Preschool has become a pretty standard entry into the world of education for American children. According to surveys conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, roughly half of American children of appropriate age participated in a preschool program in the years 2008-2011.
Schools vary with regard to the youngest classes offered, and there is a great variance among preschool-aged children with regard to maturity, development, and readiness to benefit from the preschool environment.
So what are some things you could look for to help decide if your little one is ready to learn with friends?
1. Physical development. If your childcare provider is also a preschool, they may offer flexibility on requirements like potty training. However, most preschools require that children be fully potty trained to attend. If your child is still working toward independence in this area, he probably needs a few more months to gain consistency before enrolling. Check out iMOM’s Potty Training Tips for help with the process. Your child also needs to be able to eat without major assistance, as a preschool teacher can’t hover over everyone at once during snack time.
2. Social development. Does your child interact well with other children? If he or she has been at home with you since birth, make sure you provide a “soft” introduction of group play scenarios before dropping her off for a full morning of sharing, taking turns, and other things that preschoolers must do. Organize some group play dates with an organized game or activity to see how she handles the dynamics of group participation.
3. Obeying authority. Does your child understand that mom and dad sometimes give another adult authority to guide and care for them, and that he or she must be obeyed? Learning to respond to authority and follow the rules set forth in the preschool classroom will be essential for your child’s success.
4. Educational interest. Your child’s level of interest and enthusiasm for learning may also help you decide whether preschool is a good option. Children who love playing games geared toward learning the basics like letters, numbers, and colors will likely thrive in a preschool classroom which offers even more opportunity. The child who still has no interest in such things, however, may find a morning full of it too much.
5. Scheduling. Having your child on a regular schedule for sleep, meals, and naps will be essential to arriving each morning at preschool rested and ready to learn and play. If you still don’t have an established pattern for these things in your home, spend a few months establishing them so that your little one can adjust.
Remember, there are a variety of types of preschools out there, and you might want to look around before deciding what’s best for your child at this stage. Rather than starting out with a full schedule, consider a program which offers classes just two or three mornings per week, so that your little one can adjust to the new environment without becoming worn out too quickly. Remember, one of the primary goals during these years is to help your child learn to love school. Don’t get too focused on academic benchmarks or progress until the kindergarten year when expectations become more defined and children are developing vital reading skills.
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.