Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day Jitters

Ahhhh There’s nothing like the first day of school to conjure up feelings of excitement and new beginnings! For some of our littles it is the first time they are meeting all the children of daycareland and for others it’s a reunion of friends they haven’t seen since the beginning of summer. 

This little guy needed lots of extra hugs today even though last year he was one of my most confident leaders during play. 
As a teacher I know the first few weeks are likely to be filled with laughter, tears, nervous new parents, tots who haven’t figured out how long a daycare day really is and lots of change for everyone. It’s as exhausting as it is fun and in a very short time everyone settles in, but the first day has it’s challenges.

Our newest little friend! Took to daycareland as if he's always been here.

It’s not always easy to know how the children are going to adjust to the routine so for our first few weeks together our curriculum and rhythm of our day are pretty laid back. Some of the kids exuberantly hop right back into the group setting as if they hadn’t missed a day, while others need a little more time and reassurance that we are all friends here.

While the names on our roster change from year to year the beginning of the year is pretty predictable. 

Counting cucumbers and preparing to cut them up after helping Josh gather them from the garden.

There will be teary goodbyes and sadness that will most likely continue until all mommies and daddies clear out for the day. Sometimes teacher hugs make the sadness better and sometimes teacher hugs make it worse. Sometimes kid hugs make the sadness better, sometimes kid hugs make it worse but we all try to be welcoming and patient with our new friends.

When I’m approaching an emotionally fragile child I try to imagine things from his / her perspective. I wonder what it would be like to be hugged by a towering stranger while I am feeling REALLY upset and uncertain? I think depending on the situation it could be either reassuring, terrifying or a serious invasion of space so take that into consideration and follow each child’s nonverbal cues. I respect their need to observe and be alone if my presence is overwhelming, or I let the clingy children hang out on my lap as much as they need to until they are ready to enter play confidently.

Almost always, even the toughest cases calm down in time for breakfast.

Josh trying to cram his butt in a highchair to lighten the mood, what did I ever do without him???

Once we are seated the room is quieter, calmer and a little less intimidating. I usually prepare something sweet and cinnamony to remind them of home. The kids who have been here a while know just what to do to cheer up a sad kid, inevitably someone will crack a joke, share a story about their family or just a smile a silly smile...

We talk about the sequence of our day so that everyone has some reference for how long the daycare day is. We think about which fun things we would like to do during project time, then we find something the new child really likes to do.

As the morning rolls along I snap a picture of each child once they settle in, then shoot the new moms a text and update them on how their child is doing. Then we get ready to head outside.

Sometimes preparing to go outside is a reminder that the moms are gone for the day and the fragile kiddies start to sob. That’s when the veterans of daycareland offer a back rub or a sympathetic look as they recite the sequence of the day in a soothing voice: “ Remember? First its breakfast time, then it’s project time, then it’s outside time, then it’s lunch time, then it’s nap time, then it’s snack time, then your mommy will be here!” 

Sometimes it works, sometimes they need more snuggles or alone time before they are ready to calm down. The anxious ones always lets me know they are sleepy and they want it to hurry up and be nap time because after that the mommy can come. 

Anything with paint is a hit! For this project we examined nature items in various shades of brown then mixed blue, yellow and red to make our own shades of brown. Afterward the gloppy mess got trashed but it sure was a good time!
Instead we go outside and do something fun.

The vastness of the great outdoors calms the children and helps them manage their emotions so we spend LOTS of time outside. As the day unfolds they take an interest in the all new toys, projects, people and freedom they have to explore new things. Slowly but surely they begin to trust the new people who will soon be and extension of their family.

Everybody loves knives right?!? Getting to do big people things is a big deal so we chopped up some extra cucumbers just to see what was inside, then we had some for lunch.
Before you know it, the day is done and they discover that daycare is not so scary after all ........ until mommy leaves again the next morning :)  


  1. Geraldine, you are an amazing caregiver, mentor, teacher, and friend. With your husband, kids, and neighbors working along with you, the kids you care for get the best experience in a home away from home. I am so thankful Noah had the opportunity to learn and grow with you. It looks like your kiddos had the perfect day :-) Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Awe Thanks Jen, I had no idea you were reading our little blog. I want to print your lovely comment and frame it. Give your awesome family a squeeze for me, hope you all have a fantastic school year! XOXO