Returning to Childcare after Covid: 4 Critical Ways to Prepare your Child for the Transition to Preschool

During the past year, we have all missed out on many traditions, gatherings, and typical routines. Despite all that was canceled, many parents were able to take advantage of this extra time at home with their families to connect with their young children. And though so many have enjoyed what felt like bonus family time, as communities reopen and parents consider returning to childcare after Covid, it is important to know how to look for the right childcare or preschool environment to foster your child’s social, emotional, and cognitive growth and development. 

Returning to childcare after Covid

Many childcare centers have stayed open throughout the pandemic and have well-established procedures and protocols in place to keep children, families, and staff members safe. Whether your child is heading to school for the first time or is returning after some time away, it is important to help prepare your child for the transition to a more formal learning environment. Here are some strategies to help your child get ready for returning to childcare after Covid:

Establish routines to support healthy habits: The foundation of a successful transition is preparedness. Check in with your child’s school to find out about their start and end times, nap times, meal plans, and snack schedules. Consider modifying your child’s sleep and eating schedule to better reflect what their routines will be when they go to school. 
Build independence: You can support your child returning to childcare after Covid by helping them to do more on their own. Let your child practice opening and closing food or drink containers, washing their hands, and cleaning up their toys after they play. Take into account any health or safety measures your school has in place such as mask-wearing and give your child time to practice and adjust before starting school.  
Talk positively about school: As you approach the first day of daycare or preschool, regularly talk about school in a positive and joyful way. Discuss fun activities they might do or experiences they might have like meeting new friends, doing special crafts, and playing with new toys or equipment. These conversations establish an enthusiastic mindset for your child as they start this new experience. 
Find ways to support your child’s emotions through the transition of returning to childcare after Covid: Oftentimes, children experience big emotions when they go through a transition or change. This is likely to be especially true given the increase in time families have spent together at home over the past year. Your child might require additional downtime or alone time after a busy day at school or they might seek opportunities to talk with you about their day. Depending upon your child’s needs, create time and space for them to process these feelings.

Returning to childcare after Covid

Transitions can be stressful for everyone, especially thinking about returning to childcare after Covid. With the broader context of the pandemic and the ever-changing norms and protocols, we have all had to be flexible in our expectations and adaptable in our routines. Remember to have grace and compassion with teachers, your family, and yourself. Leading with this approach will ultimately create a positive, productive, and nurturing environment for your child. 

Each family must make their own decisions about childcare to best meet their unique needs. To read the CDC guidance provided to schools to guide their safety procedures and protocols, visit the CDC page on Schools and Childcare Programs. If you are interested in finding a safe school for your child, visit to search for centers near you. On the search results page, you’ll see Member Schools featured with a note about their health and safety protocols. For additional information, reach out to a Family Adviser directly by emailing or calling 877-PreK-Now (877-773-5669).