As parents, one of the biggest decisions we face is choosing when the right time is to enroll our children in daycare. Knowing if your toddler or preschooler is developmentally ready to be away from you for part of the day can be challenging. Here are some key signs to look for that indicate your little one may be prepared for this transition to daycare:

Separation Anxiety Is Lessening

One of the most critical aspects of daycare readiness is how your child handles separation from you. Between 12 and 18 months, many toddlers experience a peak in separation anxiety when parents leave. By around 18 to 24 months, separation anxiety starts to lessen for most children as they become more independent. If your toddler can happily play for short periods while you are in the same room or home, they may be ready to start separating for longer stretches at daycare.

Self-Help Skills Are Emerging

Before starting daycare, children must have developed basic self-care routines like feeding themselves, getting dressed, and using the potty independently. Most toddlers are ready between 18 and 30 months after their fine motor skills have improved. If your child can perform some self-help tasks independently, this demonstrates maturity and flexibility that will serve them well in a daycare setting with similar-aged peers.

Communicates Needs And Wants Clearly

Daycare teachers need to understand what children are trying to say. Look for signs that your toddler or preschooler is communicating fully with one—or two-word phrases and simple sentences by around 18 months. They should be able to clearly express needs like being hungry, tired, or having a dirty diaper. Communicating effectively will help your children advocate for themselves at daycare.

Finds Enjoyment In Independent Play

Part of what makes daycare a positive experience is the opportunities for learning through play. By age two, children begin to play beside others rather than only interacting. See if your toddler happily engages with toys or activities for 5-10 minutes with minimal distraction. The ability to entertain independently reduces dependency on caregivers and sets kids up for success in guided play at daycare.

Interacts Well With Other Children

Play is how preschoolers explore and learn critical social skills. Look for your toddler to show interest in other kids by around 18 months through parallel play, like playing side by side. By ages 2-3, you should see them starting to engage in associative play, like imitating or taking turns. Interacting well and cooperating in simple play shows children are developing friendships that will enrich their daycare experience.

Listens And Follows Basic Rules

Structure and routine are important for young children to feel safe and secure. By ages 2-3, toddlers can understand and follow one-step directions. See if your preschooler listens and obeys simple rules like holding an adult’s hand in parking lots. The capacity to listen attentively and comply sets the stage for respecting caregivers and classroom expectations.

Adapts To New Situations With Ease

Navigating new environments and unfamiliar people takes confidence that typically grows between 18 and 24 months. Observe how your toddler handles transitions each day and regularly expose them to modest changes in routine. The more flexible children are, the more smoothly they will transition into the novel daycare setting. Look for signs they can roll with changes with minimal distress.

Adjusts Well After Separations

Once your toddler shows the above signs of adapting well to new experiences, focus on how they act after separating from you. See if they can happily re-engage in independent play after brief periods apart, like at the store or playground, by 18-24 months. The capability to self-soothe after short-term separations is an encouraging sign for their eventual longer daycare absences.

Your child’s temperament and developmental milestone progress will dictate perfect timing. Some signs may happen earlier or later. Watch for a combination rather than all at once. Chat with your pediatrician and potential daycare providers to help evaluate readiness. With patience and this observational approach, you can confidently determine if your little one has grown into an independent learner ripe for nourishing educational care outside the home. Don’t hesitate to contact us here at Angelic Treasures with any other questions about assessing school readiness or supporting your child’s smooth transition to daycare.