Have you ever gone into a big building not knowing anyone and had the feeling of being lost and alone? Imagine that how a child feels as they come into a new child care setting where they have never been before and everyone there is a stranger. This can be a very scary situation. Let’s change that scary situation into a welcoming one!

How do you introduce a new child into a program?


Taking the time to plan for and execute a smooth transition can have a huge impact on the outcome for children, families and the program.

  • time for the process to unfold from all perspectives
  • time for parents to learn a new routine
  • time for the new child to be comfortable without family members
  • time for the staff to prepare for the new child
  • time for other children in care to prepare to welcome the new child

 Allowing extra time for all of these things allows everyone’s stress levels to go down. It is critical that the new child’s needs for time are respected.

Child’s Perspective

Depending on the age of your child, here are some suggestions you can try to help ease the transition:

  • talk with them about the new setting
  • show them the space they will be going to (multiple times if needed)
  • read books that show the process unfolding in a positive way
  • arrange a visit with a family member who can stay
  • create an arrival or departure routine that works for your child and then be consistent

Allow a new child to bring a comfort item from home, to be used when they are feeling stressed, as demonstrated through behavior or verbal cues.

  • favorite blanket or stuffed animal (if permitted by program)
  • pictures of family
  • quiet toy
  • a toy they can donate to the program

Family’s Perspective

It is okay to feel emotional during this time, especially if it’s your child’s first group care experience or if you have had a poor experience in the past. 

  • talk with others you trust about your feelings
  • talk to your child’s caregiver

This will help to start that relationship building that is so critical between families and caregiver. It is important that you feel good about where your child will be attending group care. 

  • make a list for yourself of the things that you really liked about the program
  • re-check that list many times during the first few months to re-assess
  • reflect on why you chose that program over another
  • share your list of “why” you chose this program with the caregiver

Program’s Perspective

Communication is key to building your relationship with families. Both families and children can be highly emotional during the transition time, it is important that you plan for activities or routines that will help support both the family’s and the child’s transition into a new child care setting. 

  • ask families how they want to receive communications
  • ask families for feedback on the types of information they want to receive
  • create and review annually your program’s family handbook to encourage dialogue
  • talk with families to create a transition plan, detailing your expectations of them and their expectations for you, which might include:
    • family members using their cell phone while picking up their child
    • who will help the child with their coat or shoes
    • who will decide if guidance is necessary  

Other Children in the Program

Preparing the other children in the program about a new member of their group can offer them an opportunity to share concerns they might have or to gauge who might make a good buddy for the new member of the group. Giving one or two of the children the job of welcoming their new friend in a specific way:

  • help them know what to do during clean up time
  • help them to understand how to clear the table after eating
  • show them how to participate in each activity area in the play space 
  • create welcome cards or posters

With good communication to help transition children between families and caregivers, you can change the felling of being lost and alone to a welcoming one.

Helpful links:
Community Coordinated Child Care, Inc. 4C: Transitioning to Child Care
Effective Early Childhood Transitions: A Guide for Transition at Age Three – Early Start to Preschool
Family Education: Helping Your Child Adjust to Child Care
Kathryn Patricelli, MA: Transitioning into Child Care


Tags: transition , new child care , new program , communication

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