So you have a little one and you’re ready (mostly) for them to enter the preschool world—but are they ready? Since all children are unique in their own way (and of course yours is special), how do you know if your little one is really ready to start their schooling journey?
We talked to Leslie Graves, the regional director of operations for Primrose Schools, about what parents can look for in their kiddos that will give them the green light to enter preschool—and what school to choose.
What are some factors parents should consider when deciding if they should put their child in a certain preschool? They should consider all the things that are important to their personal family. This can vary from education, health and safety, location, why are they deciding to place their child in school, reputation of the school and their ultimate goals for their own child and family to be sure that the school they choose is in alignment with their personal preferences.
So parents should really look at the school in addition to deciding if the little one is ready—is that correct? With so many different options, it’s important to think of these things and ask the schools [parents] visit about the things that matter to them. Always check reviews and do [your] homework, but be sure to tour the school and ask to spend time there before enrolling.
Many schools offer a “free day” visit to see if it’s a good fit. This is a big decision, and should be based on the ultimate goal. Do not disregard first impressions and gut feelings. Mom’s and Dad’s gut feelings are important, and that should not be discounted when making such a big decision for their child!
What is the usual age range for kids starting preschool? Preschool means a school before primary, so it can start as early as 6 weeks of age, the age that many schools are able to accept children. Child development studies show that children’s most important years for brain development are birth to 3 years of age.
Six weeks is young. What ages do you typically see in preschool? For most parents, more popular ages to enroll children are 18 months to 3 years of age to begin a foundation of social interaction with other children, and instill a schedule and learning program—even if this is incorporated into a day that is filled with play and adventure. Many preschools have a curriculum, and it’s important that they do.
Experts at Primrose write curriculum based on age-appropriate expectations, milestones [and] brain development and incorporate many different styles of proven child development learning techniques to ensure children are not only learning, but enjoying the learning.
Is there a minimum age when children are ready to learn in a school environment? This is such a tricky question for me because I went to school for child development, and there is not a certain age that children are ready to learn. They are always learning, and it is so important that parents place their child in an environment that is geared to do just this. A true preschool program has structured learning for even infants. They are the most impressionable!
Are there certain skills, character traits or developmental milestones that kids should have before starting preschool? The short answer is no—mainly because this would depend on the age of the child. Since development is based on age, the expectations vary. Not only is age a factor, but the environment the child came from, the family’s practices—naturally all children develop at their own pace, although very close to each other.
For the more common 18-month-to-3-year range for enrollment in preschool, the most important role a parent can play in preschool preparedness is to help get their child get excited about joining a school.
Why is that so important? The foundation a preschool sets is to mold children to be able to perform better in their primary years, so there should not be rigorous expectations for young learners to enter a preschool program. A truly great preschool program will meet the child where they are and get them to where they need to be in the child’s time, all before entering a kindergarten program.
Preschool is where they will obtain the skills that will be helpful for primary school if that makes sense. We want all children to feel loved, safe and accepted and know that where they are now in their developmental stage is fine. When a child enters a school knowing he or she is loved and accepted, they will be able to learn at a faster pace, even if they do enter at a different learning stage than their peers.
Great teachers know age appropriate expectations and work with the parent and the child after they have spent some time with them, getting them to the important milestones for their age. A parent should feel that is what the school is there to help do. It’s a partnership.
Can a child not be ready for preschool? Yes, children may not always be ready to enter school, but great preschool teachers meet the child where they are. The child should not be expected to meet the teacher. Development is so different for everyone. The most common reason children are not ready is emotional and not educational. This changes as they get older. This is why it’s so important for them to just feel safe and foster a love for learning.
Children do not level out and have a equal base line typically until they are in 3rd grade. Some studies show that children who have had previous experience with a school setting before entering primary school are 10 times more likely to preform better socially, emotionally and educationally.
Almost all studies show children who attended some type of preschool had an easier time adjusting to primary school, ultimately leading to more successful early learning years.
Do you have any tips for parents on how to prepare their little one for preschool? Parents should start early with socialization with other children before entering a preschool. Children learn through an early age with play, so having them be able to play with others [will help them] learn that sometimes they need to wait their turn, share their toys, be kind and be patient—those are the fundamental skills that will benefit children.
Parents can also help children by working with them on being able to vocalize their feelings— happy, sad or frustrated—at an early age. This will help the child, teacher and parents better understand [the child’s] experiences and meet the child where they need to be.
Children who are able to express themselves vocally sometimes adjust quicker than the children who have a hard time expressing their wants and needs.
Knowing their 123s and ABCs is a small part of being prepared for a group learning environment, but not as important as being excited to start a new adventure at school. Parents should be excited about their child going to school and share that with their child so their child will become excited. Discuss for weeks in advance, and for a more apprehensive child, maybe even longer.
The earlier children start preschool the easier it is for them to adjust quicker.
Image courtesy of iStock.