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How to maintain the routine when my child is in childcare

A lot of people ask me how they can maintain a routine while their baby or toddler is at childcare. Starting childcare can be a huge adjustment for little people and because of this, routine can go out the window. It can really help everyone if you try to keep the routine as close to normal as possible.

When you start your child at childcare it is perfectly reasonable to ask carers to stick to your routine as much as they possibly can. From what I have heard most centres are really happy to do what they can to stick to your routine. The times of the day that your child sleeps may alter slightly, but ask them if they can try to make it as close to what is happening at home as they can.

It can also be a bit tricky for your child to initially go off to sleep, on their own, in an open-plan type environment, with a lot of other children around them. Your baby or toddler should adjust reasonably quickly as long as the carers are using the same settling techniques that you use at home. It can also be a good idea to talk the carers through the pre-sleep rituals you are using at home so that they can do the same thing at childcare. This can really help your child get to sleep more easily. Also, if your child has a comforter or a special toy they sleep with, make sure that they have it with them at childcare. If they are sleeping in a sleeping bag then it’s a good idea to use that when at childcare too.

It is also hard to adjust your children to the end of the day routine once you are back at work. Picking up, getting home and doing all the evening rituals like dinner, bath, book etc. can mean that bedtime gets pushed later. The problem with this is that your child will already be pretty exhausted after a day at childcare. Getting them down late means that they might be trickier getting to sleep and may not sleep well. It can be really helpful if you have dinner organised for when you get home to ensure that you stick to your evening routine as closely as possible. Make sure you get dinner and the bath time done quickly so your child can get to bed at their normal time. Some centres will also provide dinner if you are going to be late to collect. This can also be a good option.

Going to childcare is a big thing for a little person and a big change for them to be away from their home and from you. Maintaining as much familiarity as possible for them is very helpful for everyone. Having a child who is not overtired at bedtime can also help things run more smoothly the next day – that is why sticking to routine can really help.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.