By 2013, the percentage of three- to five-year-olds enrolled in preprimary programs reached 65% in the United States. Finding a local preschool program that fits parents’ criteria is the biggest challenge. Before families tackle that problem, they may need to ask themselves: “Is my child ready for preschool in the first place?” Ultimately, the answer to that question can be answered only by the parents themselves. There’s no one right or wrong here; it really depends on the individual child, as each student will develop at a slightly different pace. Although every child is different, there are a lot of common situations that affect families and that prompt this question. We’ll explore a few of these today and provide some guidance that should help you make this determination.
Is My Child Ready For Preschool If…
- …They aren’t potty-trained?
The truth is that most facilities will require students to at least be on the road to being completely potty-trained. It’s not a rule that’s set in stone, but you’ll likely find that it’s a requirement for the majority of preschool classrooms. You’ll need to take an honest assessment of where your child falls in the process of potty-training. If you’ve made a lot of progress but they still have the occasional accident, they’ll likely still be a good candidate. However, if they’ve made very little headway and are still in diapers, you’ll probably need to hold off another year until they feel more comfortable.
- …They have separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety can impact both children and parents quite a bit. But as an adult, you’ll have the coping skills to deal with it in time. Children who are particularly attached to their parents and who have spent very little time away from their families may have a rough time with this transition. That’s not to say that it’s ill-advised, but you can help both you and your child by cutting the proverbial cord a bit. If your child hasn’t spent much time with a babysitter or relative, you may want to work these times in to get your child more used to being away from you for periods of time. Letting them adjust in small doses can do wonders and can allow them to ease into preschool seamlessly.
- …They’re not very independent?
One of the benefits of preschool is that it helps young children become more independent. You shouldn’t worry too much if your child hasn’t had many opportunities to think and act independently. Keep in mind that preschool does involve a lot of individual tasks, though. Children who happily entertain themselves and can focus on a task alone will often do well in preschool. Solo play can help prepare your child for how different their preschool schedule can be. If your child needs constant attention and asks for help with every task, you can help ready them for preschool by building up longer solo play sessions and encouraging them to focus on a single “assignment” (like doing a puzzle, coloring in a coloring book, or making something out of modeling clay) while you take care of a household task nearby. Although they can always ask for help (from you or their teacher), fostering independence will prepare them for what’s to come.
Ultimately, there’s no one universal answer to the “is my child ready for preschool?” question. Only you can really assess whether it’s time to enroll. By taking a look at their developmental milestones, you’ll be able to decide whether to forge ahead or wait a while.