Change is hard for young children. They prefer the familiar arms that hold and coddle them. They prefer the familiar smiles and scents of the people who have been caring for them from the beginning of life. Some infants cry in real distress for weeks after entry to a new child care program.

How you can ease the transition process for infants and toddlers newly enrolled in your care?

For starters, arrange "comfort spaces" in your classroom. Include some soft beanbag chairs or mattresses to rest on. Provide a cubby that a toddler can crawl into if he needs a breather from too much stimulation in this new environment. However, always be sure you can see the child and ensure safety at all times.

Make It Gradual

When a parent first comes in with the child, allow time for the child to get accustomed to the "newness" of both the big and little folks in the room. Be sure that parents are aware of how important their role is in the transition process.

Sit on one side of a table across from a toddler seated on his parent's lap. Set out interesting toys. Exclaim about and act really interested in the toys. Direct the child's attention to the intriguing toys and how they work. Invite the child to play with the toys and make quiet, admiring comments as the child explores the toys. Cheer the child on if he is able to work a busy box or turn the handle of a pop-up toy. If a child is shy, be sure to use inviting sounds such as "zoom, zoom, zoom" as you model how to have fun zooming the car across the table.

In an easy conversational tone, also talk with the parent. As the little one hears and sees that you and his family are friendly, he will begin to relax. Reassure the parent that you know how important personalized attention is, and that a small number of infants are assigned to a special teacher, who works hard to learn all about each baby's special preferences-how he wants to be held, fed, soothed, comforted.

Reassure the parent that the rules of your program allow a young child to bring his security "lovie" with him to school. Then, if he feels suddenly lonely, or worried, or tired, he can clutch his special "blankie" or teddy bear and find it easier to regain emotional equilibrium.

Click here to view and download A Letter to Families (PDF)