Did you know that having your child attend just one year of preschool before he starts kindergarten can set him up for greater success well into his elementary years and beyond? Even though play is the “work” of childhood, children attending a high-quality preschool are exposed to an environment filled with rich experiences, the opportunity to learn and hone their problem solving skills and, most importantly, the chance to interact with their peers.
According to education expert Barbara Callaghan of Familyeducation.com, “interacting with other children means learning how to wait, how to take turns, and how to listen. These social skills are critical to developing personality and I would not dismiss them lightly.”
Beyond social skills, young children who attend preschool are also laying the foundation for what will hopefully be a life-long love of learning, as they are exposed to pre-academic skills. “Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than thosewho do not,” said W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Many other experts in early childhood development echo that sentiment, and research backs it up. According to education researcher and professor Dr. Crystal Ladwig (who is also a mom of two young boys), “children who attend high-quality preschool programs tend to outperform peers who didn’t attend such programs on achievement tests well into elementary school … a key aspect of these successful programs isthat they include stimulating activities with positive, nurturing, and challenging interactions between the teachers, children, and curricula.”
The beautiful thing about children in preschool is that they don’t realize they are involved in the critical work of developing their brains — they are just enjoying themselves. As they engage in pretending, circle time, or even learning the days of the week, they are learning how to function in a structured environment, flexing their language muscles and developing emotionally.
As a preschool director for over 35 years, Patsye Dulmer has seen her fair share of children entering her school as toddlers and leaving as children well prepared for kindergarten. She reminds parents that children experience the most brain growth from their first through their fifth year of life, and preschool provides activities “to encourage growth in all areas; social, emotional, academic, and physical.” Children cannot make up what they missed in preschool if they did not attend, as preschool happens during a critical time of brain growth. These rich experiences need to happen within a certain time frame.
Finding a high-quality preschool is not about paying exorbitant fees, as programs exist at every price point – some are even free! Whether it’s private preschool, Head Start, or VPK, options abound for parents to find a preschool program that is the right fit for their child. And when parents choose to send their children to preschool, they truly give them a gift that will keep on giving.