Is your little one physically, emotionally, and socially ready for the classroom? Most preschools start accepting children around two-and-a-half to three years old, but this isn’t a magic number.
So before you enroll your two-year-old in preschool, consider these factors:
- Separation anxiety
- Social development
- Potty training
- Physical development
- Nap necessity
- Curiosity and imagination
- Communication skills
Your child may know all their letters, shapes, and colors, but unless they’re emotionally ready for the day-to-day challenges at preschool, it may not be time to enroll them yet.
If your little one is still not comfortable being away from you, they’re not ready for preschool at age two or three. Transitioning to preschool will be a stressful event—you don’t want to add extra anxiety to the mix.
You can help relieve your little one’s stress by slowly introducing them to their new preschool routine. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends visiting the preschool with your child before their first day to show them where their cubby is and where they will eat, play, and nap so they learn that the classroom is a safe space.
How much experience have they had playing with other children? Do they like it? Do they do it well?
If your three-year-old is still in parallel play, they may not be ready to join a classroom. Typically, three-year-olds start to play with each other and engage in imaginative play at this age—both key components of preschool programs. Your three-year-old needs to be socially aware of how to treat other children.
Sometimes preschools will help with potty training, but many require that this skill is mastered before enrolling. Nevertheless, potty training is such a developmental milestone that it can strongly indicate preschool readiness.
Do they have the fine motor skills for handling classroom materials or the motor skills to handle playground equipment?
Your child will fine-tune these skills in preschool, but your two or three-year-old should have the motor control to keep up with their classmates to be successful at preschool.
If your two or three-year-old still needs a two-hour nap each afternoon, they may not be developmentally ready for the activity level at preschool.
Usually, preschools have naps built into the day, but your toddler may not sleep as well at school as at home, which can lead to crankiness or an adjusted sleeping schedule.
Does your two or three-year-old get easily frustrated when learning new skills? Do they struggle with motivation? They may not have the persistence necessary to succeed in preschool.
Your child needs to be willing to work through their frustration and try challenging tasks to do well academically and socially in preschool. If your child struggles to stay motivated when facing challenges, it may be best to wait to enroll them in preschool.
Curiosity and imagination
Are they curious about the world around them? Do they ask open-ended questions and come up with imaginative solutions to problems? Curiosity is a necessary skill that preschoolers need as they learn new skills and learn to interact with other children.
However, if your child hasn’t begun to ask open-ended questions about other people or the world around them, they may not be ready for the academic and social environment of preschool.
Are they easy to understand? Can they ask for help when they need it? They’ll need to ask for help when they need it and communicate with their classmates.
If you can’t understand their speech, they may not be ready for preschool.
What if my child isn’t ready for preschool?
You want preschool to be a positive experience for everyone. If your two or three-year-old isn’t ready, there’s no harm in waiting until they’re older to enroll them in preschool. Preschool programs usually accept students up to four years old.
If you think they’re just on the cusp of being ready, consider enrolling them in a part-time program. Make sure the program is at least three days a week so that they develop a sense of the routine and schedule that school adds to their life.
There are many other factors to consider before enrolling your toddler in preschool. You might need to ask yourself: Do they take stimulus well? Do they like being around other kids? The list goes on.
But if you start by looking for these early indicators, you’ll be able to assess if your child is ready to join a preschool program. If your child isn’t ready yet—don’t fret! You still have options, like enrolling in an alternative program.
With some consideration and time, you’ll know whether to register your child for a preschool program.