A lot of children go to preschool, but a lot of other children don’t – what works best? And what’s best for your child?
Some parents and educators are persuaded by the social and learning benefits of preschool, but others think that there is more to be said for letting the child have more free time before they are subjected to the rigours of kindergarten.
Different children have different needs and temperaments, so there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to choices about preschooling. Here’s the pros and cons of preschool to help you make up your own mind.
What Children Learn in Preschool
Preschool offers a step into the outside world for children, many of whom have rarely been away from their home for more than a few hours at a time. They discover and learn something different.
The main learning outcome for most preschoolers is not one you might see on a formal syllabus. It is the ability to interact with other children and manage a social environment successfully. For the first time in their lives, they are surrounded by a group of people who are strangers and competing for attention and resources with many other children. That can be a bit of a shock for children who up until that point have often been the sole focus of a familiar caregiver, such as a parent or grandparent.
Simply being in this new environment is a challenge for many children, and responding to it on their own is a skill they pick up fast. This teaches them social skills, which form the foundation for much of their socialization later in life. They learn how to share, communicate, and resolve problems.
Preschools do teach lessons on various subjects – what they are depends on the area and the preschool. Creative skills, such as drawing, singing, and music appreciation are often taught.
Going Straight into Kindergarten
Preschool has advantages, but that does not mean that it is suited for every child.
While millions of children attend preschool, a large number go straight into kindergarten without first attending preschool.
The primary advantage of preschool vs. going straight to kindergarten is that it gives kids the ability to negotiate an environment outside of the home and manage social situations.
So, children going to kindergarten as their first step still need to learn those skills. On the plus side, however, spending that extra bit of time at home instead of preschool can help them continue to form a close bond with their family. It can also represent a significant cost savings, as many preschools can be a costly proposition.
Over the long term, going straight to kindergarten is not definitively linked to lower levels of performance or intelligence than first attending preschool, even if at the time it can seem as though the kids have some catching up to do.
What is Good About Preschool?
Preschool offers excellent socialization skills.
But it is not just the child who benefits from preschool. Raising a young child can be exhausting, and they need close supervision around the clock. Preschool allows parents to have a few hours in a day for themselves, knowing that their child is safe and well cared for.
In some areas, where kindergarten entrance is competitive, preschool can allow a child to develop a proven track record of performance. That can be a crucial factor in helping them gain admittance to sought-after kindergartens.
Remember the scene from Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton? Mothers at a playground talk about certain preschools and how difficult they are to get their children into. Some sign up their babies before they are even born!
Pros and Cons of Skipping Preschool
Skipping preschool has its pros and cons.
A lot depends on individual situations. Preschools are widespread in some areas, but elsewhere, it can take so long to reach that the time and effort involved is not justified.
Cost is a similar issue. While some pre-schoolers can attend for free, elsewhere preschool can place a financial burden on a family, which they may find significant or even prohibitive.
Some children are inherently social by nature and lap up the chance to meet lots of their peers. But some children are introverted. While that may continue to be an issue to be addressed, even if they skip preschool, at least waiting a bit longer gives them some more time at home to develop their personality before the big step of attending an educational establishment.
Preschool has pros and cons. For many children, it is a helpful first step in structured learning, and parents are often grateful for it. Do you plan to send your child to preschool or directly to kindergarten?