Is My Child Ready for Preschool?
July 19, 2011
As I watched my three year old daughter take her teacher's hand and walk into the school, I felt the lump rising in my throat. She looked like such a big kid. And I had never spent much time apart from her aside from the occasional grandparent babysitting day.
Would she like teachers? Would she play nice with the other kids? Would she stay clean and dry?
When my daughter approached the age of three, we decided to try two days a week, two and a half hours a day of preschool. I work from home and find the time useful for meeting deadlines. The primary factor in my decision was my daughter's temperament.
Even at two, my daughter loved organized lessons. She would constantly ask to do crafts and once even scolded me when I whipped up an impromptu coffee-filter craft that February: "Mommy, butterflies in summer, not winter!" Not only could she sit still and listen to several stories in a row, she would demand more.
I also hoped that preschool would encourage her to make friendships. By age three, she had started to remember the names of the other children in our Meet Up group but she still preferred to play alone. In a more structured play environment, she would be encouraged to participate in games and interact with the other kids.
For some families, preschool may not be the right choice--one study suggests that preschool has little effect on future academic success, with the exception of a positive boost for children at-risk. Other studies suggest that offering multiple environments for learning (including preschool) does provide a significant benefit to the child and to society.
So, where does that leave us as parents? The same place we always are when the studies offer contradictory conclusions (as they usually do): relying on our own knowledge of our children to make the best decision for our families.
If you think preschool may be right for your child, here are some questions to consider:
- Will my child follow simple two-step directions ("choose a mat and then come join the circle")?
- Is my child able to communicate with adults outside of the family?
- Can my child sit still and focus on the same activity for twenty or more minutes at a time?
- Can my child work independently without constant attention from an adult?
- Is my child using the potty independently? (some schools do not require this but many do)
- Is my child comfortable being away from me for several hours?
- Does my child remain energetic for three or more hours at a time?
Academics are less of a concern for preschool readiness. I've recently chatted with preschool teachers in several regions of the United States who are more concerned with the fine motor skills of their young students--so get out the play dough and plastic scissors!
Although three year old children do not necessarily need to have extensive academic skills, they will feel more comfortable if they are familiar with the same concepts as the other children. This encourages your child's perception of herself as a successful learner. The Tag Junior has excellent reading prompts (that would be "fun games" in preschoolerese) that encourage important pre-literacy skills and other age-appropriate skills such as color recognition, letter recognition, and counting.
Remember to keep education fun to build a lifelong love of learning!
Is preschool the right choice for your family? What are your experiences with or thoughts about preschool? How do you know when your child is ready for school?
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