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)?