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We've been sending our daughters to the same daycare for a couple of years now. Our oldest just turned 4, and is 13 months ahead of her sister.

A few weeks ago, our daycare moved kids "up" in a facility wide transition (Two A -> Two B, Threes -> Four A, etc.) -- my oldest daughter had a hard time getting used to her old class (Threes), but absolutely fell in love with one of the teachers in that class, which by and large served as a type of security blanket for her. If Miss Daisy was out for some reason, my daughter was extremely reluctant to let me leave. She and Miss Daisy developed a great bond, which helped my daughter feel more comfortable in her classroom.

Now, she's been moved up to a pre-k style class, and her sister is in Miss Daisy's class. My oldest daughter is always super excited to go to daycare to "see Miss Daisy", even though it's only for a few minutes while we drop off her sister. The class that Miss Daisy helps in is very playful and creative -- when we walk in, kids are playing in dirt, doing crafts at the table, playing with instruments, playing with toys, just being kids for the most part. This is where the trouble starts though... because we leave Miss Daisy's class, and my older daughter is still super happy, all the way up until we open the door to her new classroom (across the facility).

Her new classroom is a stark contrast. This is Pre-K, not "daycare" I suppose. But, biasedly, I can see why she doesn't like it. It's incredibly quiet, no kids running around, no kids playing. Usually, it's a group of kids sitting at tables with a notebook, practicing writing with one teacher walking around helping; another group is siting in the floor in a quiet group, listening to the other teacher go through the days, months, etc. It's nothing like any class she's been in over the past two years. The class is legit "school", not just "daycare" like she's been used to (pre-k doesn't officially start until August, but I presume they're getting a head start since the kids are already in the class for the summer).

Anyway, I know I can't change the style of the class, and I know this transition is expected as she starts getting older. My question is, how can I help her with this transition? How can I reassure her that this class could actually be pretty fun too? When we walk into the class, she will hold onto me, telling me she misses me and doesn't like daycare (she used to), and refuses to go participate in the class until I carry her, or a teach comes and gets her, either way with her full of tears begging me to not leave her there.

What have been your strategies for consoling a tearful toddler in these sorts of scenarios? I know this is for the best, but how do I convey that to a 4 year old girl who doesn't understand why daddy is leaving her in this new class for 10 hours (2-3 times a week)?

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I have two kids... the older one is 3, the younger one is almost 2. They started attending the same day care a few months ago, and like your kids, they are in separate classes. So while I haven't been in your shoes exactly, I can certainly empathize with your situation.

Here's what I would recommend...

In the mornings, drop your older daughter off first. This should diminish the stark contrast between the two classes. Granted, she's already aware of the significant differences between the two classes, but at least she won't be getting a daily reminder of it immediately before she heads off to the older kids' classroom.

If she continues to get upset in the mornings, offer that you can go "see Miss Daisy" after school... on the condition that she calm herself down.

In return, you can pick up your older daughter first after school. She'll be very excited to see Miss Daisy when you then go to pick up the younger daughter. If Miss Daisy is willing to help, perhaps she can ask your older daughter "how was school today?", and try to keep the new classroom portrayed in a positive light. With any luck, your older daughter will be delighted to recount her day to Miss Daisy.

A much smaller benefit of this is that your younger daughter will get to see what "big kids" do, and get her acclimated to the older kids' classroom long before she needs to attend. It's possible that this could work in your favor when the younger daughter eventually switches classes.

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