You’ve toured the programs, made multiple lists and worked hard to establish a morning routine. Now your family is ready for the next step: sending your child to daycare. What to pack for that first day depends on your little one’s age, your location and the program’s specific requirements. These tips will get you started.
Infants Under Six Months
Some families begin sending their children to daycare as early as eight weeks. If that’s you, these are a few items you’ll want to pack.
Food to pack: Most daycare centers will follow the parent’s lead on formula and breastmilk for the first 12 months; some might also offer formula options. Your daycare will probably ask you to fill out a form with feeding times so they can stick to a schedule. If you are providing your own formula or breastmilk, pack the day’s food in a formula dispenser or cooler with each bottle labeled clearly with your child’s name and the date.
Clothes to pack: Accidents happen a lot with infants, so your daycare will most likely ask you to provide additional outfits for your child (rotate them seasonally and as your baby grows). Label clothes with a name sticker, stamp or other identifier.
Diapers are sometimes offered by daycare providers, sometimes not. A good rule of thumb for young babies is to provide a diaper for every hour of care; so for a seven-hour day, provide seven diapers. Consider providing wipes as well, especially if your child is sensitive to any products.
Your infant daycare checklist:
- Bottles of formula or breast milk
- Change of clothes
- Baby food, if applicable
Babies Six to 18 Months
The exact age when your child transitions to the next level of daycare is up to the center. That might mean six months, nine months or 12 months. With so many changes in your child’s development during this time, expect to switch up a lot of gear during these months.
Food to pack: Starting around nine or 10 months of age, your baby might be ready to transition from a bottle to a cup with handles. By around 12 months, many youngsters will transition to a sippy cup. Label any drinking device with your child’s name and date.
Your child will also begin to explore solid food during this time. Your daycare might offer meals, or you might provide purees or food cut and ready for baby-led weaning. (Some places prohibit outside food unless there is a known allergy and some do not allow baby-led weaning because of choking risks—be sure to ask about policies.) You might be asked to pack your own bibs, plates or utensils, or the daycare program might provide them.
Clothes to pack: Provide three to four alternate outfits for this age range, labeled with your child’s name. Your daycare might have rules regarding shoes around eight to 10 months, when babies begin to pull themselves up. Check to see if you need to provide hard-bottom shoes instead of soft, infant ones. Provide as many diapers as hours your child will be at daycare.
Your baby daycare checklist:
- Sippy cup
- Hard-bottom shoes
- Change of clothes
- Solid food, if applicable
Tots 18 Months+
Around the year-and-a-half mark, your child may be done with bottles, formula and breastmilk, making the amount of stuff you have to pack a lot less.
Food to pack: If your daycare allows outside food, pack your child’s meals in a lunch box or bento box for easy transportation. Provide a clearly labeled water bottle and any straws or transition cups for milk.
Clothes to pack: Once again, your child will need outfit changes (clearly labeled) and closed-toed shoes. Children this age go to the bathroom less—and might even be working on potty training—so fewer diapers are necessary.
Your toddler daycare checklist:
- Water bottle
- Lunch box
- Favorite lovie or stuffy
- Mineral sunscreen for kids
- Seasonal hat
- Change of clothes
- Food, if applicable
Whatever your child’s age, the first day of daycare can feel overwhelming. Don’t stress—it gets easier with every passing day. For other tips on staying organized when you have a baby or toddler, check out the OXO blog.