questions. If the process is to be as stress-free as possible, you don’t want to be worrying about something that could be easily sorted by asking the right questions first. Also, check online and chat to other parents you know who may use it – honest reviews will help you in making your choice. I viewed three creches before picking the one which we send our toddler to. While I had already really liked the one we inevitably chose, it was a conversation I had with another mother I got chatting to in a cafe where she told me she’d changed her child from a creche into the one I was looking at, and she raved about how fantastic the childcare staff were and how happy her child was there which sealed the deal for me.
2. Preparing Your Child
Dependent on what stage you’re at, whether the child has been in childcare of any other type before or whether this is the first time they won’t be in your care, there are going to be different levels of preparation required. The age of the child will also come into play as this will change their level of interaction with other kids. If your baby is used to being with you all the time, it may be best to if possible try to wean them off you, as such, by leaving them with a family member or friend for a few hours a couple of times to get them used to spending time with other people, and seeing that Mammy/Daddy do come back after being away. There will be some inevitable clinginess – our guy decided when I went back to work for the first time that for a whole week he wasn’t going to sleep without a fight because he was seeing me so much less. This should be short-lived however, so try not to worry about it affecting them too much. If your child is a bit older and doesn’t have siblings, it may be worthwhile setting up a few playdates with friends or family members who have children roughly around the same age as to get them used to playing with other children and not being the centre of attention.
3. Start Gradually
If you’re returning to work from maternity leave, it’s important to not leave this kind of thing until the last minute. Try to start easing your child in perhaps a month before your return the office, even if only one day or half day a week to start off to get them used to the idea and the concept of being away from you for that length of time. Most creches will have an induction period where initially they will take the child for a lesser amount of time, lengthening this each time to remove the shock to the system element from your child’s transition into full-time childcare. This is also good for you, the parent, as well as the child – the last thing you need to be dealing with on your first day of work is the first day into childcare – you’ll already be dealing with separation anxiety from your side, it’s best to not have it on both.
4. Prepare for the Lurgy
Creche-itis is a very real thing. Your child is coming into contact with other children, who each come bearing chemical warfare, i.e. coughs, colds, snot and everyday childhood illnesses. You and your child will have every cold going, every sore throat, and the notes on the door of the creche/on the creche newsletter will often read like a beginners guide to childhood illnesses. Just be ready for it, you’re likely to see a whole lot more of your child’s GP in the next while (Thank goodness for the free GP for under sixes!).
5. Pack the bag. Then pack it again.
You’d be surprised the kinds of things you will leave out of the bag, or put into the bag, for the creche. We went through a stage where I could have sworn we were providing nappies and wet wipes for the whole creche facility – no, that’s just my child and his incessant nappy changes and sticky hands that I’d written off at home! One big thing which I’ve learned along the way is to do with the spare clothes – do check every few months that if your creche, like ours, operates a box policy (things like nappies, wipes, spare clothes, Calpol are all left in individual boxes for each of the kids so you don’t have to bring things EVERY day), that the clothes in the box still fit your child. We learned the hard way when a growth spurt happened just before a massive poonami event, and the spare clothes which we had him coming home in were far too tight a squeeze to be justified! Essentials like Sudocrem, Calpol, Suncream are definite must-haves in the creche bag.
6. Use the time
You’re putting your child into childcare, where they will spend the day being entertained and entertaining themselves. They’re not going to be staring at the clock until pick up time comes around – so you shouldn’t either. If in the initial weeks you’re not at work during creche time, or you get off early, use that time for you – use it wisely, whether it be getting chores done that you can’t get done with kiddo under your feet, or simply sitting with a hot coffee and a book, or going and getting your nails done – make the most of the time because time spent willing the clock to move to home time is a waste of your time!
These are just some of the things which will lessen the stress around starting your child in a new creche/daycare environment – let me know if you have any other suggestions in the comments below!
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