Gentle toddler gradual adaptation for child care

The child with his teacher Verona. The toddler is acting independently, discovering a new place. The teacher is just next to him as own mother would be, to give some guidance if needed.

The childcare changed in the last 20 years in Germany. A more mother-friendly and gentle approach is successfully becoming


The Munich model prescribes how children between 0 and 3 years old make the transition into nursery school life. The cornerstone of this method is that first-timers are joined by a parent during the first weeks. No kiss and go on the first day anymore, but gradual adaptation. A gentle entry into school life is beneficial for parents, children, and caregivers.

During minimum 4 weeks, the main caregiver, usually the mother, accompanies her child to the child care and is available for emotional support. It is an established standard that employers take this into consideration, and allow you tu use your holidays  to make this possible.

In Germany, infants are taken care of in realy small groups, where 3 infants are assigned to just one teacher.In the age groupt between 1 year old and three years old, 3 teachers would be assigned to a group of 10 children.

For every new child who joins the childcare, an extra teacher is assigned to support only this child, just as the mother would do.
A new child never would enter the premises during rusch hour, but only after all other chuldren have arrvied, and the groups is quietly settled, around 9 a.m.
The gentle gradual adaptation model explained in detail:

3 – 4 Days basic stage

The mother sits in her place in the class. The child is welcome at any time to join her.

Day 1
A mother comes with the toddler and gets assigned a nice warm place in the class where she is kindly asked to stay. The baby can go play. Mom stays calmly in her place and 1 main teacher is introducing the child to the group. The main teacher shoows the child around, but it can always go back to his mom any time it needs some reassurance. After 1 hour, mother and child leave together home.

Day 2
More or less the same procedure. At the beginning of the day, the teacher explains to the mother what is her opinion about the adaptation level and also the mother can express her opinion. If the teacher feels, that on the next day, the first 5 minutes separation could be started, then it will be offered to the mother.

Day 3 5 minutes separation
On this 3rd day and as agreed with the mother, the 5 minutes separation is added after 45 minutes of play time. The mother is asked then to say bye bye to the child, give the crying child to the arms of the caregiver and leave the room.  Then, the mother can go hide herself around the corner and listen, how her child is reacting to this separation.  This is a very sensitive moment and can cause trauma if the caregiver is not interpreting the signs of the child correctly. A mother comes back and it is discussed with the teacher again, how the 5 minutes went by. Children with good healthy bonding cry a bit and are able to calm down within some minutes. After 50 Minutes playtime, mother and child go home together. The teacher observed the child and offer the mother time for separation for the next time.

From mother perspective:

The 5 minutes separation is the big test. I said good by to my baby boy and he run immediately to his teacher and asked to be put on arms. That was the result teacher wanted to achieve. The child accepted her as his person he can trust while his own mom went away.
When it is bad? When you are leaving your child in child care and you see your child crying running to some place in the room instead to the teacher. After this day, we could start gradually extend the time of separation. So for next day, 7 Minutes of separation time was planned. I loved it to observe my little child who he integrate in the group and how interacted with his teacher. I felt fully understood and supported in my parental indentity. I started to trust the team when I saw how responsible and gentle they are able not to only communicate with my child, but when I saw the calm and friendly atmosphere in the whole class. There has been no crying children as all other children has been already adapted and they already went through adaptation on another days.

Day 4  – 7 Minutes separation
On this day the ritual is more or less the same. The teacher is staying in the near of the child, the mom is sitting calmly at her place leaving her authority out. On day 6, the mother is asked to get out a little bit further than to WC. But stay in the house.  The leaving procedure of the mother should be conscious. A mother says goodbye to the child and promises to come back in time. A child can be sad, that’s fine, but in the best case scenario the child should be running to his teacher asking for calming down if needed. If this procedure runs smoothly, the 10 minutes separation time is on the plan for the next day. Also on day 4, the mom and her child are leaving the childcare together.

3 -4 days stabilisation stage

Day 5 – 10 Minutes separation
On day 5, the bigger separation time is on the plan. The teacher and her team prepare a cozy place for the mother in one office of the child care, more away from the class. In the office paper, water and some cookies are ready for the mom on this big day. The director or the team can tell some warm words of understanding and compassion to the mother. So after 40 minutes of play time, the mom says to her child conscious and honest goodbye, promising to be back in 10 minutes. She goes to the office and makes herself comfortable time.

In our case, the director of the child care accompagnied me to the office and was really understanding, how dificult this step must be for a mom. I got cookies and water ready together with warm blanket to feel comfortable. After 7 minutes time passed, the teacher send one assistent to tell me my baby is doing fine.

Day 6 – 15 Minutes separation. At the end of the play time, the mother can go out of the childcare for 15 minutes and return.
Day 7  – 20 minutes separation time. The mother can leave the childcare for 20 minutes but stay in approximate near. If the child would ask for the mother, the teacher would call me to come to the childcare. The child is attending to more and more class activities gradually.

Completion stage

In the final stages of familiarization, the mother is no longer present in the child care facility, but she remains available for emergencies, e.g. if your child cannot be comforted by the child care professional for a particular reason.

The whole acclimatization takes about 4-6 weeks until we have reached the full booking time.

The pictures are with the kind agreement of the Montesorri / Pikler Kindergarten in Harthausen, Germany.
This Kindergarten in Bavaria is based on the BEP (Bavarian Educational and Educational Plan for Children)

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