What should you pack for your child’s first day at daycare? As a former daycare teacher, I can tell you we got some very overprepared parents and some very underprepared parents on that first day.
[read my post on 5 Types of Parents You Meet at Daycare]
Obviously it makes a difference if your child is an infant, a toddler, or a preschooler. Here is a quick and easy guide for each age range so that you and your child can be totally prepared on that first day.
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This is going to require the biggest bag, for sure. Infants come with a lot of needs.
Diapers and wipes
Of course diapers and wipes are some of the most important things to bring on that first day. It’s usually best to bring a full package of diapers and a wipes box with a couple refills. Most daycares have a space to store the extras.
You’ll want to label the outside of the diaper package, the wipes box, and the wipes refills with your child’s full name in sharpie. That way your child’s things don’t get mixed up with anybody else’s (it can get a little confusing with everyone bringing in the same brands and size).
Bottles and/or baby food
Baby’s gotta eat!
While this is pretty basic, and you’re like “Yeah, I know I have to bring food for my kid”, there’s actually a little more to it.
Each bottle and jar of food needs to be labeled with your child’s full name and the date. Every day.
Food jars can simply be labelled with sharpie since they’re disposable (unless you make your own baby food), but bottles can get a bit tricky since anything you write on them tends to come off after a couple washes. I suggest getting a label for your bottles.
Inchbug sells these cute Orbit labels which are rubber and fit around most bottles. You can personalize them with text and a little icon when you purchase them and they will last for years.
That takes care of the name thing, but what about the date? The biggest thing parents consistently forget is to write the date on bottles they brought in. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, the daycare center can actually get in big trouble if they have a surprise inspection and the bottles aren’t labeled and dated. The inspector has no way of knowing if the milk or formula in the bottles is from this morning or last week.
Label the date on the cap (yes all bottles are required to have a cap) with tape and a sharpie. That way it doesn’t come off in the bottle warmer, and it’s easy to take off at the end of the day.
If you are breastfeeding, you may want to consider bringing a small cooler or insulated bag for transporting breastmilk to and from the daycare center.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your center’s rules, as some centers will not keep breastmilk after it has been offered to the chilld. Also, some centers will let you keep an emergency stash of breastmilk in the freezer, or an emergency container of formula.
Technically daycare teachers are not supposed to mix formula (you need to bring bottles premixed), but no one is going to let a child go hungry. If a bottle gets spilled or something and your child needs to eat, they will make sure your child is fed.
Blow outs, leaks, bottle spills, baby food splatters, excessive spit up… You name it, it happens. Make sure your infant has at least 2-3 extra sets of clothes, particularly if they are prone to spitting up or having large bowel movements.
Label tags for easy identification.
Diaper cream (or whatever you use)
Rashes happen, and we want to be prepared when they do. Please bring diaper cream (or coconut oil, or whatever you typically use) in a labeled container (are we getting the hang of this?). We don’t want your child to be uncomfortable any more than you do.
If your child takes a pacifier, please bring multiple. The more unique the better. Or you can always label them. 😉
Pacifiers get lost constantly, and then we have to take the time to sanitize them before we can put them back in your crying baby’s mouth. If we have 2-3, we can rotate them if need be and that tends to work a lot better.
Also please indicate for us when you would like your child to use a pacifier. Most parents are okay with using a pacifier to calm their child down at any time, but some parents are particular that it only be used for going to sleep. Just let your child’s teacher know.
*Please note: Pacifiers with attachments such as little stuffed animals or straps that clip on to the baby’s clothes are typically not allowed in daycares as they can present a suffocation or strangulation hazard. We think it’s silly too, but that is the policy.
Toddlers need some of the same things as infants, but you can pack a little lighter. 🙂
Diapers and wipes
This is exactly the same as for infants. Bring a big package of diapers/pull-ups and a wipes box with extra refills, all labeled with your child’s name in sharpie.
You probably only need 1-2 outfits for a toddler, unless they’re potty training. Then please bring their entire wardrobe.
But bring 4-5 outfits for a potty training child, especially if they are in underwear. And bring lots of extra underwear. They will go through it.
[read my post on 8 Types of Clothes You Should Stop Dressing Your Kids In]
My advice on bring extra sets of clothes to daycare is not to bring the fanciest outfit they own. The reality is that extra outfits may get mixed up (though it helps to label the tags!), they may get dirty, or they may actually get lost. We work hard to make sure that the things you bring to the daycare center end up in the right place and stay there, but sometimes little hands get a hold of them and they get put where they’re not supposed to be.
Bring clothes you would be willing to part with as extra daycare outfits, just in case.
Diaper cream, pacifier, etc.
If your child is still in diapers and can be prone to rashes, bring some diaper cream.
If your child still needs a pacifier to go to sleep at nap time, bring that. We are not allowed to bring pacifiers outside, however, so now is a good time to start weaning your child off of that pacifier except for getting to sleep. If they get upset during outside time, or activities in any place other than the classroom, we’re probably going to let them cry it out.
Daycare centers are required to let kids outside for a certain amount of time each day (this can vary state to state). They are also supposed to put sunscreen on the children when they play outside during the hot months.
While any sunscreen is acceptable, spray sunscreens tend to be the easiest to put on when we have a large group of children to get through. That being said, Healthy Child’s website indicates that spray sunscreens are less effective than the old fashioned rub-ons.
It’s your choice. In my experience, daycare kids don’t usually stay outside for long enough periods of time to make much difference. I only saw one or two children get sunburned in my entire time there, and they weren’t wearing any sunscreen at all.
Unless your preschoolers is still in pull-ups, or is particularly prone to having accidents, you don’t need to send much with a preschooler on their first day.
Change of clothes
Clothes can still get paint smears or spilled milk on them. Best to have one set on hand in case something happens. Unless your child has naptime accidents or something, they shouldn’t need more than one set of extra clothes at a time.
Sunscreen rules still apply to preschoolers. Please make sure your child has some.
Anything the teacher specifically requests
Preschool teachers might ask your child to have a water bottle of their own, a folder for worksheets or artwork, or pictures from home to hang in their cubby. Check with your child’s teacher to see if you need to bring anything.