When kids refuse to go to daycare

When kids refuse to go to daycare
“I don’t want to go!” What do you do when your child stops wanting to go to daycare?

Sometimes, kids who used to have no problem going to daycare will suddenly start putting up a fight. This is their way of communicating discomfort. It’s important to get to the root of the issue so that it can be addressed.

Why doesn’t your child want to go to daycare anymore?

Your little one may be refusing to go to daycare for different reasons. As a parent, you have an intuitive and deep understanding of your child. Observing your child and maintaining an understanding attitude will help you figure out what’s going on.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to understand your child’s behaviour.

Tell your child that you understand their feelings and that there’s a solution to their discomfort.
  • How long has your child been behaving like this? Is it an occasional problem or a recurring issue? Answering these questions may help you pinpoint the reason behind their resistance. For example, a child may not like going to daycare in the winter because they have a hard time putting on their snowsuit, coat, and boots.
  • Have there been any changes at the daycare (a new educator, new environment, new schedule, etc.)? For example, if a new child arrives, they might take over as the group leader.
  • Has there been any recent family upheaval (birth of another child, moving, arguments between parents, a separation, etc.)? For example, a child whose parents have just separated may worry about knowing who will pick them up at the end of the day, while a child whose mother is staying home with the new baby may want to stay home too.
  • Do you feel guilty about leaving your child at daycare? If so, they may be reacting to your feelings and getting anxious when it’s time to leave. Show your child that you’re confident they’ll have a good day at daycare. Don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s educator about what’s going on. They can help reassure you and your little one.

If your child doesn’t want to talk when you ask them why they don’t want to go to daycare, don’t push them. Asking too many questions can make their stress and anxiety worse. Just let them know that you’re there for them if they need to talk.

Understanding your child’s needs

Refusing to go to daycare can also be your child’s way of communicating a need or discomfort.


Knowing what to expect is very important for young children. If their educator doesn’t provide clear and predictable routines, your child may feel insecure. This may explain why they no longer want to go to daycare. Talk to your child’s educator to find out what would make their days more predictable.

Your child may also express their need for security by, for example, saying they don’t like it when other kids scream and run around. Explain that their educator is there to take care of them and that you trust them.


Your child may react to a change in educators or in the composition of the group (e.g., a child leaves or joins).

They may not enjoy going to daycare as much if their best friend has moved to different one. They may also react to the arrival of a new child who is more boisterous or takes up more space in the group.

Time with their parent

Your little one may just need to slow down and spend a few minutes with you before heading to daycare.

If you sense that your child wants to spend more time with you and you have room in your schedule, take a moment to play with them, cuddle, or read a book together when you get home from daycare, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If possible, try dropping your child off at daycare later in the morning or picking them up earlier in the afternoon for a few days to help them get back into the swing of things.


A need for stimulation may also explain your child’s lack of interest in daycare. If your child finds daycare boring, talk to their educator. They may, for example, give your child opportunities to explore new things, give them responsibilities, or ask them to choose certain games.

Physical needs

A physical need, such as a lack of sleep, may cause your child to resist going to daycare. If that’s the case, try to adjust their bedtime or wake-up time so they get better sleep.

If you think your child may be suffering from a nutritional or sleep deficiency or any other physiological problem, talk to their doctor.

Teaming up with your child’s educator

Educators are used to dealing with a variety of different situations, including children who don’t want to be at daycare. Your child’s educator can help you get your child excited about going.

Together, you’ll be able to find a solution adapted to your child’s needs. From about the age of 3, your child can also be part of the problem-solving process. Getting them involved will make them feel validated and heard. For example, you can come up with simple ideas to make the morning transition easier, such as taking a new route to daycare or letting your child bring a stuffed animal, a book, or a piece of your clothing with them. Invite them to come up with their own ideas as well.

If you’re uncomfortable with a situation at the daycare, talk to the people in charge, as your little one will pick up on your discomfort.

Sometimes, an incident at daycare can impact the relationship between your child and their educator. For example, if your child is reprimanded for the first time in front of others, or if they’re made to participate in a performance when they’re very shy, they may feel pushed around. Your child may also be intimidated by their educator’s loud, authoritative voice or experience performance anxiety. Don’t hesitate to let the educator know, as you understand your child best. They can then adapt how they interact with your child.

How can you motivate your child to go to daycare?

To get your child excited about going to daycare, show them that you’re confident they’ll have a good day.

  • Remind your child of the day’s schedule. Focus on the things they like.
  • Let your child know that you trust their daycare and, more importantly, their educator.
  • If your child is able to help you get ready to leave for daycare, give them tasks to get them involved. For example, you could ask them to get the change of clothes their educator asked for the day before or to pick their outfit for the day based on the weather. These tasks focus their attention on concrete actions.
  • When you get to daycare, remind your child of what they like to do there and what game they were playing the day before when you picked them up. Keep your goodbye ritual brief. For instance, you can say: “I’m going to give you your hug and kiss, and then I’ll leave you with your educator. I know you’ll have a great day.”
  • If your child wants to stay home with you and your newborn, remind them that they are important to you. Here are some examples of what to say: “You’re always in my heart even when we’re not together."
  • If you’ve just gone through a separation, tell your child which parent will pick them up at the end of the day. Also make sure to tell them when they’ll be picked up—for example, after their afternoon snack.

Sick or anxious?

Sometimes, a child who doesn’t want to go to daycare will show symptoms of anxiety (stomach ache, irritability, temper tantrums, refusing to get dressed and get in the car, and trouble finding things). This can make it hard for parents to tell whether their child is showing symptoms of illness or anxiety.
As a general rule, unless they’re sick, it’s best to take your child to daycare, even if they’re upset. The longer your child stays home when they aren’t sick, the harder it will be to get them to go back to daycare. If their refusal to go to daycare persists, it may be a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor.

In Quebec, there are several different types of child care services (CPEs, subsidized and non-subsidized private daycare centres, family daycare services, and drop-in centres). To simplify the text, we have chosen to use the term daycare to refer to all child care facilities in Quebec.

Things to keep in mind

  • When your child refuses to go to daycare, they are trying to tell you something.
  • If your child stops wanting to go to daycare, talk to their educator. Educators have experience dealing with this type of situation and can help you find solutions.
  • To get your child excited about going to daycare, show them that you’re confident they’ll have a good day.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: François Couture, early childhood consultant, CASIOPE
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: August 2022


Photo: iStock.com/onebluelight


Sources and references

Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • Educatout. “Je ne veux plus aller à la garderie.” educatout.com
  • Nanny Secours. “Ma fille refuse d’aller à la garderie.” nannysecours.com

Books for kids

  • Bourque, Solène. Mini Loup vit un tourbillon d’émotions. Quebec City, Éditions Midi trente, 2017, 48 pp.
  • Daxhelet, François. Cajoline à la garderie. Blainville, Éditions Boomerang, 2010, 24 pp.