As working parents, my husband and I have no choice but to send our daughter to daycare. Many children in the United States attend daycare, so it’s nothing new or foreign. Our daycare is awesome, but issues still arise every now and then. This article is about dealing with the transition from infant room to toddler room.
Many parents talk about the transition into daycare as a pretty big rite of passage and it is. Starting at daycare or switching daycares is huge. We’ve done both and the transitions can be difficult.
I rarely hear conversations about the transition between rooms at daycare. That’s much less talked about. In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar that it would be an issue for my daughter when she moved from the infant room to toddler room.
The transition turned out to be a big one for my toddler. In hindsight, there were some things that I would have done differently to help her prepare and ease the difficulty. That’s parenthood, right? It’s impossible to do things right on the first try, but we always wish we had.
- Additional reading: A helpful list of toddler transitions for two year olds
Daycare rooms by age
The ages for specific daycare rooms will vary by state and facility. At our daycare, the infant room is 6 weeks to 2 years old, the toddler room is 2 to 3 years old, and the preschoolers are 3 to 4 years old. Then they have a group of elementary-age kids who are in before and after school care.
My daughter has been in the infant room since she started daycare, so moving to the toddler room was her first major transition at daycare.
In my opinion, a toddler’s personality will play into how well they go through a transition. Many toddlers love routines while some are free spirits and go with the flow through changes.
My toddler is a routine lover. She thrives and does well within the boundaries of a routine and a schedule. She’s the kid who knows when it’s her naptime every day and doesn’t fight it. She willingly takes her nap after lunch.
When you have a toddler who loves their routine, introducing change can be difficult. For a long time, we had difficulty traveling because my daughter would not sleep anywhere but her own crib in her room.
So, if you have a routine lover like me, you might have some difficulty. If your toddler is a free spirit and openly welcomes change, they might not have any difficulty transitioning from infant room to toddler room.
Things will be different
When my daughter transitioned from infant room to toddler room, I knew things would be different for her, but I didn’t really think about the details.
Right before my daughter was about to transition to the toddler room, her infant teacher started to put her on a toddler cot for naptime instead of her usual crib. I hadn’t even thought about how she would sleep in the new room! This change caused a huge temper tantrum at daycare. My daughter absolutely refused to sleep on the cot and didn’t get much sleep for about a week.
- Related reading: Transitioning to a toddler bed under two years old
The teacher-to-child ratio usually increases after the infant room. While a child may enjoy the benefits of a small class size and one-on-one attention in an infant room, that quickly changes in the toddler room. There will be more children per teacher, which can equate to less individual attention from a care provider.
If you’re unsure about teacher-to-child ratios in your state, here is a nifty site that compares teacher-to-child ratios for the different age ranges in every state.
Once your child transitions from the infant room to toddler room, they will also have to become familiar with a new teacher and new classmates. It might be a little unsettling at first to be in a different room with new faces, but that’ll ease with time and familiarity.
Signs your toddler is having a difficult time
There were a few signs that my toddler was having a rough transition from infant room to toddler room. Daycare dropoffs became more difficult around this time. Whenever she saw her new toddler teacher at dropoff, she would cling to me and not want to go in.
After daycare, she was exhausted from the extra stimuli that came with the new environment. She started having more temper tantrums in the evenings, which was something we were not used to.
My toddler also went through a potty training regression. She refused to use the potty and held her pee for as long as she could. Since she was having major accidents every day, we started sending her in Pull-Ups.
Preparing your child
Although there’s no way to completely prepare for every transition that your child goes through (there will be many!), here are some things that can help with this transition.
Communicate with the daycare
Ask questions about the new daycare room. When exactly is the transition going to take place from infant room to toddler room? Does it happen exactly on their birthday or is there a transition period where your child will spend time in each room every day?
What is expected of your child in the new toddler room? What time is their nap and what do they sleep on? Is the routine different from the infant room? What are the expectations for potty training?
Every facility is going to have different policies and some of these answers are not in the daycare handbook, so it’s important to communicate with the daycare and ask questions.
Don’t introduce major changes at home
One transition at a time. If your toddler is having a difficult time transitioning from the infant room to toddler room, it’s not a great time to introduce other major changes at home, like potty training.
We introduced potty training right before this major change at daycare and it was not ideal for our toddler. There was a regression and outright refusal to use the potty at daycare. In hindsight, it would have been easier for everyone if we started potty training a month or two after the transition to the toddler room.
Stick with you normal routine at home
If your child is having a rough time, stick to your normal routine at home, including naps and bedtime. Routines do provide comfort for toddlers, so keep up with their familiar home routine.
When does it get better?
It took a full month for my daughter to feel completely comfortable in the toddler room. Her naps got much better, so she wasn’t overtired at the end of the day. She started to get excited about daycare dropoff and would run back to her new toddler room after our goodbyes.
- Related reading: How to make daycare dropoff easier
I knew we had really turned a corner when she started mentioning the names of new friends in her class. At the end of the day, she would yell ‘bye friends!’ and ‘see you in the morning!’ One day, she asked to go to daycare on a Saturday. After that, I knew all was well.
Final thoughts on infant room to toddler room
If your toddler has a tough time transitioning from infant room to toddler room, know that it can take a little time to ease into the new room. Stick to your regular routines at home, don’t introduce any major changes, and make sure your toddler gets plenty of rest.
It won’t be long before they’re running off in excitement to their new toddler room.