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When Should Kids Start Preschool

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How do I know if my child is ready for preschool?

Preschool is one of the first true “big kid” things your child will do, and if they are your first child, it’s your first step into the big kid world as well. The list of questions you have is likely long as you will want the best for your child and the ability to choose the right preschool. 

The first question, usually, is when should your kids start preschool? There is not a magic age for this, but most begin taking students at age three and the average starting age for preschool is between three and four. 

Many parents wonder what the difference between preschool and Pre-K is and if they are the same thing with just a different name? The answer is essentially, yes.  However, many preschools have separate classes for three and four-year-old children. Three-year-olds typically attend fewer days or fewer hours than the four-year-old group, who get more preschool time in preparation for kindergarten. Despite the attendance differences, the learning and curriculum are similar with a focus on learning the ABCs, numbers up to 10, and socializing with other children. The goal for both pre-k and preschool kids are the same, to get ready for kindergarten. 

After you have determined what age your child will start preschool and what their schedule will be, the next big question is whether they are ready for it. 

Age is not the only deciding factor when determining if your child is ready for preschool. Every child develops at a difference rate and assessing your child’s preschool readiness is critical to having the transition to school be both successful and enjoyable for both of you. There are several areas you will want to look at when making this readiness assessment, regardless of whether they have reached the typical age or not. 

Will your child be potty trained by the time they start preschool? Many preschools have a poty training requirement, which can vary from a no Pull-up policy to a no diaper policy, so it’s important your child is potty trained before starting preschool. Some schools have more lax policies so check with your school of choice to ensure they are a good fit.

Does your child have major separation issues or anxiety? Kids miss mom and dad when they are apart, but it is important to assess whether they can be away from you for several hours without it causing a meltdown or tantrum which may interrupt the preschool day for both them and their classmates. Typically, children coming from daycare environments are able to make the transition more smoothly. 

Does your child play well with others? Kids might not always play well in the sandbox or park but in the preschool environment they will need to learn to interact, play and cooperate with other children and their teacher. Preschool will help teach them social interaction the longer they are there, but when they first start they should be able to share, cooperate and make friends at a basic level. 

Does your child still take multiple naps? Preschool demands stamina from your child. It’s not a marathon but they will need to be attentive and energetic during their time at school. Many schools provide a rest or quiet time, but if you are still on a two-hour morning nap schedule it may be best to delay starting preschool until your child is able to handle longer stretches of time without needing a nap. 

Is your child able to communicate with adults? Although you know what your child is saying (even when no one else does) this could prove very challenging when trying to communicate with teachers and other preschool staff.  It is best to ensure your child can communicate well enough with other adults and children to be understood throughout the school day. This includes asking for things like bathroom breaks, letting staff know if they aren’t feeling well, etc. If your child starts preschool before they can effectively communicate it will lead to frustration for them, their teachers and ultimately you. 

Is your child able to listen to other adults? Three-and four-year-olds are not known for being the world’s best listeners, but when preparing to send your child off to preschool they need to be able to listen to and follow basic instructions. 

If you have any concerns that a medical issue could hamper your child’s ability to attend preschool, talk to your pediatrician. They can guide you and recommend the best course of action.

There are many factors to consider when assessing your child’s preschool readiness, but the inherent benefits of preschool are undeniable: 

  • Preschool primes your child for kindergarten: Preschool-age programs help prepare your child academically for the next step into kindergarten and will show them the basics like the ABS’s and how to write their name.
  • Preschool provides structure: Preschool teaches children to follow a schedule and directions. They will learn to listen and be able to do things like start and stop activities, put away toys and sit quietly for story time. 
  • Preschool provides and teaches social interaction: Social interaction and play are just as important as academic growth when you’re considering the benefits of preschool. Preschool programs strive to teach children how to interact with their peers.
  • Preschool teaches independence: Teacher and staff are there to help and guide your child, but mom and dad are not. Preschool starts to teach children that they must know when they need to use the restroom, go get their snack, put away their belongs and more. 
  • Preschool provides physical activity: Many preschool programs are making exercise and physical play a part of their everyday schedule. This helps combat the increase in childhood obesity as well as teaches cooperative play with an emphasis on movement. 

It’s a big step in the lives of both you and your child when you send them to preschool. It may take some time to transition to the new routine, new schedule and people at your child’s school, but the benefits far outweigh the temporary growing pains of starting this next chapter. 

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