There are many different types of child care programs out there, and you may need or want to switch your child from one to another. Or maybe your toddler is receiving care outside your home for the first time.

Either way, starting your child in a new preschool or child care program can be exciting, nerve-wracking, and everything in between. One key component to smoothly transitioning your child into preschool or child care is open and frequent communication between you and your child’s provider, as well as a transition plan.

Here are some home-to-school transition strategies and a sample transition plan to make the process as smooth and tear-free as possible.

Strategies for transitioning to preschool or child care

Many parents find it helpful to visit the program for an hour with their child prior to their first official day, especially if the child didn’t visit during the initial tour. During this visit, talk with your provider about their typical transition plan, and what drop off looks like at their program. Things to consider:

  • Is there a sign-in/out area, a cubby for your child’s diapers and extra clothes, or anything else the provider wants you to know?
  • What do you think will work best for your child for drop-off, or would you like the provider to suggest strategies to you? Some commonly used strategies include:
    • After a hug goodbye, the provider holds your child as you leave
    • Engage your child in an activity, then say goodbyes
    • Read a book before leaving

Another key strategy is a transition plan. Below is a sample plan; keep in mind you may need to modify with your provider to meet the specific needs of your family.

Sample home to school transition plan

Day 1: Parents and child come before snack time, spend one hour at program with child, leave for the day

Day 2: Parents participate in a brief drop off (10 to 15 min max), then say goodbye and leave the child for 1 to 2 hours as their comfort and schedule allows.

Day 3: Parents drop off in a manner consistent as the previous day. Child stays for a longer period of time – 2 to 3 hours. Can include lunch time if all is going well.

Day 4: Follow the drop off routine established and have a child stay through lunch.

Day 5: Follow drop off routine established and the child stays through nap time and/or a for full day.

Day 6: Child stays for the full day.


You can and should modify this transition plan with your child care provider to meet the individual needs of your family. Some families will need a shorter transition time due to work or other obligations, and this is fine. A modified plan could include a brief visit with a parent and the child, then several longer days (visit, stay through lunch, stay through nap) or can duplicate days within the plan. Each family is unique.

For more resources, check out this great transitions article that was written for teachers but is helpful for parents, too!

Here is a great list of books to help children cope with different kinds of change.

Remember that it can take several weeks for a child to fully transitioned to a program, and that consistency of visits is very important during this time. It is okay for a child to take a little more time, or a little less time, to settle into a new environment.

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