It Takes This Long for a Toddler to Like Daycare

Daycare dropoff is an adjustment for parents and children. The parents are often more anxious than the children, but once children know that daycare means separation from the parents, there may be meltdowns that make you rethink childcare. 

If you have to endure a pitiful dropoff meltdown, you might be wondering how long it will take your toddler or child to like daycare. 

The good news is children quickly adapt to changes in their routine and learn to love daycare, even if they don’t like it at first.


Children under 12 months take the shortest time to adapt to daycare. They are still learning about the people and places around them, so they are malleable to caretakers. 

Parents often have a harder time being separated from their babies than their babies do! But, once you see your baby enjoying daycare, it gets easier to leave your baby with their caregiver.


Children between one and three years of age are more aware of their environment, routines, and relationships. Dropoff at this age can be confusing for children and sobering for parents. 

There is a great deal of variability in how long it takes a toddler to like daycare and not have meltdowns at dropoff. 

  • 1 year old: It can take up to two weeks of daily dropoffs for a child to not cry when leaving a parent. If your child is on a part-time schedule, it may take longer.
  • 2 years old: A child this age will take two to three weeks to adjust to drop off.
  • 3 years old: Children switching daycares may only take a day or two to adjust, but a child who has never been in daycare before may take up to a month to feel comfortable at drop-off.


While it may surprise you, four-year-olds may take the longest to fully adjust to a daycare environment. This is true whether they are switching daycares or starting daycare for the first time. 

Four-year-olds are old enough to have big feelings about their change of environment. This is understandable even for adults. For instance, it is normal to feel anxious for a few weeks or months when starting a new job or class.

Similarly, four-year-olds can take three to six months to feel at home in their new daycare setting. It takes time to learn new routines, make new friends, and discover their favorite things in their classroom. 

How to Help a Child Adjust to Daycare

Coping skills will vary depending on the age of the child. Here are some tips for helping children overcome anxiety at dropoff:

  • Leave a favorite lovey or blanket with your child. For babies, it’s helpful if the blanket has the parent’s scent or if they otherwise associate the blanket with the parent (e.g. rocking with the blanket before bedtime). Older children can keep a lovey or toy from home in their cubby to use at naptime.
  • Parents should be compassionate at dropoff but not waffle when it is time to leave. Give reassuring affection or come up with a fun dropoff handshake, but then leave promptly. This helps your child know they can’t pull you back by throwing a tantrum.
  • Consider rewarding older children if they don’t throw a tantrum at dropoff 

Dropoff at Bright Start Louisville

At Bright Start Louisville, we know that dropoff can be hard. We have compassionate and supportive staff to help children and parents alike transition to their daycare routine. Our teachers know how to quickly engage children in their classroom activities, find new friends, and become acclimated to their new routine as quickly as possible.

Bright Start Louisville offers exceptional childcare to children six weeks to 12 years old. We’re proud to offer a fun and educational preschool program that prepares your child for kindergarten per state educational standards.

If you’re looking for excellent childcare that gives your child a head start in life, contact Bright Start Louisville today!

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