How Long Should It Take a 17 Month Old to Adjust to New "Daycare"

Updated on December 07, 2011
H.1. asks from Des Moines, IA
9 answers

Hi Ladies - I am now watching another little guy a few days per week in my home. He is 17 months old. So it is just me, him and my son who is roughly the same age. This child has almost always stayed home with his parent, who has now returned part time to work. He seems to be really struggling here with us. I am not exaggerating when I say he literally cries the entire day long minus sleeping (which he is doing okay-ish at) and eating. He wanders around looking for me and won't play with toys. He seems to not like my son very much and will cry harder if my son approaches him. I understand there is an adjustment period - especially if a child is new to being apart from a parent. But, what is a reasonable time to think he might start improving? I know its not an across-the-board type of answer, but looking for some thoughts from you all.

Also, what I can do to help him feel more's pretty low-key in my home, which I am sure he is used to staying home with one parent all day. His parent drops him off appropriately - as in tells him it's okay, makes it quick, etc. I try to immediately distract him, engage with him etc but how much do you think I should coddle him since he is adjusting vs. let him wander and get used to playing comfortably?

Thanks ladies!

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answers from Los Angeles on

It shouldn't last more than a couple of weeks. If it does, mom may need to bring something from home to make him feel more comfortable, a favorite blanket, toy, etc. That may help the adjustment. I've worked in daycare and taught preschool and the adjustment period really does depend on the child, however like I said, more than a couple of weeks and you may want to talk to the mom.

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answers from Fayetteville on

I owned a home daycare for that age for years and I can tell you that it varies greatly! It's not uncommon for it to take a month or two, even more. And some never adjust. (on the flip side, giving extra effort on your part can cut that down to a week or so!) I haven't read through the other comments so someone may have mentioned this, but it is VERY important in this situation that the mom or dad NOT sneak out when they drop him off. They need to say goodbye and let him know they will be back later. I know it seems harder cause it causes the crying immediately but you're looking for a long term good outcome here. When you distract a child and mom or dad sneaks out then later the kid suddenly notices they are gone. This breaks trust and security in the child and will make them MORE clingy to mom and dad and harder for them to leave. The kid won't want to ever let them go cause he's learned if he takes his eye off of them, they disappear. It's scary for a child and can affect them the whole day, plus long term will make your situation harder. Even a kid that age can learn the routine of saying goodbye and they come back later (and then he knows what has happened instead of feeling abandaned.) So that would be my first BIG tip - make mom and dad say bye, gives hugs (nothing drawn out, just do it and go) and then you can try to engage him in some play. My other tip would be, during this transition time that is so hard for him, give him LOTS of love and holding time. Help him to feel secure with you. You may have to hold him most of the day for awhile, but it's worth it, cause he will bond with you. Having been through that with mulitple kids over the years, that's what really needs to happen - he needs to bond with you. You should become a loved and trusted caregiver that he feels secure with. I would go through every toy, craft, activity, music thing you can think of with him and try to find something that interests him and then do it WITH him - don't expect him to play on his own. Spend quality time bonding with him. As he gains security and trust of you and his new environment, he will gradually wonder more on his own to play. I could probably think of tons more.. but this is already pretty long.. hope it helps! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Congratulations on your new job. You get to be the first nonparental caregiver in this little boy's life. Good for both of you.

I'm of the belief that kids do well when they get to experience a nonparent caregiver who cares for them, is trustworthy and responsive and loving and predictable.

When I was a nanny and starting with a new family, or when I had new children in care (preschool and toddler groups), my first goal was to establish a trusting relationship with the child, no matter what age. This will mean creating a daily routine, so that days are predictable for this little guy. Sometimes, this means packing them around, lots of loving touches. He sounds very scared and insecure, so be sure to stay close, tell him where you are going if you leave the room, and be predictable in how you disclipline. (at this age, it will likely be distraction, redirection and very simple either/or choices) Love on him as much as you can. Gentle physical play which allows both kids to crawl on you is great. Fingerplays and puppets for stories will give him something else to focus on, even momentarily.

Some people will call it coddling, but at his young age, he needs to attach to you if he's going to come to enjoy being at your home. Make yourself emotionally available and try to use positive language to provide empathy and acknowledgment of his sadness. "I see you are so sad because you want Mama. I know." and then, try a redirection of that "Let's write mommy a letter. 'Dear Mommy, I will be so happy to see you. I love you.' (writing notes-- this worked VERY well with my toddler groups, by the way) Now, do you know what I was thinking about today? I was thinking about boats! I'm going to fill up this pot with water and what could be a boat? ..."

Okay, all this last part looked a little goofy, but that was how I would often get little kids to shift their focus. Acknowledge the emotion, address it to the proper party (the parent , via 'letter', which is about you articulating how he's feeling, this offers empathy and validation and helps you to bond with him) and then moving on to some exploratory play by asking a simple question. You'll find what works for you from this. Make bonding your goal and don't be surprised that he's not engaging with your son; kids generally don't play 'together' until they are older, into their twos and threes. Most of my toddler group (20-30 months) were mostly engaged in parallel play and watching each other; interactions were mostly around toys. So he sounds fine for his age.

How long it will take him to become comfortable will depend in part on your receptiveness/responsiveness and on his temperament, which is one part you just can't control. You are right, though, this is a huge adjustment for him, so keep your immediate expectations low for now. If you are providing loving support and offering things to do (such as more exploratory play) *with* him, he'll come round.

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answers from Phoenix on

Oh, how sad. Did his parents ever spend a few hours in your home with him, just playing and making it a happy space for him. before returning to work? Or was the first day, the real deal, just drop and go?

He sounds lost, like where's my mommy. You son has his mommy, what happened to mine. His memory is not developed enough to understand she's coming back, so he keeps looking for her because she's always been there before.

My thoughts are that Mom needs to bring him there, play with him and bring him home. Then start back to the work routine. Then I would still think he needs a week or two to adjust.

You sound like such a sweet day care mom too!

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answers from New York on

I am on the other end of this. Our DS (14 months old) is bad at transitioning. We go to mommy & me, over to my uncles house, to the playground, to my g.f's house. He wants to sit on my lap, cling to my leg until he's good and comfortable. Once he's taken in the scene, it's go, go, go and goodbye mommy.

Can the boy's mom come over with him to your house on the days she isn't working to help him get acclimated to the space?

good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

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answers from Chicago on

My son cried nearly all day for the first week and a half. It was rough but once he was comfortable he didn't want to leave! I printed out a few family pictures for him to hold and comfort him during the day.

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answers from San Diego on

If he is truly just trying to adjust, it should not take more than a few weeks tops. To make him more comfortable, start getting down on the floor and playing with him for a few minutes every 20-30 minutes. Make sure that for every 30 minutes of time that he is awake, that he gets a hug, pulled into your lap, his diaper changed etc. BUT, your physical contact with him and lap time does not have to consume your day. He NEEDS to start getting used to the new routine and learning how to entertain himself.

Watch his mom and really listen to her. You'll know soon if this is more of a family trait. I have a child here that's a little younger than him and she cries often and always has. She will play sweetly while she's in the room with us and has learned how to play with the other kids some very nicely. BUT, if we walk out of a room, or we walk back into the room, she instantly demands us to pick her up by throwing an all out, crocodile, teary, snotty, fit. She acts like she's seriously being beat to death. The thing is, her mother and her older sister have drama queen personalities and I can tell that both of them baby talk to her near constantly. It's just not hard to see where her disposition comes from. We can only take her so far at this age. BUT, she's improved enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The older she gets, the more she'll get with the program. The other kids are having fun and she wants to have fun too.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I only had one child that took over a couple of weeks. They took a bit longer but it should not be very long. I would keep working with him though, I am sure his parents appreciate what you are doing.



answers from Chicago on

I always found it took children who came part-time longer to adjust. Ask his parents to let him pick out toys from home each day to bring to your home. Find out what they would do at home and do it at your home until he gets comfortable. If he needs it coddle him. He's in a new environment and needs to feel safe and loved. It may take a few weeks or longer. It really depends on the child.

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