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Be ready for that first day care experience

She loves you, yeah, yeah yeah, She loves you yeah, yeah yeah . . .

The Fab Four plucked my last nerve as I rushed to get my nearly 2-year-old son, Dylan, to his first day at preschool on time.

But I'd repeat the tune a hundred times if he wanted. Just please, please, please no meltdowns today — from him or me.

Getting to this point wasn't easy. A lot is involved in preparing your child for that big first day. This was one mission that I refused to fail. I armed myself with all the advice and information I could. Here's what I found and what I learned now that I'm a BTDT (been there done that) mom. (Maybe you think I went over the top, but mission accomplished. No meltdowns. So there.)

Drop in. Good centers, including the one we chose, want you to bring your child in for a visit before the big day so that he is familiar with the environment. Dylan visited the center to play three times before his first day. On his last weekday at home, he asked my husband if he could go to "school."

Yay! We're having fun today! Behave as if you are preparing your child for a visit to a theme park. Fingerpainting! Coloring! Water fun! You also may want to try to mimic the center's routine; have nap and meal times the same or similar times.

Pull out your checkbook. Just be prepared because you are going to spend wads of cash on the things you must bring the first day: a pack of fat crayons, stickers, swim shoes for water play days, a disposable camera, a family photo, soap bubbles, a sippy cup with no valve.

Buy stock in Sharpies and gallon-size resealable bags. My hand got tired labeling all of Dylan's belongings: lunch box and plastic containers, art supplies, the tags of his extra clothes, his cap, the sheet for his rest mat, the blue and white stuffed puppy he naps with. And the storage bags help day care workers keep your child's items together.

Get to bed — now! It might still be light out, but put your child to bed early the night before so that he won't tire out too quickly the next day. And the same goes for you. We got up earlier than usual so we could shower and dress for work and have extra time to get him ready and be ready to deal with any surprises. If lunch boxes are required, prepare meals the night before to save time. Also, load the car with all required items such as diapers and wipes.

Show me the lovey. If it makes him feel better and the center allows it, let your child tote a stuffed animal or other security object (break out the Sharpie to mark it with his, name of course). There are conflicting opinions here: Some centers say leave loveys at home, while others allow them during the adjustment period. If the toy must go home, make sure teachers know this. (Just in case, we keep a duplicate at home.)

Paint, mud and spills. Yep, they are all a part of day care so don't send your kids in their Sunday best. Put your darling in comfortable, washable play clothes. The staff will give you bonus points if they're easy to put on and remove — plus your tot may learn how to dress himself sooner.

Parting is such sweet sorrow. So keep it brief. Be upbeat and casual. Saying goodbye gives them — and you — closure but don't linger, as longer farewells just make you and your child more anxious. Plus you'll be late for work.

Anything else? When you return, check your child's bag or cubby for notes from his teachers. Dylan's teacher left me one saying he did very well his first day and didn't cry once. That went a long way toward making me feel better.

Lisa Buie can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4604.

Be ready for that first day care experience 06/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 1:24pm]
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