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Preparing MN Parents and Kids For That First Child Care Experience

December 30, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The New Year will bring a new adventure for many children across the state, as they attend daycare for the first time. Elizabeth Cooper with the Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network says parents' first priority will be finding a provider by looking at the people, the place and the program.

"Is the caregiver herself warm and nurturing? Is the program space clean and inviting? Is there a plan for the day, so that each child will be engaged and active?"

Cooper suggests allowing plenty of time to find a childcare provider – and the younger the child, she adds, the longer it could take.

Once there's a perfect fit for your family, the next step is getting ready for the transition. To help things go smoothly, Cooper suggests practicing what will be your consistent childcare routine with your child. If possible, this includes making several short visits to the site in advance of the first day, she says.

"It's also important to remember that our children really pick up on our feelings and reactions to things. So, the more that we can be positive with them about this exciting new adventure that they're beginning, the better they will feel."

Another helpful way to ease the transition, says Cooper, is a reminder of home.

"If your child has a security blanket or an important toy or stuffed animal, it's great to be sure that they're able to bring that along. And it helps a lot of children to have a photo of their family with them."

Once everything is rolling along, Cooper says it's important to create a backup plan for emergencies, illness, vacations or holidays that could leave you without a provider. Sometimes family, close friends or neighbors will be able to care for your kids.

"And some childcare programs actually do provide backup care when they have slots available. Parents certainly can find out more about those options by calling their local childcare resource and referral agency, to connect with those programs that do offer specific backup care slots."

Last year alone, the Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network helped nearly 27,000 people seeking information and referrals. Its website is www.mnchildcare.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN