Every child is special. That’s more than a cliché, especially when it comes to deciding if your bundle of joy is ready for the big leagues, also known as preschool. No matter what the enrollment age or textbooks say, the decision to enter your toddler into preschool should be entirely up to you.
Gauge your child’s readiness and your level of comfort with the idea. Then, proceed from there. To help you along the way, here are some things to chew on:
“Preschool will help my child’s social skills” Most parents assume preschool provides opportunities for their children to develop social skills, but a 2005 study from the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University adds some caveats to that belief. The report—“ The Influence of Preschool Centers on Children's Development Nationwide: How Much Is Too Much?”—revealed that children from middle-class families only benefit modestly from pre-school, while children of poorer families experience two times the gains in early language and mathematics learning. In addition, the level of cooperation, sharing and engagement in classroom tasks of white middle-class children who attended preschool for more than six hours a day were actually diminished when compared to similar children who stayed at home with a parent prior to starting school. The results show that there is no universal good when it comes to entering preschool. What benefits your child receives from preschool depend a lot on what experiences your child has outside of preschool.
“When my child is at preschool, I’ll have more time to concentrate on work” If you’re a busy mom and dad with little time to attend to your child during the workday, perhaps a preschool environment will be more beneficial to your child. On the other hand, if you’re a natural educator with books, educational toys and play dates galore, then your child may already be reaping the benefits at home. Ask yourself this question, “What kind of environment does my child have at home? How will preschool complement that?”
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“Preschool gives my child a head start in life” The same University of California report also found that “on average, the earlier a child enters a preschool center, the slower his or her pace of social development, while cognitive skills in pre-reading and math are stronger when children first enter a preschool program between the ages of two and three.” Parents are naturally competitive when it comes to their children, often wanting them to read earlier or form sentences ahead of the child next door, but plunging them too early in preschool may not be the solution. “For a child who takes some time to feel comfortable in a new situation, it can help to be on the older end of the age range—the extra time helps them to be that much more mature and confident,” advises Dr. Robert Needlman, a specialist in pediatric behavior and development. Children are meant to learn while enjoying themselves in preschool. The last thing parents want is to cultivate negative first impressions of school in their children. Don’t put too much pressure on them to achieve at such a young age. Simply try to instill in them a love for learning by making sure they’re ready for the preschool experience, shopping around for a good preschool environment that suits his needs, and offering your child fun learning options at home.