By Danielle Spano
Preschool readies children for kindergarten with psychological and social skills, but how do you know if your child is ready to start? It may be time for you to go back to work or you may just need a few hours a day to yourself. Regardless of the reason, determining if your toddler is ready can be stressful. Preschool is a big change from home. Your tot will need to adapt to the classroom’s schedule. He will have to take direction from adults other than his parents, share with other children that are not his siblings and make friends on his own. It is a whole new world, so questioning if your child is ready is only natural. Here’s another question … are YOU ready?
If your little one has been home with you since birth, the idea of separation might cause some anxiety for both of you. A child that is comfortable away from his parents might seem like an ideal candidate for preschool. Conversely, a child who has not spent much time away from his parents or becomes stressed with separation is also an ideal candidate. Sharon Jacobs, owner of Abacus Learning Center, said that the consistency of being dropped off and picked up from school each day combined with being in a caring learning environment will help that child grow out of that angst. Both parent and child need to be preschool ready. A parent’s demeanor at drop-off will transfer to the child. If mom is crying or hesitant to say goodbye, the child will think there is something to fear. When mom says goodbye with a warm smile and a promise to “see you this afternoon,” the child is more likely to go into class with confidence.
Toddlers typically yearn for independence by the time they are 2 years old. You have most likely heard, “I can do it myself!” over and over (usually followed by a mess, a boo boo or shoes on the wrong feet). Your self-sufficient sweetie will fare well in preschool where he will need to do some things on his own as the teacher assists other classmates. If your youngster relies mostly on your help with daily tasks, then preschool will help him develop those skills. Before you know it, he will surprise you with his newfound independence.
Many children crave more interaction with other kids their age, which is also a common indication that they will do well in preschool. “Parents usually know that their child is ready because they will go to a playground and their children will immediately … seek other children to get involved with,” said Jacobs.
A study funded by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development determined that a child’s academic performance in kindergarten sets the stage for their later academic career and that skills developed in preschool can aid in the transition into kindergarten. Get your child prepared for the transition to preschool by getting him excited. Drive by the school and start referring to it as “your school.” Go to reading time at the library and practice sitting quietly in a group setting. Ease him in with shorter days at the school so he can get used to going each day. Start exposing your child in small doses to ensure that he is ready for this exciting new chapter in his life.