Sending Your Child to Preschool
Preschool is available for 3- to 5-year-old children in most communities. Many parents consider sending their child to preschool at this age, although they often wonder whether preschool is really necessary. If they believe it is, they want their child to be emotionally ready and adequately prepared.
While preschool is not necessary for later success in school, it can have a variety of social and educational benefits for children. Child-development experts recommend that all children, by 3 years of age, spend time regularly with other kids of the same age. Although some children are already experiencing this through group day care, either in a home setting or at a day-care center, preschools provide another option for formal interaction. Preschools give children an opportunity to socialize, and to develop skills that will help prepare them for kindergarten and elementary-school success, such as listening, talking, sharing, being patient and following instructions.
Most children are socially and physically ready for preschool around 3 years of age, but every child is different. Here are some suggestions for gauging your child's readiness for preschool and helping him prepare for the experience.
- Will your child be able to spend time away from you?
Children who have been in day care, who have had regular babysitters, or who have spent time apart from their parents while attending an organized activity (such as gymnastics or music class) usually go happily into preschool. Children who haven't spent much time away from home may have a more difficult time separating. If you anticipate problems, have your child spend short periods away from you, perhaps with a grandparent or a family friend, in the weeks or months before starting preschool.
- Does your child enjoy playing with other children?
In preschool, your child will learn about sharing with other children, listening and taking turns. Your child will also need to sit quietly in a group, such as during story time, for at least a few minutes. Children who have already spent some time in group situations with other toddlers or with siblings at home tend to better understand these concepts, although most still need help putting them into practice. Reinforce these concepts at home, whenever possible.
- Is your child toilet trained?
Most preschools require that children be toilet trained; when you are considering a preschool, ask about their specific toileting requirements. It is best if your child is able to wash his hands and to ask for help when he needs it. If it is necessary that your child be toilet trained to attend preschool, allow plenty of time to complete the toilet training process before school starts. Although you may be anxious for your child to attend preschool, do not try to hurry toilet training simply to get him into preschool earlier. In fact, hurrying this process may actually make the training process longer and more difficult.
If your child seems to enjoy being around other kids, likes to explore new ideas and projects, and appears to be socially and physically ready, he is probably prepared for preschool and should have a stimulating and successful experience.