Is Your Child Ready for Preschool?

child's first day of preschool

With all of the learning options for kids today, choosing a preschool can seem daunting. The signs a tot is ready, set, to go are more subtle than knowing their ABCs, and can make a real difference in their long-term school spirit. At one time, preschool was considered a nice extra, but now we know attending a good, developmentally appropriate program is very important. In fact, attending a good program can translate into an academic advantage for children, while serving as an excellent place to be while you work.

Between 2 and 5 years old, children acquire the skills necessary for preschool. As children’s attention span, memory and language development become more sophisticated, they become ready for preschool. Readiness varies widely by individual maturity, personality and temperament rather than academic abilities.

Here are some benchmarks that children will display when ready to take this next big step – in no particular order. While not every child will meet all of these developmental tasks, they at least will need to meet some in order to have satisfying and successful preschool experiences.

  • Appears interested in learning new things, making new friends and going to “big kid” school
  • Initiates and enjoys doing things independently sometimes, such as drawing or building a tower
  • Asks for help when needed, can make needs known
  • Engages in play with other children
  • Uses play to express ideas, thoughts or feelings
  • Able to adapt to changes and adjust to new situations
  • Understands and follows simple directions
  • Recognizes and respects others some of the time
  • Tries to solve problems independently
  • Able to work in groups, such as a sing-along
  • Attention span has increased, can stay with an activity for 10 minutes
  • Able to transition between activities
  • Uses toys in pretend play
  • Enjoys reading with others
  • Understands words convey messages in a story
  • Able to draw and make marks with a variety of tools
  • Shows interest in patterns and sequences
  • Classifies or sorts objects in simple groups, such as by color or size
  • Able to follow simple rules for acceptable behavior
  • Can separate from a primary caregiver for a few hours
  • Able to pay attention; for example, for storytime
  • Able to share and take turns some of the time
  • Demonstrates an increase in self-control
  • Can develop relationships with other adults and peers
  • Uses new and more sophisticated vocabulary
  • Shows interest in tinkering with objects by taking them apart and putting them back together
  • Responds well to routines such as nap time, storytime, or quiet time

Children develop and mature at different rates; some might be able to do these skills earlier or later. All children are unique. Consult your pediatrician if you are concerned about his/her development.

However, with that said, you know your child best! If your gut tells you, they are good to go and can complete some skills, but not others, start searching for the perfect preschool for your child. Preschools are usually very flexible, can often accommodate children’s unique needs, and can meet theirs developmentally. If your child is not as mature as their peers, sometimes those skills are learned by watching their classmates.

Do not stress if your child cannot do everything on the list of skills. It serves as a general guide. There is no universal checklist – only guides that try to be helpful and not anxiety-provoking. Your child’s early experience with preschool is likely to be fun, satisfying and educational. Starting preschool is a big step, so be sure to schedule consultations with early childhood educators early on so they can reassure you that your child is ready to take this next step. Happy Hunting!

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Dawn Marie Barhyte is a widely published author with over a hundred articles to her credit. A former early childhood educator and co-director who continues to touch the lives of families through her writing! She lives and works in the beautiful Hudson Valley, NY with her beloved husband and rescue chihuahua dachshund.

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