This week marks the beginning of our summer session, so six little one-year-olds joined our class these last few days. It has been a week of stepping back, lowering expectations for each day, and going with the flow. This group seems to be adjusting very well. Honestly, some of our veteran toddlers are struggling with the adjustments more than our newbies (more of that story coming on Tuesday).
First days aren’t easy on anyone.
Some things will just be hard no matter what. But we can make it less hard. Here are some practical ways our team has found to smooth the way for our first-day friends—both toddlers and their parents.
1. Smile! Let parents see that you aren’t surprised or overwhelmed by rough drop-offs. Assure them that the tears are normal for a first day and they will soon pass.
2. Have toys ready to show children, and be aware of any toys that seem to interest them. Even if they choose toys you didn’t expect. I found a ball for a little boy on Monday and he went straight for the toy kitchen. Never mind.
3. Assure parents you will send pictures when possible, and give them a reasonable expectation for when that will be. In our classroom we rarely have time to send pictures before naptime, so we set that as our goal.
4. Use your happy but calm voice. Be upbeat but consistent: “It’s okay, Cooper. Mommy will come back. She always comes back.” As the child intensifies their emotions, keep your own calm.
5. Have back-up ideas ready. We often look out our window that faces the parking lot. Because the school bus is always interesting. You can also look at photos, a classroom animal, or try to figure out where Lily’s shoe went or Emma’s hairclip. Sometimes they like to help look.
6. Pictures! Share pictures with Mom and Dad, preferably before they come to pick up their child in the evening. Smiling pictures are the best, but if their little one doesn’t smile much on their first day, an action shot will do, too. E-mail them to parents, or post them on any photo-sharing app you may use, like Seesaw. Also share about their child’s day, honestly including when the child seemed fussier or more upset, but make sure you mention happy times or activities the child enjoyed.
7. Celebrate. Everyone survived Day One! So it’s possible. Day Two will likely still have a crying start, so plan a relaxing few hours before greeting your adorable little friends again. It won’t be long before they come smiling into your room in the morning!