Author: Dr Shen-Li Lee
Many childhood development experts subscribe to the notion that children who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs are more successful in school and ultimately in their careers as adults.
But before you rush out to enroll your child, it is important to be aware that child readiness is an important factor in the success of a preschool education – and not every child is ready for preschool at the same stage in his or her development. A child who is not ready for preschool may find the preschool experience stressful and the anxiety and distress could outweigh any benefits.
DECIDING IF YOUR CHILD IS READY
How do you decide when your child is ready to attend preschool?
This will differ for every child, as each individual is unique. When trying to decide when is the right time to enroll your child, you should take several key factors – age, maturity, sociability, and temperament – into consideration.
Opinions vary on what is the right for a child to start preschool. Most experts typically agree that it should be between three and four years old, however you will find that many preschools accept children as young as two years old.
Even among siblings, the level of maturity displayed by children will vary.
A good way to gauge the level of maturity of your child might be to ask the following questions:
- Can my child follow simple instructions?
- Can my child speak well enough to be understood by others?
- Is my child able to follow the school routine?
- Is my child potty trained?
- Is my child able to get dressed without help?
- Is my child able to put on shoes without help?
- Is my child able to feed himself or herself?
Some preschools may take on the responsibility of helping your child with the development of these skills, but there are schools that make these mandatory requirements before they will accept your child.
Find out what each of the preschools you are considering expect children to know and be able to do, and assess if your child is capable of meeting these expectations.
One of the reasons many parents send their children to preschool is so they can develop their social skills. Even if this is the case, you should consider the following:
- Does my child interact well with other children?
- Has my child spent a significant amount of time away from me?
- How well does my child cope with meeting and interacting with new people?
If you feel that – due to issues with social interactions and shyness – attending preschool will create stress for your child, then perhaps the decision to enroll him or her should be delayed.
Children who are more timid, introverted, and sensitive may find the transition to preschool difficult. Some of these children can be managed by employing methods to gradually ease them into preschool, while others may benefit from a later start to preschool. Even siblings from the same family may require different methods for handling the introduction of school.
In addition to the aforementioned factors, the preschool you have selected for your child may also have requirements that must be met before your child will be accepted. Research to find out if your preschool of choice requires certain entrance criteria or assessments.