How Long Does It Take for Toddlers to Get Used to Daycare?

Saying goodbye at daycare isn't easy for a toddler.

Putting your toddler into daycare can be a stressful experience for everyone. As you navigate the process of leaving your little one in the care of others, you might wonder how long it will take for your toddler to acclimate to his new surroundings and get used to the new environment.

Building Trust

Your toddler is too young to understand the details behind the new daycare situation, aside from knowing that you are leaving her in the care of other people with little explanation. Although you may feel confident in her safety, she does not feel safe and secure at first. Gradually, feelings of confidence and security will develop, but these feelings come from building trust with new caregivers, states The Fred Rogers Company.

Average Transition Times

Engagement between the toddler and the activities in daycare increase over time, which helps the little one feel more connected with other children and caregivers. The body produces cortisol in response to stress. By testing toddler cortisol levels, it is possible to determine the amount of stress experienced by the child. Cortisol testing indicates that the average time necessary for a toddler to adjust to a new daycare is between three and six months, state authors of “Toddlers’ Transition to Out-of-Home Day Care: Settling Into a New Care Environment,” published in “Infant Behavior and Development.”

Improving Acclimation

It is possible to improve a toddler’s adjustment to daycare and help her acclimate more quickly. A high-quality daycare setting that includes warm and loving interactions between caregivers and child can help a toddler feel more comfortable in a shorter period. Daycare caregivers can also help improve a toddler’s adjustment by facilitating positive connections between peers. Ask if your toddler can take a security object along to daycare, such as a stuffed animal or blanket. The security object can help a child feel more comfortable, states the Children’s Physician Network.

Goodbye and Hello Routines

Creating a goodbye routine that you repeat every day might ease the transition and make the separation easier for a toddler. Devise a special way to say goodbye that might include a specific phrase, special kind of hug or another type of gesture. Keep it simple so that your toddler can catch on quickly. By repeating the routine every day, you provide continuity that should make the goodbye easier. You could also create a routine for picking your child up at the end of the day, too.