Preschool, which in many countries includes kindergarten or pre-kindergarten, is a place where three to five-year-old kids take their first step towards full-fledged schooling.
A preschool marks the beginning of the child’s education. But despite the widespread presence of preschools, parents may have doubts if they are efficient in prepping the child for the years of school and college. Is it necessary to send a child to preschool, or should one just skip that step? It is natural to have such thoughts, and we are here to help you clear any doubts.
In this MomJunction post, we present a list of the advantages and disadvantages of sending your child to a preschool. This will help you make a decision.
What Are The Advantages Of A Preschool?
Preschools give your children their first lessons in social interaction. It could mean that a child can reap some benefits out of attending a preschool. We list some of them here.
1. Head start in social and emotional skills
At a preschool, the child is surrounded by several other kids, teachers, and staff. It is unlike home where a kid has the company of the parents and a few family members only. The exposure and interaction with other people involve multiple emotions and improve the social and emotional skills of the child.
A significant number of these skills learned at the preschool can go a long way in helping the child in the future. A few social and emotional skills that a child is likely to learn at preschool are (1):
- Forming a rapport with peers and spending time with them in a group.
- Initiating conversations and working in teams during play.
- Listening to directions and obeying rules by teachers or other elders.
- Performing an instructed task.
- Regulating one’s emotions and displaying appropriate behavior.
- Observing and understanding the emotions of peers and learning to respond correctly.
It is not uncommon for parents to discover that their child who was usually reserved and fussy at home has turned cooperative and interactive after attending preschool. The sharpening of the social and emotional skills of the child is one of the main reasons why several parents consider sending their child to preschool.
2. Cognitive and other health benefits
The social interaction and time-spent with peers at preschool are said to improve the overall cognitive functions of the child (2). Some studies even suggest that early preschool education could have a tangential positive impact on other aspects of the child’s health. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children who attended preschool tend to push their body mass index (BMI) into the healthy range (3). Overweight children began to attain healthy weight while those that were underweight gained weight.
The study noted that one of the probable causes for this could be an improvement in the child’s ability to cope with stress. Preschool might help children deal with psychological stress as it teaches them to regulate behavior. Stress and behavioral problems even in young children are associated with an increased risk of obesity.
3. Benefit the child in higher education
A study has found that children who attended full-time kindergarten (six hours a day) displayed better language and mathematics skills, which would be helpful later (4).
4. Be in-line with the peer trends
A child who skips the preschool and joins the main school directly might miss the social interactions and thus find it difficult to interact with their teacher and classmates. Also, a child with delayed preschool exposure by a year (called ‘redshirting’) will join a preschool class with most students being a year younger them, and thus difficult to adjust. However, if the child is outspoken and friendly by nature, then these scenarios may not be a problem.
The advantages of sending your child to a preschool are significant. But preschool education has its set of drawbacks.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Preschool?
Certain aspects of preschool education may not work well for a child. Below is a list of the likely disadvantages of preschool education:
1. Does not accommodate children with developmental delays
Children with developmental delays may have a hard time adjusting to the environment of a preschool. The nature of school activities may be staggering for a child who is slow at cognitive and physical growth. Not all preschools have provision to adapt to slow learners among the group, and the child may feel alienated.
The problem can be more acute with children with special needs, for instance, those with autism. Children with autism can be slow in social interaction and can get overstimulated quickly (5). Therefore, a conventional preschool may not be an ideal place for them.
2. Focus on academics
Some full-day preschool programs may become excessively academic to the point that the preschool becomes like the first grade. That is not appropriate for children since they are still learning basic skills and may not be mentally ready to plunge into academics. Children who are slow learners, but do not have developmental delay, will still find the pressure daunting. Of course, the nature of education varies from one preschool to another. Nevertheless, imparting academic skills, even if basic, may not be a good idea (6).
3. Lack of productivity
On the other extreme, some preschools just work as daycare centers, playing no role in imparting the basic skills to the child. Educational experts note that some preschools work as glorified childcare centers where children are left to do the same activities that they would otherwise do at home. It undermines the importance of a preschool and may make parents strongly consider redshirting.
Choosing to send your child to a preschool is a personal choice. A right preschool can bring a positive change in a child’s life. As parents, it is essential to choose a good preschool that does not have shortcomings and provides avenues for inclusive growth.
Do not despair if your toddler refuses to go to the preschool. Give them some time to adjust. You may talk to the preschool authorities to bring the child back home within a couple of hours, and gradually increase the time spent there. But if the toddler is totally adamant, then you might wait for a few more months and then try sending them again, maybe to a different preschool this time. Remember, the preschool experience should be pleasant for the child and not a nightmare every morning.
Are you considering sending your child to a preschool? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
2. Early Childhood Education; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3. J.C. Lumeng et al., Changes in Body Mass Index Associated With Head Start Participation; National Center for Biotechnology Information
4. Making The Most Out of Kindergarten; The Indiana Department of Education
5. Things You Should Know about Autism and Special Education; Saint Joseph’s University
6. Full-Day Kindergarten Advantages and Disadvantages; Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
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