How do you tell if your child is ready for preschool or not? Preschool programs can begin as early as age two, giving parents a few years to decide when to start. As you make this important decision about your child’s early education, get guidance from an expert on childhood development.
Before you decide if your child is ready for preschool, check in with the preschools you’re considering. Many schools have requirements such as full potty training. Whether or not your child is potty trained may make the decision for you — depending on how much time you have to prepare your child before school starts. Look into the school’s daily routine. The level of structure your child is used to and when she typically naps can help you decide if your child is ready. Your child's routine may also guide you when it comes to choosing a full-day or morning-only program. Keep in mind that a program for toddlers may differ greatly from a traditional pre-K program for ages 4 to 5.
Let your child’s level of boredom and activity at home guide you when it comes to preschool readiness. Does your child appear to crave more activities? Is she acting out? Does she have siblings or playmates to interact with? Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, child development specialist, decided against preschool at the last minute when her daughter was three. “Six months later, it was obvious she was becoming bored,” Fritzemeier says. “She was discovering more ways to create mischief around our house. We sent her halfway through the school year and it was perfect.” For Fritzemeier's family, a morning preschool program worked best.
An ideal preschool situation involves a great deal of cooperation from parents. Parents can have a huge impact on how prepared a child is for preschool. Start talking about school and what your child should expect. Take your child on school tours to get a sense of what preschool is like. Look into picture books about school. Unless she has older siblings in school, all of this will be new and a little scary. As it gets closer to school time, work closely with your child's teacher and be prepared to participate in classroom and school activities.
“A bigger question is can the primary caregiver, usually the mother, separate from the child?” says Fritzemeier. Your comfort level when it comes to preschool is as important as your child’s. Take time to learn about the preschool programs you’re interested in. Give yourself a chance to establish trust with school staff. It’s normal to have a little anxiety and sadness over your child going to school for the first time. If you’re not used to being away from your child, start small with babysitters, Sunday school or other play camps.
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