Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Starting Preschool
Is your tot ready?

by Sarah McCosham

August 01, 2013

As a parent, determining when (and where) to send your child to preschool is one of the first big decisions you’ll make. Naturally, parents have many questions when it comes to making this choice. Preschool-aged children vary greatly in their physical, emotional and social development – so there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to starting preschool. However, there are a few questions parents can ask to help guide them toward making the best decision for everyone.

Has your child spent much time away from their primary caregiver?

For children used to day care, the transition to preschool may be smooth sailing. They are already accustomed to being on a set schedule, outside of their own home and under the supervision of a teacher or other caregiver.

However, if you or your partner is home full time, the transition to preschool can be more difficult. Dr. Nerissa Bauer, Assistant Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, advises that parents prepare their children for this change well in advance. Visiting the classroom, talking to the teacher, meeting other classmates and even scheduling play dates beforehand, can help ease kids into a preschool setting.

Has your child regularly interacted with other kids?

The purpose of preschool is to teach and nurture social skills – so don’t feel bad if your child hasn’t had regular classes or play dates prior to preschool.

For many children, preschool is the first opportunity for group interactions. However, Lara Sears, an educator in Indianapolis, says it’s helpful for preschoolers to have basic verbal communication, self-help skills and the ability to sit for short periods and take direction. “Being in a preschool setting should help develop their skills,” she says.

Do you have any developmental concerns about your child?

If you have concerns, talk to your pediatrician about the type of program best suited for your child’s situation. There are great programs in Indianapolis developed specifically for kids with special needs.

Is your child potty trained?

This isn’t a prerequisite for attending preschool, but parents should check into the policies of different centers. For example, Sears says that one preschool where she taught catered to younger children. “There was a lot of free play and focus on self-help skills, such as potty training.”

When does your child wake up? Nap? Go to bed?

There are a myriad of choices when it comes to preschool: half and full day, two or three days a week, morning or afternoon, etc. Work with your child’s schedule. Altering an established nap and/or wake-up time can adversely affect your child’s success with preschool.

Are you ready for your child to go to preschool?

Starting preschool is not only a major milestone for kids – it’s also a big deal for parents. The start of preschool signals the beginning of your child’s educational career. Don’t feel like you “have” to send your three-year-old to preschool just because all your friends’ kids are going.

Letting go is hard for any parent, and opting for another year at home, or starting with a two or three day-a-week program, could be a great choice for everyone. Remember: for your child to feel confident, you need to be confident. Take some time to consider your options and make the choice that’s right for everyone!