It’s finally happened. Your baby isn’t a baby anymore, and they’re the official preschool age. Do you enroll them in preschool or opt-out of schooling until they reach kindergarten? This is a question that many parents face during this time.
So what are the benefits of preschool? While it may not seem like a big deal, you’d be surprised at just how helpful a preschool can be to your child’s development. From physical and mental stimulation to social-emotional skills, the preschool classroom is where your child will learn many of the skills they’ll need as they get older.
Benefits of Quality Preschool Programs
A quality preschool program can benefit your child in many ways. Of all the advantages it can have for your child, there are five main aspects of development preschool programs strengthen. These are physical, social, and emotional development, as well as language/literacy development and cognitive skills.
A common excuse parents use when choosing to forgo preschool is that it’s nothing but glorified daycare. I can understand this thought process. However, even the simplest activities help your child grow. Playing outside gives your child exercise, and building with blocks helps foster creativity and enhances hand-eye coordination.
Plus, they will learn valuable social skills they’ll need when they start elementary school.
Your child will enhance their physical development at preschool by working on fine and gross motor skills. Whether it be playing on the playground or sitting quietly while tracing their letters, these activities help your child grow stronger.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children under the age of five get plenty of physical activity each day. Because technology has become a staple for children, it can be challenging to get them to play outside at home. Sending them to preschool ensures they’re at least getting some physical activity throughout the day.
Depending on the child, preschool may be the first time they’re around a group of children their age. Inserting children into this environment gives them the chance to learn essential skills like sharing, manners, and respect. Your child may also start to learn self-control and how to resolve conflict on their own.
If you walk into a preschool classroom and see children dressing up and playing pretend, this is part of their social development. Pretend play may not seem like it plays a significant role in your child’s growth. However, acting out scenarios like grocery shopping or playing doctor help teach your child about their world.
Empathy has become a prominent focus on education in recent years. Empathy is the ability to imagine how someone else is thinking and feeling to the point of being able to feel that way yourself. When your child reaches preschool age, they’re beginning to learn about different feelings that apply to a particular situation.
Once children know how an emotion feels, they begin to develop the ability to feel how somebody else is feeling. When a child is at preschool, their teachers will help them resolve conflicts by encouraging each child to think about how their actions affected others.
While this is undoubtedly a skill that can, and should, be taught at home, it’s good to have another adult to help reinforce it.
Language and Literacy Development
If you’ve ever looked at a list of things children should know before starting kindergarten, you’ve probably noticed a lot of literacy-based skills. Before entering kindergarten, children should be able to identify letters of the alphabet, write their names, and speak clear sentences.
These are all learned skills in a preschool classroom. A beginner preschool student might practice language and literacy skills by listening and talking to their friends. As they progress to older preschool classrooms, they may start practicing tracing skills as well as freehand writing.
The main focus of any school environment is typically a child’s critical thinking skills. Preschool teachers may encourage your child to use their cognitive skills by talking through problems together to find a solution.
They may also encourage children to ask questions about everything. These questions may drive you nuts at home, but your child’s endless questions help them understand how the world around them works.
Preschool programs will benefit your child’s cognitive skills when learning compare and contrast and many other cognition-building activities.
Finding the Right School
Preschool will only suit your child if you enroll them in a program that fits their needs. Ask any preschool parent, and they’ll probably tell you how stressful the search was. After all, your child will be spending a great deal of time there without you around.
As scary as it may seem, finding the right preschool doesn’t have to be hard. There are things you should keep in mind that can help solidify your decision.
Just like with a house hunt, making up a “Must-Have” list will help you narrow down your options. Lists are especially helpful if you live in an area with an abundance of programs. Grab some paper and a pen and make a list of what the ideal preschool would look like to you.
Are you looking for a structured day or would you rather have a play-based program for your child? If you are looking for a set schedule, how formal do you want the program to be? See if they offer snacks and meals if you don’t want to worry about sending food with your child every day.
Positive Feedback From Parents
Another good indicator of a program's quality is how parents react when you ask them about their experience. Ask around on different local forums for recommendations. Feedback will help you separate the good from the bad because you’re reading firsthand accounts of other’s experiences.
Plus, doing this can also serve as an opportunity to connect with other parents and make new friends.
Nobody likes talking about money, but it’s no debate that preschool gets to be pretty pricey. Make sure you have a budget in mind so you can find a quality school that won’t break your bank account.
Tuition costs shouldn’t cause you to stray away from enrolling your child. Missing out on high-quality preschool can cause your child to be behind their peers when they start kindergarten. This can lead to a never-ending game of catch-up and will likely cause frustration and a dislike of school.
You may qualify for government assistance, depending on your income. Support can be beneficial in alleviating your monthly expenses. The government offers childcare subsidies and Head Start programs. Some states may even offer state-funded pre-kindergarten as well as military fee assistance too.
Leaving your child in somebody else’s care can be scary. When touring schools, take note of how they handle security. Some schools have video cameras in their classrooms that parents have access to. Others may require a passcode to get inside, or they may have a check-in/check-out system.
The Learning Journey Starts With Preschool
It can certainly be hard for parents to leave their children in the care of somebody else, especially if this is the first time. However, the benefits of preschool significantly outweigh the hesitations. Enrolling your child in preschool helps enhance every area of development, setting them up to be successful in school later on.
Finding the right school and helping reinforce what they learned while there is the key to proper development. So don’t be scared. Just do your research, tour some schools, and your child will be in good hands.