The Pros and Cons of Sending Your Child to Preschool
Do you have a 3-5-year-old with an unwavering love of learning new things? Maybe your child has mastered their ABCs, can count to 20, and is eager to learn more! Or maybe, while they haven’t exactly expressed a passion for academics quite yet, they have dreamt up an imaginary friend and are constantly asking to go to the library or playground to play with other children their own age. Whether your child’s needs be cognitive development, social and emotional development, or a combination of the lot, perhaps it is time to start thinking about putting your child in preschool.
Overall, as your child’s parent or legal guardian, the objective is to create a childhood full of positive experiences and to provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to grow. A study from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child shows that your child’s lifelong health is founded on positive early childhood experiences, which are built into our bodies. Therefore, it’s important that whatever environment you provide for your child, they are prepared cognitively and emotionally to engage in it. Here are some pros and cons that should be considered before deciding to send your child to the colorful world of learning and playing that is preschool.
Pro #1: Social and Cognitive Development
While hiring a nanny or au pair may increase the likelihood that your child will have one-on-one time in order to develop both socially and cognitively, the standard preschool classroom is designed specifically to ensure that both will develop throughout your little one’s time there! Not only will your child be with adults every day, learning how to listen, follow directions, and use manners to interact with them, but your child will grow important fundamental social skills with peers as well. Though imaginary friends can be a great way for your child to use their creativity and seek connection, what’s better than a classroom full of real friends?
Being in a classroom with other children is vital in learning important fundamentals, especially if your child doesn’t have siblings. In a preschool classroom, your child can learn how to share, how to politely and confidently communicate with someone outside of your family about what they need or want, how to deal with difficult feelings that arise in a public setting, having empathy for their peers, practicing and demonstrating respectful communication adults, listening and not interrupting teachers or other children, and ultimately building the foundation for skills which require self-regulation.
Con #1: Less One-on-One Time
While preschool certainly offers great opportunities for social and cognitive development daily, it’s important to consider whether your child could benefit greater from having hours of one-on-one time every day. Caring for your child instead of sending them to preschool if you are able, or having a nanny or other caregiver watch your child during work hours, has the potential to guarantee your child is advanced in other ways that preschool itself may not be able to offer.
Your child can grow exponentially in their early years by having special attention or more one-on-one time with an adult. By having an adult around that has the time and patience to explain developmental keystones, there are more opportunities for talking through their emotions and how to deal with them in real-time, your child could develop faster emotionally by understanding more thoroughly why they are feeling what they are feeling in specific situations. Although, it is important to note that your child should be socialized with peers to some extent by the age of four, so be sure to allow for meaningful interactions with peers as well.
Your child can also develop faster cognitively just by having the freedom to be at home and learn important life skills that will last into adulthood (i.e. food preparation and measurements, being solely responsible for cleaning up their messes as the only child around, being free to explore your neighborhood or town, therefore increasing more unique life and learning experiences, etc.).
Pro #2: Strict Routine and Structure
Does your child thrive when their schedule is concretely predictable? Maybe your child confidently has their home routine down and can almost get ready for their nap or ask for the afternoon snack at the right time down to the very minute. If this is true for your child, preschool could be the right choice for you.
When there are several small children in one classroom, it is essential that strict routine and structure is put in place to keep every transition between activities going smoothly. If your child gets frustrated when their home routine differs even slightly, preschool is a great way for your child to focus on growing and learning, instead of constantly worrying about the predictability of your schedule at home when unexpected things, such as work calls or necessary grocery trips, arise in the middle of their nap or snack time.
Con #2: A Preschool Routine May Not Yet Work for Your Child
While every child needs routine and structure to develop and function in a healthy way, your child may still desire some flexibility or diversity in their weekly schedule. If your child seeks less of a strict routine and instead prefers casual mornings spent at the library playing with other children, riding their balance bike around the block, and the freedom of other excursions or spontaneous activities, it may be best to wait to put your child in a school setting. While some children may love a structured learning environment away from the home, others may flourish with the simple freedom of being able to choose what activities they will do in their day. It is up to you as their parent, one of the people who knows them best, to understand whether a structured learning environment will either frustrate and exhaust them, or allow them to grow.
In addition, preschools can also expose your child to illnesses they would not have otherwise been exposed to. While this has the possibility to strengthen your child’s immune system, it can also cause unpredictability in your own schedule when your child picks up a cold from a fellow student and is unable to go to school because of it.
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Pro #3: Early Education and Academics
Preschool can be an exciting time for children who have an expansive love for learning and are ready to jump into a more formal way of learning letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and other fundamentals of early education. If your child is eager to expand their knowledge of basic math, easy science concepts such as weather, and better their language skills, preschool is a natural place to start.
Another positive aspect of putting your child in a preschool that can be a tie-breaker for parents is that they can have an easier time getting into the private elementary school of your choice if this is a concern for you. Preschool can serve as an academic test run of your child’s capabilities, and demonstrate to elementary schools that your child has some foundation of formal education desired by more selective elementaries.
