No matter their age, sending your child to daycare can be a tough transition for both of you. Packing your bag and filling out the necessary paperwork ahead of time will help you feel prepared and calm your nerves.
However, if you’re scrolling right now because you don’t know what you might need to pack, you’re probably feeling something less than “prepared.” We’ve got you covered. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about packing for daycare, so you can return to more important things — like savoring every moment with your precious child.
What to Pack When Sending Your Child to Daycare
Tips to Get You Started
Before you begin the process of packing your daycare bag, there are some things you should take into consideration:
1. Label Everything
Even small daycares have items coming and going each day. Multiply the products you bring in by the number of kids in the class, and you’ll see how easy it is to mix things up. Do yourself and the workers a favor and label everything. That way, your child won’t come home in the wrong underwear or break out in a rash from a sunscreen they’re allergic to.
2. Avoid Bringing Items Back and Forth
Taking a wriggly baby or toddler to daycare daily will be difficult enough without dragging an entire nursery with you. When sending your child to daycare, check to see what items you’re allowed to leave there. Most daycares will have a place for you to store some of the necessities.
3. Consider Your Child’s Age
Many things on this packing list will apply to both babies and toddlers, but both stages have some individual needs. If you’re having trouble deciding if you should pack something, ask. Your daycare providers will be more than willing to ease your anxiety and help guide you in the right direction.
Questions You Should Ask
Once you’ve chosen the daycare that’s right for your child and a good fit for your needs, sit down to review some important packing questions.
Do I need to pack lunch and snacks every day?
You’ll need to find out if your daycare provides meals and snacks or if you’ll be required to bring food daily. If you need to pack a lunch, ask about any foods you need to avoid since other kids may have allergies to certain ingredients.
How should I store and drop off my breastmilk?
If you’re enrolling a breastfed baby, daycares will be equipped to accommodate using your breastmilk. Ask about preferred procedures for bringing it in and how they plan to store it. Also, alert them to any particular preferences you may have.
What supplies do I need to bring?
Before you agonize over creating a packing list, see if the daycare has a premade one you can follow. You likely aren’t the first stressed-out parent they’ve dealt with. Their list might also have recommendations specific to their program that would be worth noting.
May my child bring in personal items?
Before sending your child to daycare, ask the daycare what personal items, if any, you can bring in. Most will be willing to accommodate a special blanket or stuffed animal your little one can’t bear to be without. However, your child might only get to have it at nap time, when it would be harder for other kids to play with the item. Be aware, though, that some providers might not allow any personal items for hygienic reasons.
Do you hang pictures of kids’ families?
Some daycares encourage parents to bring pictures of family members. Hanging photos of familiar faces on the wall help children feel more at home. It can ease the separation a bit.
Packing List Essentials
These are the essentials for any child attending daycare. Again, some items may be specific to babies or toddlers, so use your best judgment. Add these products to your list of things to bring, along with anything that turned up in your answers from daycare.
1. Diapers and Wipes
Most daycares won’t supply diapers and wipes. You’ll need to provide your own. Sometime during that first week, ask a worker what their policy is for letting you know to bring more in. If your daycare is willing to store large boxes, buy a bulk box of diapers and wipes to save you money and trips to the store. Also, if your daycare lets children play in water outside during warm weather, make sure you also provide swim diapers.
Unless your little one has a blowout or gets extremely messy, daycare will likely not have to give them baths. So, you won’t need to bring all the toiletries you use at home. You’ll want to bring diaper cream and lotion to protect your child’s sensitive skin. Also, for days the kids go outside to play, your child will need a hat and sunscreen.
3. Formula or Breastmilk
Some daycares will provide formula as long as your baby tolerates the brand they use. If you need or decide to provide your own or if you breastfeed, always plan to bring more than you think your baby will go through in a day. As with the diapers and wipes, if you can bring in a larger quantity at a time, go for it. That way, you’ll be less likely to forget when life gets busy.
4. Bottles or Sippy Cups
You’ll probably need to provide your own bottles or sippy cups. Those items are difficult and time-consuming to sterilize. So, each child having their own set is extremely important. Purchase an extra set of whatever style you use at home. The familiarity will help your child feel more comfortable.
5. Extra Clothes and Shoes
Kids have potty accidents, spill paint, dig in the dirt, and dump their food. Babies spit up and have blowouts. It’s part of the deal. Do your daycare workers a huge favor and supply a few extra outfits and an extra pair of shoes. Your childcare provider may even have a set number of items they’d like you to bring.
6. A Comfort Item
If your daycare allows you to bring in a comfort item, try to choose something your child likes that you can leave there every day. Otherwise, you could forget it one morning and ruin the rest of the day for your little one — and everyone around them. Bring a few spare pacifiers, a blanket, or a similar item to their favorite at home.
7. Mat or Cot
Daycare providers will have cribs or bassinets for infants, but you may need to bring something for your toddler to nap on. If they’ve never slept on a cot or mat before, buy yours in advance and let them practice napping on it to ease their transition. Also, check with someone to see if you need to supply changes of sheets each week or if they’ll wash them for you. It’s worth asking because some daycares won’t require you to bring any in. I love this machine-washable mat with a built-in pillow!
Your daycare will probably need to know ahead of time if your child takes any medications. Be prepared with a doctor’s note and have everything clearly labeled with directions for administration. Ask your childcare provider if they have any specific rules regarding medications.
We’ve pulled together three of our top product recommendations to help make your shopping
This nap mat is a middle-of-the-road option budget-wise but is well worth the investment. It has a built-in pillow and blanket and easily rolls up. Your child will enjoy getting to pick from the many colors and styles. Also, the entire thing is machine washable.
You may wonder why sending your child to daycare with a backpack is recommended. A good backpack allows you to bring your baby’s things to and from school daily (like their blanket, lovey, extra pair of clothes, diapers, wipes, etc.) It offers plenty of room for kids’ everyday essentials. This one is made of recycled materials, and the eco-friendly 600-denier polyester is durable and water-resistant. Along with a spacious main compartment, it’s tailored with a zippered front pocket and two open side pockets for supplies and a sippy cup or bottle. You can also personalize it with your child’s initials or name for a special touch!
To avoid exposing your child to permanent marker, you could create your own labels or buy personalized ones online. Mabel’s Labels’ products come in various colors and patterns and are printed with your little one’s name on them. They’re dishwasher and microwave safe. The clothing tags can even go through the washing machine. Read our full of them review of Mabel’s Label’s here!
Baby skin is so sensitive. Protect them with a mineral sunscreen, which sits on the skin instead of penetrating it. This option from Coppertone has a high SPF rating and doesn’t have added fragrance — another known irritant.
5. Training Cup
Once your baby has outgrown bottles, a good training cup is recommended! This is a great one that we love. It’s a favorite because its 360-degree drinking edge eliminates spills and supports kids’ dental health. This cup is perfect for your baby to learn how to drink out of a cup.
Buy Only What You Need
Buying baby and toddler stuff is fun but can quickly get expensive. When shopping, stick to the list and get only what you need. Leave cutesy items at the store. The cost of diapers and wipes alone should be enough to make you think twice.
Last But Not Least: Take a Deep Breath!
Sending your child to daycare shouldn’t be as stressful as it sounds, nor should you need a bag overflowing with products. With the right essentials and our list as a handy guide, you can feel the relief of preparedness you deserve while being a hard-working parent!