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By Patricia Shimm , Sarah Henry
Preschools usually follow a predictable routine: circle time, play time, snack, playground, then lunch. There's a good reason for this. Children tend to feel most comfortable and in control when the same things happen at the same time each day. So if your child doesn't keep to a schedule and each day is different from the last, it can help to standardize his days a bit before he starts preschool. Start by offering meals on a regular timetable. You could also plan to visit the park each afternoon or set — and stick to — a bedtime ritual (bath, then books, and bed).
Whether it's a half-day or full-day program, preschool keeps kids busy. There are art projects to do, field trips to take, and playgrounds to explore. Does your child thrive on activities like this, or does he have trouble moving from one thing to the next without getting cranky? Another thing to consider is how and when your child needs to nap. Preschools usually schedule nap time after lunch. If your little one can keep going until then or even all day like a wind-up toy, he's set. If he still needs a mid-morning snooze, it might not be time yet to go to school. You can work toward building his stamina by making sure he gets a good night's sleep. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, you might also want to start him off in a half-day program to ease him into the hustle and bustle of preschool life, and gradually increase the length of his school day as he gets more comfortable.
Think carefully about what your goals are for sending your child to preschool. Do you just need time for yourself or daycare for your child? There may be other options if it seems he isn't ready yet for the rigors of school.
Are you worried that if you don't enroll him in preschool he won't be ready for kindergarten? Most experts agree that there are plenty of other ways for children to develop the skills necessary to be successful in kindergarten, including attending a good daycare facility or spending quality time at home with you or another loving caregiver. A study by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development found that children do best if they're cared for by someone who is genuinely concerned about their well-being and development, and who makes sure they're doing a variety of age-appropriate activities. They needn't be enrolled in an organized preschool for that.
If you find that the main reasons you want to send your child to preschool are that he seems eager to learn new things and explore, he isn't getting enough stimulation at home or daycare, or he seems ready to broaden his social horizons and interact with other children, chances are it's the perfect time to start school.
© BabyCenter, LLC 1997-2009. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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