Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

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Today, guest blogger Ariadne Brill shares how she gently and sensitively transitioned her children to their first drop-off activity. 

Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities

Lap Pool

by Ariadne Brill

Drop off activities can be such a fun and rewarding experience for preschoolers and school children. From dance camp to cooking class to swim team, most children love such activities.  Yet, sometimes children feel some anxiety surrounding the drop off and the time away from mom and/or dad.  The anticipation of separating from a parent can sometimes lead children to resist the transition time from home to the drop off activity, making the simple tasks like putting on shoes, to entering the building really difficult.  Some children are very verbal and may yell, others may cry, others may simply plant themselves stiff as a tree and simply not budge!

So what to do? I was once told to take the Band-Aid approach, set them off and walk away no matter what, but that just did not sit right with us as a family. So it got me thinking, how can I help my children gently but confidently transition from home to a drop off activity?


When my children were about ready to start swimming classes they were a bit apprehensive.   During our regular special time we had a chat to prepare for this new activity. In this time both boys told me some things they were worried about.  They didn’t know the pool, didn’t know the teacher, didn’t know where I was going to be and they were pretty sure they were going to be “way too hungry” when the class is over.  Armed with this information we made a plan and this is how it worked:


Knowing my children really wanted a chance to see what this pool was all about I set up a preview day with the swim center. We were able to see the locker room, the showers, the swimming pools, meet the teachers and just calmly take our time to see the place. In having a chance to look around, both boys were able to become familiar with the pool and on the first day of class it wasn’t all new and scary.


Aside from having a preview of the actual location, I made sure to set up a quick meet and greet with the swim teacher. Often for school and preschool students have a chance to meet their teacher ahead of time or use some sort of transition time attending school with mom/dad a few hours before braving it alone. Yet with drop off activities it’s often the case that children are expected to dive right in. I knew it would be important for us to trust and know the teacher before walking away from me. I explained this to the teacher who was very accommodating and more than happy to meet with us.

Make a Deal

Needing to know exactly where I was going to be was really important to my younger son. Having just turned four, he just needed some extra re-assurance that I would be nearby and definitely there at the end of class. We found a spot in the swim center that overlooks the pool where his class is and we made a deal. We would do hugs and kisses and he would go to his teacher. Then I would go to a spot watching over his class where he could see me. Over time, we have progressed to where I can wave to him at that spot and leave and return in time to watch “jumping” time at the end of the lesson.


When class is over, I make sure to be at the pick-up location right away where both boys can see me.  Even though it is evening and technically we should be in a hurry to head home, I try to make sure to greet each boy with a hug and asked them “How was class?” I like to keep the question open so they can feel comfortable telling me whatever they really think of the class. Once we have had a chance to re-connect I support the boys with whatever help they may need getting dressed (although unless there is a tricky button they do this on their own) and packing up.

Favorite Moments

One really empowering tool for both boys has been recalling favorite moments on the way to swim class.  After the first class the boys were generally happy but a bit shaky about the whole process.  We talked about how the class was and what if anything they had really liked about the class. The following week on the way to class I asked them if they remembered their favorites from the week before.  We started singing about them in the car “splashing, splashing, kicking, kicking, hello pool noodle” As the weeks progressed, the list of favorites got longer and longer and we review these in some fun way on the drive over each week.

Listening to the boys, being patient, giving the boys a chance to get to know and trust their new surroundings and new teacher has worked really well for us.  Oh, remember that the boys were worried about being hungry after class? We always make sure to bring a snack along!

So, have you tried any drop off activities with your child? How has the transition worked for your family?
Ariadne has three children, she practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne is a Certified Parenting Educator and the creator of The Positive Parenting Connection <> She believes parents and children should try to have fun everyday and love life.

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7 thoughts on “Gently and Sensitively Separating for Drop-off Activities”

  1. Awesome post! My son is still too young for drop-offs but it’s clear from his personality that they may be a challenge down the road. Thanks for your tips!

    — Not sure if you are aware, but this comment box is really wonky. If you have a typo, you have to delete all the way back to make a change, you can’t just point your cursor and correct it, at least I can’t. I’m using the latest Firefox in Windows. Very frustrating problem!

  2. Great advice. And not just relevant to toddlers – we are called upon to let go in big ways again when our children reach their teens.

    I observe some parent’s struggle with their child growing up resulting in their clinging on to their child, often so fearful of ‘what might happen’ that they restrict their children and deny them much of life’s richness. Sadly, this can teach a child that the world is a dangerous place and that they are not capable of fending for themselves.

    When a parent is very risk-averse and constantly steps in to protect their child, it becomes hard for that child to be able to assess danger for themselves. Research has shown that paradoxically these children can be at greater risk of harm in the long term, as they are less experienced at making decisions and taking responsibility for themselves.

    Then I see parents who do that delicate dance of allowing, but still worrying, counselling against threats, and then releasing their offspring to make their own way. These parents often draw on the support of other adults – parenting is more easily done in company. Your article gives a great model for how to let go of them, and help them let go of you, in a healthy way.

  3. Great post, I agree, I too believe in transitioning toddlers and preschoolers into situations where they have to be away from mum gently and sensitively. However, the reality of it here in Singapore is that saying a quick goodbye, leaving hurriedly even if the child is screaming (and very obviously not comfortable with the separation), and choosing not to respond is the norm. Most teachers and schools insist that parents do that, and they do not understand that some families want to do things differently. As a parent, parenting instinctively and listening to what my child is saying to me (maybe non-verbally) has been the only way I know how to be a mother. While I have my ideals, there has been some real limitations on my choice of school, making it all a very fine balance!

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