Being a Kindergarten teacher with extensive coursework in child development and prior to that a full time professional Nanny I get asked childcare and education related questions a fair amount. I love this, like truly love it, being able to use my knowledge and experience to help make someone else’s life easier makes me super happy. So when I notice that i’m being asked the same type of question alot I think it’s worth sharing here. The question today is on the usefulness of preschool.
Should I enroll my kid in a preschool, and if so what should I look for in the program?
Ok, let me preface this by saying that now that I am staying home my own son will be “home preschooled” and I have had many amazingly successful kids who did NOT go to preschool.
There is no one size fits all answer so you know your child and you will make the right choice for them. However, there is a one size fits most answer and for most kids I think that is preschool.
If your child is obedient to authority, involved in a lot of structured teacher led activities with peers (storytime, sunday school, dance, gymnastics, etc) and they do well with that (not disobeying the teacher, sitting when supposed to, not regularly having difficult interactions with peers, etc) then most likely they will do fine without preschool.
If your child doesn’t do these things alone (you sitting with them does not count), struggles with them or doesn’t have these experiences at all then preschool is for you.
Now, if preschool is for you then read the next part very carefully, it’s my advice on how to find the right program!
- Does the classroom have rows of desks or tables where the kids spend more than 25% of their time writing or doing worksheets?
Move on. It’s not developmentally appropriate.
- Do the kids need to take academic tests before, during or after acceptance or attendence?
Move on, it’s not developmentally appropriate.
- Is there a lot of handwriting work?
Move on, most children have underdeveloped fine motor skills at this age and should not be doing much, if any, pencil writing yet, if there is optional writing occasionally great. (Just make sure they are using a proper grip its good for their fingers and will be a bad habit to break later if not).
- Are there lots of opportunities for gross motor and fine motor development?
Sweet, kids needs to exercise the large muscles and the small muscles to develop the stamina and coordination needed for tasks like writing or playing games in gym later!
- Are there multiple chunks of unstructured playtime?
Excellent, this is where your child will hone their social problem solving skills.
- Is there storytime and/or calendar time everyday?
Fantastic, this is where your child will learn to sit for small chunks of time and listen to a teacher. (20 min should be the maximum sitting)
- Is there exposure to letters, numbers, days or the week, colors, animals and all those other child concepts?
Terrific, this is where your child will be introduced to the world of learning, they really don’t need to master any of this but they are like sponges and likely will pick up most of it! Don’t put a lot of emphasis on these academic aspects.
For most children a preschool program, that is not overly academic, for 1 or 2 years before school is going to make a huge impact in their overall success not just in Kindergarten but throughout elementary school. Find a program that fits with your philosophies, life and budget then go for it!
If preschool is not in your budget, doesn’t work with your life, etc don’t worry, your child can still succeed but you need to be proactive, get them to storytime regularly, start sunday school or another teacher led environment and expose them socially and start teaching them independent life skills (self dressing/ appropriate restroom behavior/ etc.)
[ My Kindergarten class can often be found playing 🙂 ]