Is there a good way to transition a toddler to daycare?
I agree with Andrea's list. The main one I would echo that was most important for my children in transitioning to new nannies/preschools is a good relationship with the caregiver. This might be a little one-on-one time with the teacher (even 15 minutes) at some point before the first drop-off day or emphasizing to your child the teacher's name and explaining that the teacher will be taking care of her until you're back and if she needs anything, she can ask the teacher.
I think transitioning to a nanny is typically easier than daycare because if the nanny comes to your home, the child will be in a familiar environment. It is also quite different care than being in a group setting.
It's hard to think about, I know. On the other hand, I think children can get used to anything (anything that's good, anyway). My 3.5-year-old daughter will nap with our nanny still long after she has quit napping with us. Sometimes kids behave better for non-parents too.
The only suggestions I have are probably obvious:
- watch out for developmental periods of heightened stranger anxiety (around 1 yr is one, if I remember correctly, but it sounds like you're past this?)
- my son liked to push me out of the classroom after drop off. Made him smile. Me too. The daycare teachers tend to say that the kids are not so much the problem as teary-eyed parents who won't say goodbye. They emphasized smiling, acting confident, and saying "I will see you soon" and getting quickly out of sight (and then they themselves would talk about "Mommy/Daddy always comes back" if needed later).
Things I learned:
- transitions are hard, long hours away are not. My first tendency was to try and limit the total hours away, but actually what seemed to help my hesitant daughter get used to the setting faster was a few longer days and more days a week with the new teachers at preschool, especially when it included some time with a somewhat smaller ratio where she could create good 1:1 relationships with teachers. I can imagine an all-day setting being even easier to transition to. On the other hand, what helped my son was toys that he really wanted to play with ;)
- being the last one to pick up in a group setting is noticed, and sad, even when your kid (my son) seems totally fine without you.