Learning & Activities


Should My Child Go to Preschool?

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Should My Child Go to Preschool?

As your child approaches that age, you may find yourself pondering the question of preschool. It is much more common now than it ever has been before to send children to preschool. In 1960, only about 10% of all children aged three and four were enrolled in some type of schooling. In modern times, most children do attend preschool at some point. Some go early and some go late, but still some don't go at all.

Preschool is by no means mandatory, and that is not going to change anytime soon. Many parents feel that it would be redundant to send a child they've chosen to stay at home with off to another caregiver. Some parents can't find a way to fit preschool into their budget and other simply do not feel that it offers what their child needs, when they need it. Ultimately, it's a decision that you will have to make for yourself, but here are a few thoughts you might find helpful.

Should Your Child Go to Preschool?

What Do Preschools Do?

Preschools offer different things to different people. This can also vary by school facility as well. Some preschools are very academically-oriented and will offer children a rigorous, but age-appropriate, curriculum. Some are simply the equivalent of a paid childcare or playdate facility. Most fall between these extremes. For most families, preschools offer several different benefits.

  • They allow the children to learn to socialize with other kids and even make friends that will follow them to kindergarten.
  • They offer an experience of a space where the child is not the center of the universe, sometimes the first.
  • They teach social and emotional skills, manners, and graces.
  • They teach basic and age-appropriate concepts.
  • They offer a place to practice parent and child separation.
  • They offer a place to draw out shy and sensitive children.
  • They are a great place to for outgoing children to excel.

Of course, these are only a few of the functions of a preschool and you will need to find one that you like and approve of if you choose to go that route.

Do Children Need to Go to Preschool?

Whether or not a child needs to attend preschool is up to that child's parents. Educationally speaking, preschools cover the same general territory as kindergarten. This means that a child who does not attend preschool will be learning the same material as the child who does. The timing of the learning process will simply be slightly different.

Developmentally speaking, a child might benefit from preschool before kindergarten if he or she has not had the normal opportunities to socialize with other children. No one wants their child to be the one who can't make friends because they don't know how to be nice yet. It is also believed that children who need to learn to overcome shyness in social situations benefit from preschool.

Finally, children who are ready to tackle the issue of parent-child separation before kindergarten also benefit from their time in preschool.

How Can I Pick the Right Preschool?

Picking the right preschool is a time-consuming process for many parents, especially if they have many options available to them. You'll have to decide between public and private, and which institution you feel best fits your child's needs. It's often best to visit each school in addition to doing research online.

Look for a school that has a balanced program. The best preschool program will divide time between playing and learning. Preschoolers are too young to be able to sit still for hours on end, so a program that expects them to is likely not the right choice. On the opposite end, a program that only has children playing all day may not give your child the education they need.

You also want to find a program that's safe for your child. The classroom should have enough adults present relative to the number of students. This is to ensure everyone is monitored at all times, reducing the likelihood of an accident or safety hazard.

If you can select a preschool program that is attached to the elementary school your child will be attending, all the better. Your child will be able to make friends in preschool that they can carry with them to elementary school, and possibly beyond. Don't stress if you don't select a preschool that is attached to your child's future elementary school; your kid will still make plenty of friends in kindergarten.

Preschool in the News

Recently, U.S. News published an article discussing when children should start kindergarten. This is an issue that plagues many parents, and is highly dependent on their child's individual situation. While many kids are eligible for kindergarten at five years old, in many states they aren't legally required to start until they're older. Some states don't require that a child attend kindergarten at all.

Whether your child attends kindergarten or when they do is partially dependent on their experience with preschool. If your child didn't attend preschool, they may be a good fit for starting kindergarten at an early or typical age. If they did attend preschool and your state offers the option to skip kindergarten, they may be a good fit for going right to first grade. A lot of the same topics that are covered in preschool are covered again in kindergarten, to account for children who didn't attend preschool.

Whether your child should attend preschool, and when they start kindergarten, is an individual choice. Take your time and think through what is best for your child, and what makes sense for your family's situation.

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