Con #3: Less Play-Based Learning
While there are obvious advantages to children further learning the ABCs and other academic fundamentals, there can be further advantages of play-based learning for a child’s development that is not always penciled into a preschool curriculum. Preschools often have fewer social-based activities, therefore diminishing the amount of time a child can spend just playing and being a child in their early life. Play-based learning is what allows children to grow and develop their imaginations, explore their curiosities, take the initiative to do activities they want to do, establish solid fine motor skills such as building with blocks or coloring inside the lines, and how they learn about themselves and their own interests and identities.
Pro #4: Teachers with Degrees in Early Education
One notable plus of sending your child to preschool if they are ready to learn is that they will be taught by adults who are required to achieve some extent of formal early education degrees and certifications. Early education teachers are the experts in teaching your child necessary life skills, from catchy songs that will instill in your child how they should wash their hands and tie their shoes to handling peer-to-peer problem solving, identifying any cognitive or social differences in a child to identify auditory or other learning disabilities, and simply inspiring children to love learning in a fun and interactive ways.
Con #4: Learning Too Early
Conversely, if your child is not yet ready for a classroom setting, learning in a more formal and structured way can become increasingly frustrating for your young child. Most preschools can be a one-size-fits-all environment, and if your child is under the age of 5, it’s likelier that they may become discouraged by having to sit and learn for several hours a day. It is crucial to your child’s formal learning experience that they can enjoy it and are prepared to actively partake in a classroom so that they don’t dread going to kindergarten and beyond. Some parents across the United States feel that their children have been “forced” to learn topics in preschool that ultimately caused frustration and lower self-esteem because their children weren’t ready for learning basic math skills, writing, and other more advanced topics than their older peers were ready to learn.
Pro #5: Allows for Independence and Easier Transitions
If your child is the type to want to use the bathroom by themselves, pick out their own clothes and get dressed on their own and enjoy “independent time,” preschool could be an ideal next step. Leaving the home to go to a school setting every day could be a great step in helping your independent little one to thrive on their own. It can also create a surprisingly smooth transition into kindergarten for parents who are nervous about sending their children to school full-time. It can also help alleviate any stress or anxiety your child could feel about kindergarten when the time comes because having experience in preschool can manage expectations for what to expect in elementary school.
Con #5: May Not Be for Those with Separation Anxiety
If your child has an incredibly difficult time leaving you and is inconsolable for a considerable amount of time after being separated from you, they may not be ready to leave the house for a half-day of preschool. It is important that your child is emotionally ready to be apart from adults they feel comfortable around, even though you can rest assured that any preschool is specifically designed for the safety of children. Additionally, if your child has any disabilities, it’s of course necessary to keep this into consideration when selecting a preschool. Some preschools will be more adept than others to accommodate any child’s specific needs.
Pro #6: Inexpensive and Safe
Preschools can serve as a low-cost option for parents who can’t afford to send children to daycare or to hire full- or part-time nannies. For families who meet income eligibility requirements, Head Start programs are available to send children to programs for free. There are also publicly funded preschools, which can help families send their early education children to school for free or at a reduced cost. In addition to being financially friendly, preschools are designed for the safety of children and can provide an age-appropriate environment to allow for children to grow and develop at their own pace.
Con #6: Too Rigid
While the overall environment of preschools is obviously designed for young children, the structure of these environments may be too rigid for you and your child. Early education schools may have strict pick-up times you are unable to make a possibility in your work schedule, or they may not be open on holidays, over the summer, and most likely not on weekends, when some parents may need to work the most. Not only may they not work for your schedule, but their strict routine hours may not work for your child, either. If your child has a specific nap or mealtime that works best for them, is not yet potty-trained and you are in no rush to push them to learn before they are ready if they do not connect well with certain teachers or show distress around them, and if they are resisting the entire process of attending preschool altogether, these can be tell-tale signs that your child is not ready for the rigor of preschool.
Saying Yes (Or No) To Preschool
As parents, we aim to create as many positive childhood memories as possible for our children, and studies show that the higher volume of positive memories your child has, the healthier and happier they will be into adulthood. Preschool selection and the timing of when, or if, your child attends can greatly dictate whether a love of learning is instilled in them early enough to make a positive impact on their life.
If you think your child is ready for preschool, you may be considering the vast amount of pros, including, but not limited to: rapid social and cognitive development, having routine and structure for success, being taught an array of early education skills, preparing your child socially and academically for kindergarten, getting your child into a selective elementary, having teachers with advanced degrees when your child is most impressionable, managing expectations as to what your child’s school career may be like, inexpensive schooling and care options, as well as providing your child with a safe environment of which to flourish in!
If you are unsure whether your child is ready for preschool, or if it is the right fit for them at all, you may carefully consider the following possible cons: less one-on-one time and attention from adults, understanding that school schedules may frustrate or exhaust them, less freedom to create a schedule that works specifically for your child, having less imaginative play-based learning, becoming discouraged with learning if they are forced to learn topics or skills they are not yet ready to learn, concerns revolving separation anxiety, possibly unaccommodating for certain disabilities at certain programs, and preschool hours potentially not working with your schedule.
Whether you choose to send your child to preschool or when, it is a decision that only you can make for your child. Do your research, ask around, ask your child, and trust your intuition about whether the school is a good fit. Happy preschool hunting, and good luck to you and your little one!