Originally posted on webmd.com.
Experts agree that preschool helps kids socialize, begin to share, and interact with other children and adults.
Your three-year-old is out of diapers and seems to enjoy playing with peers. But is he or she ready to start preschool? Are you ready? And just what are the benefits of preschool? For most kids, it’s an experience that should not be missed, experts say.
“I believe that all three- or four-year-olds should have the opportunity and advantages of attending preschool,” says Anna Jane Hays, a child development expert in Santa Fe and author of several books, including Ready, Set, Preschool!and Kindergarten Countdown. “It’s just too valuable of a beginning, now that we know children are capable of learning at such an early age. The consensus is ‘the sooner, the better’ in regard to a structured opportunity for learning.”
Getting Prepped for Preschool
When you think it’s time for your child to try preschool, experts recommend doing plenty of research to find the best atmosphere to provide the benefits. “Talk to the director and the teachers, and see what the preschool’s goals are for children that age,” says Hays. “Look at the classroom and facilities, and briefly observe how comfortable the children seem to be.”
Get your child ready for preschool by building anticipation instead of anxiety, Hays says. “Introduce them to the idea of preschool because when kids know what to expect, they feel more secure,” she says.
Specifically, in the year leading up to preschool, visit the classroom. “It’s best if the child can see the classroom, meet the teacher — and if you can, seek out children who will be in the classroom,” she says.
“I advise parents to talk to their kids about what will happen in preschool, what they will do, how much fun it will be, and how many friends they will make,” she says. “It’s about getting your child to have a positive attitude about preschool.”
Another tip: “Don’t just get everything ready yourself,” Hays says. “Let your child pick and pack their backpack and choose a special snack. Invite the child to help because this helps build positive anticipation and makes preschool more of an adventure and something to look forward to.”
You can help them get ready to learn too. “Point out letters and numbers on streets and buildings, and shapes and colors in architecture. The more you talk to your child and the more you read to your child, the more vocabulary they are building,” says Hays.
Helping your child become self-sufficient is another important step. “Encourage this by allowing your child to brush their hair, put on their own pants, button some buttons and zip some zippers,” Hays suggests. “It’s good for a child to have that sense of accomplishment, and this will translate into other areas, including using the potty. Self-confidence is the most important thing a kid can go to preschool with. And when they know how to do things by themselves, they will feel accomplished and capable and comfortable going into this big new world.”
Saltz agrees. “It is beneficial if can they can manage themselves in terms of eating, toileting, and activities of daily living,” she says. “Some parents, in a totally well-meaning way, may keep doing everything for the child. Then they send them to school where it’s embarrassing because every other kid is zipping, buttoning, and snapping — while your kid is just waiting for the teacher.”