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Four Tips for Recognizing When Your Child is Ready for Preschool

Updated 5/8/24

If you have children aged three to five, you may wonder if you should send your child to a preschool. Parents who work may prefer a preschool to a childcare center because of the academic emphasis of preschool. According to Kids Health, preschool will also provide valuable non-academic lessons, such as socialization and taking turns.

Preschool can be an essential part of child development within children’s lives. This may be the first time your kids are under someone else’s care for an extended part of their days. When you listen to them talk about their lessons, it may seem like you’re getting to know your child in brand-new ways.

If you’ve decided to send your child to preschool, plan some at-home activities to prepare for preschool. Kids can design alphabet letter collages or play a counting game. Invite a few children they already know, so the experience serves as an effective transition to preschool.

To encourage your child to become excited about preschool and making new friends, find books or TV shows that positively depict school activities. Some children may be afraid of going to preschool. If you verbalize your excitement about their first day at preschool, it may alleviate some of their misgivings.

The Importance of a Preschool Education

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Preschool is a very valuable part of a high quality education. Finding the right preschool for you child helps them develop skills such as socialization, independence, and grade school readiness. However, not every child is exactly the same, in the right time to put your child in preschool may vary from one child to another. While the school your child will be going to may have requirements for preschool admission, these are just guidelines and do not definitively determine whether you child is ready or not. Most requirements for preschool are just determined by their birthday and potty training; determining your own requirements for preschool readiness for your child is a good idea to make sure they have a good experience, and establish a strong foundation for their education. Several things to consider when determining the requirements for preschool include:

1. The child’s age.
Most preschools will generally begin about two school years prior to your child starting kindergarten. In most cases, many times, this means that the child will need to have their third birthday by September 1. If you child’s birthday is just past that deadline (let’s say, September 2), and they are technically too young for the preschool program, but you feel like they are ready, they may still be eligible. If you feel your child would benefit from participating in preschool already, you might be able to get your child enrolled by talking to the administrators of the school and having them review your child’s aptitude.

2. The child’s ability to follow directions.
Most schools do not have requirements along the lines of following directions, but in order for your child to be successful in preschool, they will need to be able to follow at least simple instructions. Throughout the school day, a preschooler will be asked to pick up their toys, follow the agenda of the class, and meet simple rules. Do not despair if your child isn’t at this level before starting school, many of the skills are gained through their preschool experience. However, they will need to be able to at least understand basic instructions and follow them. If you worry your child is at this point yet, this is a good subject to start working with them on before starting school. Try giving your child simple tasks and help them understand how to follow them.

3. The child’s ability to express themselves.
At the age of three, no child is expected to speak eloquently. However, in order to be successful in school, they might need to be able to convey a few words at a time to communicate with other classmates and teachers. If you are concerned about this, helping your child gain the ability to use his or her words is a good skill to help prepare them for preschool. This is as simple as using words for their actions; when they point to something they want, say “I think you’re trying to say that you want to play with this toy, right?”

On the other hand, if your child has a speech delay or a disability that impairs them from communicating, this is absolutely no reason to delay putting them in preschool. Many preschools accommodate children disabilities (in fact all public preschools are required to). Talk to the administrator of the preschool and determine the best course of action if this is your child.

4. Your child’s comfort being separated from you.
If your child has stayed home with one parent prior to going to preschool, separation anxiety could be a roadblock in them having a good experience. If this is your child, helping them adjust to being apart from you is an excellent way to prepare them for preschool. You could start by talking to them about about what to expect a while you are apart, so that it does not come as a shock. It is a good idea to leave them for short periods of time with someone they are comfortable with to help them adjust to being away from you before enrolling them in preschool.

Do you have any other tips for recognizing when your child is ready for preschool? Please share them in the comment section below.