If you have a little one, you know it won’t be long before they’re immersed in school and all that entails. Most of the day will be spent with teachers and classmates. Homework will be a thing. Co-curricular activities will pop up. So it may be tempting—on some days or when they’re not trying your patience—to keep them home with you or loving relatives as long as you can. But hold on, Mom. Preschool may not be required, but there are plenty of reasons to enroll your kiddo.
Immediate benefits to preschool learning
My son is an only child, and he was never in non-familial care before he started preschool a few years ago. It was hard to see his quivering chin when I dropped him off that first day, but he was soon happily heading off to class. His first preschool experience was two days a week; the next year, we enrolled in full-time pre-K.
I’m so thankful for both of those experiences. They helped me fill his day with purposeful activity and less screen time. He became familiar with sitting at a desk, walking in a line, sharing with other children, speaking up, listening to adults besides Mom or Dad and following the directions.
“Pre-kindergarten establishes the foundation for a positive school experience,” affirms Kristi Brown, director of early childhood for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. “It helps our youngest learners transition from home or childcare to a structured school day. This transition allows them to hit the ground running in kindergarten because they have a solid foundation of the expectations and procedures of a classroom.”
Of course, there’s also the education. We worked on letters, numbers, colors, reading and so on at home, but preschool (full-time pre-K in particular) really cemented those concepts.
“Pre-K teachers are able to create learning opportunities through purposeful play, allowing students to learn through experiences rather than worksheets,” explains Brown. “The Pre-K classroom has opportunities to play, explore and create in a way that is developmentally appropriate and meets the unique needs of each student. Through these experiences, it gives students the opportunity to build language skills and vocabulary that will benefit them for years to come.”
Long-term positive outcomes for preschool students
Indeed, various long-term benefits are documented in research. A study that came out in December 2020 looked at children who attended a preschool with an enrichment program developed by Penn State. The program was designed to improve social and emotional skills plus language and literacy through “stories, puppets and other activities that introduce concepts like understanding feelings, cooperation friendships skills and self-control skills.”
Researchers found that the students were less likely to have behavior problems, trouble with peers or experience anxious or depressed feelings in adolescence.
“The program had an effect on internal benefits, including better emotion management and emotional well-being, as well as external benefits, such as reduced conduct problems,” reported Karen Bierman, Penn State Evan Pugh professor of psychology. “So not only did the program result in fewer distressed adolescents, but it also resulted in less distress for their teachers and peers, as well.”
The program in the study focused on kids from low-income families, but the ideas and outcomes are important for children across the board.
Of course, not just any preschool program will do—it’s important to vet various schools and find the program that’s best for your family. Not sure what to ask? Check out these 11 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Preschool.
Image courtesy of iStock.