How To Make Daycare Drop-Offs Easier: A Parent’s Guide

Daycare Drop-Offs Easier


Does your toddler have a tantrum during daycare drop-offs? Do you experience guilt or frustration whenever leaving your crying child with the daycare staff or teacher? 

You’re not alone. Being apart from one’s parents can be scary for many young kids. According to health experts, separation anxiety is common in children between 18 months and three years old.

If your child’s daycare has been operating for years, it’s likely they’ve witnessed many tearful drop-offs, so there’s no need to be embarrassed whenever your child makes a fuss. However, there are some things that can make drop-offs less stressful for you and your little one. 

Here is a parent’s guide to making daycare drop-offs easier in five steps:

1. Establish a Morning Routine

Some kids have a more difficult time adjusting to change or a new environment than others. If it’s your child’s first time in daycare, find ways so they can feel confident and reassured. 

Consistency can be very reassuring for a young child. Consider establishing a morning routine to help them feel prepared for daycare. A few weeks before they start attending daycare, practice the routine by waking them up at the same time every day, then help them wash up and pick out their clothes. Have a healthy breakfast, then walk or drive to school. 

Describe each step so they know what’s coming up. As you walk towards the drop-off area, tell them that they’re going to learn, play, and have fun with their friends, and you’ll see them later. Once daycare starts, keep drop-off and pick-up times as consistent as possible so your child is reassured that you’ll always come back to get them. 

2. Say Goodbye Before Leaving

It may be tempting to quietly leave while your little one is happily talking to their teacher or a classmate. However, this could backfire as you may lose your child’s trust. Instead of sneaking out, say goodbye before leaving. 

If your child starts to cry, validate their feelings and say something like, “I know you don’t like it that I have to go, but you’re going to have lots of fun with your teacher and friends until I come back to get you.” You can also say that you’d love to hear all about their day when you return. 

3. Create a Fun Goodbye Ritual

Goodbyes don’t have to be sad. To help your child feel better about your temporary separation, why not create a fun goodbye ritual? 

It can be sweet, like giving them a kiss on both cheeks and their forehead plus a high five. Or a goodbye ritual can be something silly, like yelling out some words related to an inside joke. If you have older children who ride along with you, include them in the ritual by having everyone shout “Team (your last name)!” before you drive off. 

This is a great way to strengthen family ties while offering support to your toddler or preschooler. 

4. Ask the Daycare Teacher for Help

Daycare teachers and staff are usually trained to handle kids’ meltdowns during drop-offs. However, if you want to prevent your child from crying, ask the teacher to distract them with some kind of task that they “need help” with or appeal to their sense of wonder.

The daycare teacher could say something like, “We’re coloring some pictures for the bulletin board today, and I heard you’re really good at coloring. Do you think you can help me with this?” 

Some learners could be better motivated by imagination-based distractions. For example, the LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool created a character called Mia the ladybug who supports creative, imaginative play. Something like “Do you want to see what Mia brought to show and tell?” appeals to a child’s innate curiosity. 

Communicate with the teacher beforehand. If all goes well, say goodbye to your child, wish them luck on the task, and avoid lingering at the door. 

5. Focus on Positive Reinforcement, Not Bribes

Some parents might resort to bribes and promise treats such as ice cream or a new toy if their children stop crying at drop-offs. According to experts, bribes should be avoided as this reinforces a child’s belief that the activity being bribed (like school) is inherently unpleasant or bad. 

We wouldn’t want our children to associate daycare with something traumatic. Instead, we can be patient and consistent and find another way to make students comfortable. Positive reinforcement can be key here — not negative. Positive reinforcement is more effective and helps create a healthier relationship with school.

Positive reinforcement at drop-off could include:

  • Uplifting or encouraging comments.
  • Rewarding with a fun activity (“You get to do arts and crafts today at school!” or “We can talk all about your day at the park after school!”). 
    • Note that bribes focus on the negative, offering prizes to stop undesirable behavior. Positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding specific behaviors after they occur. It centers on building confidence and self-reliance. 

Final Thoughts on Easy Daycare Drop-Offs

Daycare drop-offs can be challenging at times, but there are ways to make children feel better about spending a couple of hours away from their primary caregivers and family members. By establishing a routine, being creative, and asking for help from the teacher, you can make drop-offs less stressful and more fun for you and your little one. 

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

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