Most preschools start accepting kids around the age of 2.5 to 3 years old, but since every child is different, this isn’t a magic number. Preschool readiness really depends more on developmental factors than chronological age. Is your little one physically, emotionally, and socially ready for the classroom? Lots to consider here in making this big decision. Before you consider enrolling your 2 year old in preschool, be sure you can answer these four questions.
This is a biggie. She may know all her letters, shapes, and colors, but unless she’s emotionally ready for the day-to-day challenges at preschool, it may not be time yet. If your little one is still not comfortable being away from you, she’s not ready for preschool at age 2 or 3. Transitioning to preschool will be a stressful event already–you don’t want to add extra anxiety to the mix.
How much experience has she had playing with other kids? Does she like it, does she do it well? If your 3 year old is still just into parallel play, she may not be ready to join a classroom just yet. Typically 3 year olds are starting to play with each other and are engaging in imaginative play, both key components of preschool programs. And your 3 year old needs to be socially aware of how to treat other children before she should start preschool.
Sometimes preschools will help with potty-training, but many require that this skill is mastered before enrolling. Potty training is such a milestone developmentally, it can be a strong indication of preschool readiness.
Does she have the fine motor skills for handling classroom materials, or the gross motor skills to handle the playground equipment? Sure, preschool is where they fine tune these skills, but your 2 or 3 year old should have the motor control to keep up with her classmates in order to be successful at preschool.
If your 2 or 3 year old still needs a 2-hour nap each afternoon, she may not be developmentally ready for the activity level at preschool. Usually preschools do have naps built into the day, but keep in mind she may not sleep as well at school as she does at home.
Is she easy to understand? Can she ask for help when she needs it? She needs to be able to speak up and ask for help when she needs it, and she also needs to be able to communicate with her classmates. If you’re the only one who can understand her adorable little language, she’s not ready for preschool yet.
You want this to be a positive experience for everyone. If your 2 or 3 year old isn’t quite ready, there’s no harm in waiting until she’s older (up to 4 years old) to start her in preschool. If you think she’s just on the cusp of being ready, consider enrolling her in a part-time program. Just make sure it’s at least 3 days a week so that she really develops a sense of the routine and schedule that school adds to her life. There are many other factors to consider, of course, like how she does with new situations, does she handle stimulus well, does she like being around other kids? The list goes on. But if you start by looking at these first indicators, you’ll best be able to assess if your child is ready to join the big leagues.
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