What is the best age to start preschool?

You’re in a quandary:  When is the best time for my child to start preschool?  There are as many answers to this question, as there are parents and children.  One size does not fit all, in this instance.

Sunshine House welcomes children at 2 years old, but since every child is different, this is not a magic number. Preschool readiness really depends more on developmental factors than chronological age. There is lots to consider in making this big decision. While your child might not be fully ready in certain developmental areas, those areas are also great potentials for growth, that preschool can help you with.

First, consider your needs.  Do you work and childcare is necessary? Do you have time for your personal needs? Are you looking for your child to have more interactions with adults and children outside your home? While, these will not be your only consideration, having personal time can make you a better, more responsive parent. Sure, that is not a need of every parent and bless you, if you thrive on caring for your little one 24/7). Yet, you need not feel guilty for setting aside time for yourself.

There are also other non-work-related responsibilities you might have. You have household tasks to take care of. What child wants to be dragged around during these chores? Often, this is not quality time! You may have other children. Some parents with infants, need time to give one-on-one care to that infant (not to mention a chance to catch up on much needed sleep). If you have older children, they also need a bit of undivided attention and homework assistance (not to mention being an at home teacher, during COVID) that is better managed without a toddler also needing attention.

Next, consider the needs of your preschool child. While some checklists have developmental benchmarks that say your child needs to have attained before starting preschool, there is also the school of thought that preschools can provide those same opportunities for development. Once your child is 2 years old, they are hard to keep busy at home. They are like sponges, learning at every level, and there are certain opportunities you just can’t (or don’t want to) match at home.

There is also the “window of learning opportunity” to think about. There are optimal times for your child to develop in each area. When they are given the right stimulation, at the right time, their development soars. So, sometimes, “the earlier, the better” is best. Consider these developmental areas:

Emotional development

One way of looking at this: Your child may know all their letters, shapes, and colors, but unless they are emotionally ready for the day-to-day challenges at preschool, it may not be time yet. If your little one is still very uncomfortable being away from you (separation anxiety), they may not be ready for preschool. The other opinion is that your child needs to learn how to manage this area of growth. Many families don’t have friends or family nearby to experience separation. When you find quality childcare that can respond to your child with love and comfort, it gives them the opportunity to develop emotionally in a supportive environment.

Social Development

How much experience has your little one had playing with other children? Do they like it, do they do it well? 2-year-olds play side-by-side with other children (parallel play), not playing directly with them.  On the other hand, 2-year-olds, while engaging in parallel play are also learning from observing those around them. When you find a quality, mixed-age preschool program, your child has the chance to see how older children interact socially and they begin to learn those social skills. How can you learn to share, or make a lifetime friend, without other children?

Physical Development

Do they 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 to be successful at preschool. Yet, a well-planned preschool, with a shady outdoor area and attentive teachers, will have greater opportunity for your child to develop physically.  Again, the opportunity to observe how other children climb, ride a trike, is so helpful. This might not be something you can easily provide at home.

Communication Skills

Does your little one ask for help when needing it? Can others understand them? All parents want their toddler/preschooler to be able to speak up and ask for help when needed needs and for them to be understood by adults as well as able to communicate with classmates. If you are the only one who can understand their adorable little language, you may think they are not ready for preschool. Yet most Sunshine House parents are stunned at their child’s language development. Observing other littles and their developed language, encourages and facilitates communication skills. Now they see it’s not just adults that can talk so fluently. Sunshine House parents also love hearing all words, sentences songs and more their child comes now comes home to share.

We look forward to meeting you and your child and helping you make this important decision.


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