More and more parents are sending their children to preschool programs. There are more than five million American children attending some kind of prekindergarten program throughout the country. These programs offer educational programs for children who are three or four years old. In 1990, 33% of three year old children and 56% of four year old children attended preschool programs. By 2012, those numbers has grown to 41% for three year old children and 66% for four year old children. This has been attributed to the fact that more parents are aware of the benefits of preschool programs.
Parents Magazinehas been a longtime proponent of preschool programs. They have put down a list of the important benefits of preschool programs for young children.
- Attending preschool gets children ready for the school. The National Institute for Early Education (NIEER) has reported that more children today attend at least 12 months of preschool than do not and the experience really gets them off on the right foot to have a positive experience in school. Dr. W. Steven Barnett, director of NIEER, said, “Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.” Because preschool is so important for early childhood development, more than 40 states offer state funded preschool programs. Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource andamp; Referral Agencies, said, “Kindergarten teachers will tell you that the students who are ready to learn are those who come into school with good social and behavior-management skills.”
- Preschool programs get children started on the road to real independence. One of the real benefits of preschool, in addition to teaching important social skills, is the chance to start building their sense of self. Kids in preschool can start exploring the world, develop confidence and test themselves in a safe environment. Dr. Angela Capone, senior program manager at Southwest Human Development’s Arizona Institute for Childhood Development, said, “Kids in preschool discover that they are capable and can do things for themselves, from small tasks like pouring their own juice and helping set snack tables to tackling bigger issues like making decisions about how to spend their free time. Plus, 4- and 5-year-olds have begun asking some wonderful questions about the world around them, what happens to the water after the rain? Do birds play? Quality preschools help children find answers through exploration, experimentation, and conversation.”
- Preschool programs also get children started on their academic careers. Through play, social interaction and story telling, children learn how to count and develop a larger vocabulary. Experts stress that one of the benefits of preschool programs is that they do not emphasize learning in the traditional academic manner. Children learn through fun activities. Smith said, “Young children can certainly learn letters and numbers, but to sit kids down and ‘teach’ them is the wrong way to do it. They learn best through doing the kinds of activities they find interesting, story time, talking to their teachers about stars, playing with blocks.”
- If you want to send your child to preschool, you need to start the process of finding a good preschool early. There is no one age that is the perfect one for a child to start in a preschool program. The average age is four but some children are ready at an age as young as two and a half years old. Not all children are ready at that age. If you are considering preschool, you should start looking into schools about a year before you want them to start. There can often be waiting lists and that sort of thing so getting ready early is the best way to get into the preschool you like the most.
- Choosing the best preschool is a very personal decision. Once you have looked at the benefits of preschool and decided you want to enroll your child, you need to do some research on the preschools in your area. You may want to look at both public and private preschools. Talk to other parents, look for licensed programs and interview potential schools.
Regardless of where you choose to send your child, doing some prep work will make the process better for everyone.