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10 good reasons your child should attend preschool

"But my child is so small!" Yes, they're still wee tykes, but a high-quality preschool is designed to set up young scholars up for future academic, emotional, and social success.

By Linda Broatch, M.A.

Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically that will help your child succeed in elementary school.

1. Preschool is an opportunity for growth

For many children, preschool is their first experience in a structured setting with teachers and groups of children. It's an opportunity to learn to share, follow instructions, and begin the foundation for learning that will occur in elementary school.

2. Preschool prepares children for kindergarten

As kindergarten becomes more academic, many parents look to preschool to launch their child on the path to success in school. At the same time, parents may worry that the current trend to focus on pre-math and pre-literacy skills in preschool cuts into important play time and pushes a child to grow up too fast. It's a confusing issue,especially with friends and family offering different opinions and advice.

Fortunately, in selecting a preschool, parents aren't forced to choose between protecting a child's play time and making sure she's ready for kindergarten. A high-quality early childhood education program will offer children both.

But how do high-quality preschools benefit children's learning and development? And what features should parents look for in a preschool program? One answer to these questions is that the staff at high-quality preschools and child care programs understand the particular ways that young children develop and learn. And they organize space, time and activities to be in sync with children's social, emotional, cognitive, and physical abilities.

3. Preschool promotes social and emotional development

In order to learn, a young child needs to feel cared for and secure with a teacher or caregiver. A 3-year-old child is able to spend time away from parents and build trusting relationships with adults outside the family. High-quality preschool programs nurture warm relationships among children, teachers and parents. And teachers build a close personal connection with each child in their care.

Children thrive when there is consistency in care between home and school. In high-quality preschools, teachers value parents as the experts on their children. Parents get daily reports on their child's activities and regular meetings are scheduled for more in-depth conferences with staff. Teachers strive to understand and respect parents' child-rearing goals and values.

Young children learn social skills and emotional self-control in "real time." Three- and 4-year-olds learn through their experiencesand good teachers make time for those "teachable moments" when they can help children learn to manage frustrations or anger. They don't automatically step in to resolve children's conflicts for them; they have a well-honed sense of when to let children work out their own problems and when to intervene. Without shaming a child, they encourage her to notice the impact of her aggressive or hurtful behavior on another child.

4. The preschool environment is structured, although it may not appear that way

A highly structured environment helps young children learn to make friends and play well with others. This doesn't mean there are lots of rules or that adults constantly direct children's activities. On the contrary, the structure of a high-quality preschool classroom is largely invisible to children. Classroom space is organized to encourage social interaction, and minimize congestion and conflicts.

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.

Comments from readers

"Preschool is a wonderful tool for those who need it and should be compulsory for those in low income areas. However, many of the above skills can be taught at home with some diligence from the parents. My daughter never went to preschool. We lived in an area where the choices were overwhelming yet the expense was prohibitive. Since I wasn't working, we decided to enroll her in a couple of excellent enrichment classes as well as some low cost ones at the YMCA, to take advantage of free programs at our local library, and to have her stay home with me. We couldn't be happier. She's socially advanced, has great leadership skills, and plays comfortably with kids of all backgrounds. Our choice was further validated when her kindergarten teacher told us at her mid-year review we should have enrolled her in first grade because she was more academically advanced and socially mature than the rest of her class. "
"If preschool is highly recommended for children 3 and 4 to get prepared for school why are some parents kids that might have a higher income then others are getting turned awayin the belington area.they are angry and upset that their child is not allowed to go especially when they live in the belington area. they told them to go to junior and try to enroll.if preschool is a essential partof preparing a child for kindergarten. i think every child should be able to go if their parents enrolled them in it. i understand it is a funded program. money is limited but that is where the parents with the higher incomes are your advantage.i am sure they willbuy items and school supplys if nessary. if space is limited apply for a grant build on get some trailers or something no parent should walk out of that school angry their kid did not get accepted in preschool. because all kids rich or poor ,disabled should be given a chance for education it makes me sad that people are this way noo! ne and i mean noone should have to want for nothing especially in this town everyone needs to come together andhelp one another."
"You are very wright, but preschool is too expensive and purposely over priced."
"I am surprised that you are not strongly advocating the sea change effect of providing poor children 0 -5 social, physical, and mental health along with an age appropriate educational program as one of the most, if not the most effective means of improving america's education system. