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Tips for a smooth transition back to day care amid COVID-19

Here's what to know as day cares reopen with coronavirus precautions.

By Kelsey Alford

My oldest was 6 months when he started daycare, and I remember the tears (more from me than him for sure).

This season of transitions is hard, folks!

No matter if your child has never been to daycare or if they are transitioning back to daycare after being closed for a period of time due to COVID-19, there will be some adjusting.

We worry about transitions for the baby and child, but many transitions are happening for you as a parent, too.

Your children have been likely home for a really long time, and I don’t know about you, but not much work gets done with a preschooler and a toddler in tow.

Thankfully my husband and I have been playing a game of tag for the past few months, but over time this will wear on us. The time is different for every family, but the conversion is 100% worth having. We were never meant to parent alone.

Once you know the transition to daycare will be happening, discuss all the steps your daycare is taking with your child’s teacher and daycare/school. Check out the Washington state guidelines for daycares to know what questions to ask. Talk with your child’s pediatrician and your care providers to understand your health risks. And surround yourself with a team of teachers and healthcare providers that support you and your family through this transition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some guidelines that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Here are some important factors to consider in regards to sleep:

  • When possible, keep children 6 feet apart during nap time (can have cots oriented head to foot).
  • Keep staff-to-child ratios as small as possible and to keep children from different classrooms in separate physical spaces. (This can be helpful with naps because different age babies = different nap schedules and sleep needs.)

Once your child is starting daycare or preschool, start to bring what is happening in the school into your home prior to starting. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Daily temperature checks may become the new normal including an option for parents conducting daily temperature checks and reporting fever. Make sure your child is aware of the thermometer and as comfortable as possible (practice on dolls and toys first). Information on fevers and checking temperatures in children can be found here or talk with your child’s pediatrician.
  • While young children less than 2 years should not wear masks, they are likely to encounter other adults wearing this equipment. If you have a mask at home, show them how cool Mom or Dad look while wearing the mask.

And lastly, after talking over this transition with some other parents in the Seattle area, here are a few pointers from parent to parent that can help:

  • Have extra sleep sacks, and blankets for older kiddos, since you’ll likely want to bring these home more frequently to wash (some will require you to bring home daily).
  • Buffer in more time! Remember only one person is usually allowed for dropoff at many locations so this can sometimes mean siblings will need a separate trip. Also, sanitation procedures during check-in are 100% needed, and welcomed, but can add more time.
  • Talk with your daycare about your child’s daytime sleep schedule. Explain what helps them nap well at home. While not all factors can be duplicated they definitely want your baby to nap well too!

And remember that in regards to naps, daytime sleep does not need to be perfect for you to have a great nighttime sleeper! Continue a similar nighttime routine from night to night and your little one will continue dreaming away.

Kelsey Alford is a Seattle mom and pediatric nurse practitioner with advanced training in sleep medicine. Her company, Nested Sleep, uses evidence-based sleep approaches to educate and empower families to get healthy sleep and happy bedtimes.

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