Is My Child Ready for Preschool?
By Kyle D. Pruett, M.D.
Q. Our preschool teacher suggested we send our 3-year-old to school daily instead of 3 days a week, because she had not formed friendships with the other children. The teacher was very pleased with her social progress. I also noticed a huge improvement in her confidence and cooperation with me. I now feel that it is better for a young child to have a set routine for every day of the week.
Now I want to send my 2-year-old to preschool every day of the week, but my husband does not agree. He feels she is not socially ready to go every day. Please advise us as to what will be best for our children.—Johan & Elanie
A. Yours is a good example of successful collaboration between parents and teachers on how to help a child get the most out of a preschool experience. But as you well know as a mother of two, children who have the same parents can be very different in temperament and abilities, so what's good for one may not automatically be good for the other. And yes, while routines are in general helpful to kids, they are not more important than the understanding you have of your child's individual needs.
Your three-year-old may have needed the extra social input partly because of who she is socially and emotionally, and also, she may have been more developmentally ready. Three-year-olds as a group have a bigger social appetite than toddlers because they have more language, more control over their impulses, better memories, and take instruction about sharing and waiting their turn better. Your toddler might not be ready for the five-day experience, because she still needs more time with her parents to develop the security and self-confidence that will make longer separations at a later time more enjoyable.
Dr. Kyle Pruett is Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center and School of Medicine. He is also past president of Zero to Three, the nation's largest think tank, research, and policy center for the first three years of life. He is the author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child.
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