Skip to content
May 12, 2022

The Dos and Don'ts of Drop Off


Dropping a little one off at a new early learning center can be difficult for both parent and child. This transition can be a source of anxiety and stress if there is resistance involved. However, once there is a consistent routine in place, even not-so-happy goodbyes can be managed well. Whether the child is entering a center for the first time, experiencing a period of separation anxiety, or the parents just want their mornings to run smoothly, here are some helpful dos to remember, and some don’ts to avoid.

What are the dos?

  • Communicate with parents beforehand.

It is always a good idea to have a visit prior to the official start of leaving a child with someone else. Getting a chance to meet the teacher and check-in staff, see the room, and play with some of the toys can help build excitement for the first day, as well as foster the parent-staff relationship. Share information you’d like for them to know about your center, ask them questions you may have, and discuss any apprehension they have when it comes to drop off. Your center staff should have a routine in place as well as helpful advice specific to the center, so don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation.

  • Talk to the child about what will happen using clear and simple language. 

Some parents may have this idea that the more they say to their child, the better. This is not the case when it comes to the early childhood years. When a child is nervous or resistant to going to daycare (which is completely normal), the fewer words said, the better. But even though they're saying less, the words should be carefully chosen, validating, and consistent. For example, for first day fears, a parent may want to say, “I know you feel nervous, because doing new things can make me feel that way too. I am going to drop you off, you’re going to play at daycare, and then I’m going to come back and pick you up and we will go home.” Name their feeling and validate it, list the simple flow of their day, and reassure them the time away from mom and dad will end. The more you repeat this, and they experience it, the more predictable their life will be. 

  • Create a daily routine and goodbye ritual.

Children thrive on routine just like most adults, but unlike grownups, children have little control over their day, so that can feel extra stressful for them. Creating a routine in which a child goes to bed and wakes up at the same time, keeping a similar flow to their morning, is crucial. Wake up, snuggle and watch a cartoon, eat breakfast, get dressed, and go. The same consistency helps at drop off. Developing a goodbye handshake or a hug-kiss-high five ritual can also make drop off smoother. Talk to parents about establishing this routine with their child. 

  •  Have parents arrive prepared for a quick drop off. 

Set drop off up for success. Have parents plan ahead by prepacking diaper bags, backpacks, paperwork, and whatever else is needed to hand over at drop off. Sometimes searching to find a specific item to hand over can be just enough time that is needed for a meltdown to occur. It may feel counterintuitive to leave a child when they just want one more hug, or they refuse to let go of their parents' leg, but it’s imperative to make that quick getaway.  Have parents hand over their belongings, do the goodbye ritual, and remind them they’ll be back…and then get out of there! You as their caregiver are ready to take over from there.

  • Expect some tears.

Separation tears are a completely normal part of the early childhood years. Because a child’s frontal lobe is still developing, their capacity to reason, plan ahead, and translate their feelings into verbal communication are just not in the scope of their abilities yet. Tears at drop off usually last only a few minutes and can stick around for several weeks. A child who was once happy at drop off could start to resist, fight, and cry. While this can be confusing and upsetting, having reasonable and realistic expectations is key. 

  • Remain consistent. 

Be consistent! Encourage parents that it's best to keep a routine and the flow of their day going. Show them through your consistent words and actions that they can expect what happens next. Once there is an established routine, they will naturally feel more at ease. A picture chart of the daily routine is often used in centers and schools, so suggest having one for home. Children love having a visual representation of what happens next.

  • Encourage parents to trust the caregivers, teachers, and staff.

Perhaps the most important decision a parent will make is who will take care of their child while they are away.  Ensure them that you amazing center and staff they have chosen. Qualified caregivers can handle their child’s big feelings and are trained to help them along through their emotions, while offering a loving, consistent, and nurturing environment. They’ve got this!


What are the don’ts? 


  • Have inconsistent and unprepared starts to the day.

If parents are inconsistent with their routine and unprepared for the day, the child will not know what to expect, which can lead to more stress for everyone at drop off. Encourage parents to stick to a consistent routine for seamless drop off. 

  • Allow empty promises to try to stop anxious behavior.

Children learn cause and effect very quickly. If they notice that when they say, “I don’t want to go! I just want to stay with you!” the parent takes the day off and keep them home, then they will definitely keep that information handy and learn from it. Remember that it is ok and completely normal for them to need time to work through anxious feelings when getting dropped off.  Remind parents to remain consistent and loving, but to not change their days or promise them toys/candy/technology to get them to act in a desirable way. In the end, it may help in the moment, but the goal is to teach them how to navigate their feelings long term.

  • Rely on unrealistic expectations.

Dropping a child off anywhere can be a new adjustment for everyone involved. Don’t white knuckle it at drop off, hoping everything is perfect. Give parents grace as they navigate this experience, ask if they need help, and expect that drop offs may be tricky for a bit, and that’s okay! 

  • Skip out on communicating with the parents.

Quick goodbyes when there are tears can be hard.  Parents shouldn't feel like they need to spend the day wondering if their child ever settled down. They may find it hard to focus at work if they are worried they are still upset. Check in with parents and assure them that you are a pro at this. If they're only thinking about their child’s behavior at dropoff, they may not realize what a fun day they’re actually having! If your center utilizes a high-quality Childcare Management System you will be able to communicate with the parents so they can see their daily activities, and realize they are engaged and having a great day.

Christina Vaan

Christina is a blog writer and early childhood education content specialist at Kindertales.

Other posts you might be interested in

View All Blog Posts