Is there an optimal age for preschooling?
Most of the preschool start enrolling children at the age of 3 years, but does that mean your child is ready for it? More importantly, are you ready for it?
The readiness of your child to join a preschool is not determined by his age. It might be tempting to look at a set of interesting activities and conclude that your child will be able to do it. But the important question is: Is your child ready to part with you and join a structured programme along with other children of his age group?
Experts suggest that preschool is an experience that should not be missed. As a parent you want your child to have a solid foundation to start with. But it is equally important to analyse its benefits and pitfalls before you decide to put your child in a preschool.
Preschools help your child develop social skills
The benefits of preschools isn’t just limited to just academic growth of your child. Some parents tend to push their children to join a preschool thinking their children will get ahead in academics. Contrary to general belief, the most important benefit of a preschool is that children learn to socialise and interact with other children and teachers. It inculcates the love for learning in children and teaches them how to share, adjust and get along with their peers.
Playdates and outings are not always enough for the child’s social development. At preschool, your little one learns to get along with other children and resolve his own conflicts without the intervention of parents.
You cannot replicate the same environment at home
The comfort, free play and values that kids receive from staying at home cannot be denied. At the same time, preschool offers an organised learning environment that cannot be created at home. It offers the right mix of structured and unstructured activities to enhance the growth and development of your child.
Even if you decide to teach your child at home, it is very difficult to stay consistent with your efforts. You have to intentionally work on teaching your child the skills that other children are learning at school. The curriculum at preschool is composed of activities and materials that entice the children to remain engaged and help them learn unconsciously.
Your child learns to trust and build relationship with others
A toddler is usually very attached to the caregiver and has a difficult time being with other adults. Some of them might even feel strange in the presence of friends and family members. Going to preschool gives your child the opportunity to interact with other adults apart from you. He will be able to talk and voice his concerns to teachers. Hence, it fosters a feeling of trust and the child feels assured even when you are not around. Patience is also an important virtue that the child imbibes during his journey at school. Children are used to undivided attention from the family and the caregiver. Whereas, at preschool, they need to wait for their turn as there are other children who require the same attention.
It prepares them for smooth transition to school
Preschool provides an environment that prepares your child for a smooth transition to kindergarten and school. Getting up on time, eating lunch by yourself, following the instructions of teachers, playing and getting along with other kids, and learning in the class are few activities that prepare the child for his daily routine at school. In short, it bridges the gap between home and primary school.
Handling the anxiety of separation
If your child is not ready for preschool, he might go through separation anxiety and stress that makes you feel guilty about your decision. Going to school is a big change in the schedule that your toddler has become accustomed to. He sees new people around and takes time to trust and understand teachers and peers.
As a parent, you need to be prepared to handle difficult mornings when your child doesn’t want to go to school. Kids might get sick, throw tantrums or put up fights in the initial days to stay home. Be prepared to handle these challenges and take extra care of your child in these initial days.
Difficult daily schedule and timings
While some preschools have a flexible schedule, others demand that a strict routine be followed. This might make it difficult, especially for working parents. Moreover, the high cost involved in before and after school facilities make it a tough call for parents. You might need to leave soon or start early depending on the schedule of your child.
Packing lunch and other toiletries
The best thing about having a caregiver at home is that you have everything ready for the child at home. From daily meals to changing of diapers, you don’t need to worry about anything. This is not the case when your child starts going to preschool. You are responsible for preparing food and packing it according to preschool’s instructions. You might also need to pack spare clothes or a blanket in case it is required by the school.
Preparing your child for preschool
Before you decide to put your child in preschool, do your research.Talk to teachers, principal and friends who have experience with their children attending preschool. Learn about the goals of the preschool for your child’s age.
If your child is not yet ready to join a preschool, do not worry about it. Try to instil anticipation and enthusiasm instead of anxiety and distress. Build a positive environment at home where you talk to your kids about the fun they will have in preschool and new friends that they will make. Children feel secure when you introduce an idea to them before executing it.
Helping the child to become independent is another important step towards getting him ready for preschool. Encourage them to do small activities like brushing their hair or putting on their shorts. This gives them a sense of accomplishment and they feel comfortable moving on to the next level. After all, self-confidence is the best virtue that can ease your child’s journey through all his schooling years.