Near the end of my first maternity leave, I felt completely lost when it came to prepping for daycare. Our center gave us a supply list, but I still felt wholly unprepared. This post will contain all the products we used and a few tips I learned along the way. As my second maternity leave came to a close, I didn’t fear the process and walked in the first day feeling way more prepared. A few friends and readers have asked for a post like this, so I wanted to have a post they could reference when the time is right.
Every daycare center is a bit different about what they like to have on hand, so there may be things required at your center that I don’t mention here. (If you’re on the hunt for something, I’m always happy to help you track it down — so just email me.) Your best bet is to find a few other parents at your daycare who can show you the lay of the land. The teachers are also incredible resources because it is far from their first rodeo.
Take all of this advice with a grain of salt. You have to find what works best for your baby and your family. If your first daycare drop-off is around the corner and you’re a little anxious, do not fret. Each day gets easier and you’ll be able to write your own round-up like this before you know it. I promise. Questions? Quandaries? Other favorites? Leave them in the comments below or email me!
- Plastic Bibs: Messes are inevitable, but using a plastic bib is a simple solution for all parties involved. Parents have less laundry and teachers have an easier clean up. These bibs are our go-to. With our daughter, we also had these bibs in rotation. In researching for this post, I did find these adorable options — I wish I’d found them earlier!
- Miscellaneous Use Bibs: I adore beautiful muslin bibs, but they are just not practical for daycare. If any food ends up on them, teachers do not have the time to wash it out on your behalf. (At our center, they are placed in small plastic baggies for you to address at night.) I purchased these simple bibs with a waterproof inner layer. They come ten to a pack, which is ideal for daycare.
- Sippy Cups: When trying to introduce sippy cups, we went through a whole range of options — but the one which finally stuck for our family was the Zoli Bot. Other similar weighted straw cups are popping up on the market, but I can’t speak to those.
- Bottles: We were a Dr. Brown’s house with James and a Comotomo house with Rose. Feel out those babies to figure out what works best for them. We typically found when they had any issues bottle feeding at school, it had to do with nipple flow.
- Tableware: Depending on when you start daycare, you may or may not need tableware out of the gate. Honestly, I really don’t have a big preference on plastic tableware. We mostly used these “white hot” bowls and these basic spoons. (James also loves these “carrots“, but we didn’t send them to daycare.) I would love to use more glass products, but it is not always possible in the daycare setting.
- Extra outfits: Our center recommends having at least two full outfits and a plethora of extra socks available. I hit the Cat & Jack racks for our extra clothes, placing each full outfit in a Ziploc bag. I placed a name label on each piece and wrote on the outside of the plastic bag (with a permanent marker) what size the outfit was and if it was long or short sleeved. It helped me stay on top of what was needed when a dirty outfit came home.
- Crib Sheets: Pick what you wish, but I will forever love my KicKee crib sheets. We have also used these simple muslin ones. You should always have an extra on hand in the infant room in case of spit-up or accidents.
- Sleep Sacks: I scored a few muslin sleep sacks on SUPER sale at Gap (which are sadly no longer available). They weren’t anything fancy, but they did the trick since blankets are not allowed at our center until after year one. Here is a similar version you can find at Target! We also tried to have a second on hand in case.
- Sunhat: Do you know any babies who like to wear hats? Not me. These sunhats are perfect for little noggins because they can be made to fit any size (big or small). It goes without question that they also have UPF 50+ protection included.
- Diapers: I feel like I don’t even need to include this, but rule of thumb: we always take two packs in when more are requested. In my opinion… the fewer trips juggling diapers, the better. We are an Honest house.
- Diaper Cream: Everyone has their own favorites, but this one is mine. (newer on the market, so not yet rated by EWG). We also use this one (EWG rating of 1). Thankfully, our only real bum issues arise when our little ones are sick.
- Sunscreen: Again, this is a matter of personal preference. We use this one (EWG rating of 1), as well as this one. (EWG rating of 2). The infant, yearling, and young toddler rooms at our center put sunscreen on the children before they go outside. For toddler and beyond, they ask that students come with sunscreen on them to school. Ask what your center’s policy is!
- FYI: For fair balance, I am a Beautycounter consultant. This is not product placement; it is an honest reflection of what we use. You have to make the choices which work right for your family. These are ours! We are not perfect, but we are trying to be more conscious.
NAME OF THE GAME
- Name Labels: When in doubt, you’ll want to stick a label on it. I love the name labels from Minted, mostly because they’re cute and offer multiple sizes and shapes. The clothing labels are perfect for tags and allow you to avoid the permanent marker. (Permanent markers mean the clothes and shoes lose all their resale value, which is no bueno.) The food container labels have worked like a dream since they updated them last year, meaning they keep their cuteness even with repeated washes.
- Bottle + Sippy Cup Labels: Inchbug nails it with their Orbit Labels, which I can best liken to a Live Strong bracelet from the early 2000s. We never take ours off the bottles or sippy cups we send to school. The only thing I don’t love is the font on the label, but their function can’t be beat — so I suck it up. ha!
KEEP IT COOL, KEEP IT ORGANIZED
- Ice packs: I’m very sure you’re capable of finding your own ice packs, but these ones from Target are slim and fit well in a lunchbox.
- Thermos: Some rooms at our daycare have access to a microwave and others do not. We have a few of these in our rotation, which hold kid portions pretty perfectly.
- Lunchbox + Backpack: We adore Skip Hop for cute and adequately sized lunchboxes and backpacks. Seeing your little one sporting a backpack for the first time? PRICELESS. We typically send both children with one of each — a lunchbox and a backpack — every day. A ton of folks at our daycare also use the classic boat totes (with monograms, of course). I’m tempted to get one to collect all our little bags at the end of the day.
- Wet/Dry Bag: During the summer, water play days are tops for our kiddos. We pop a wet/dry bag in their backpack to keep it all contained.
TERRIFIC TIME SAVERS
- Wipes Dispenser: Though it was not required, I opted to purchase our favorite wipes dispenser. It sped up things for our teachers and they remarked about how much they liked it. (We converted to Water Wipes with Rose and never looked back. They are super gentle, chemical / fragrance free, and really do the dirty work.)
- Dishwasher Basket: It took me months of hand washing bottles before I implemented this dishwasher basket. (I have a few friends who swear by this version too.) I press the sani-rinse cycle on my dishwasher and don’t think about it for another second. They’re great to contain everything from bottle parts to pump parts.
- Drying Rack: If you are faced with hand washing, these countertop drying racks cannot be beat. Beyond those early bottle days, they also work beautifully for wine glasses. (I went there.)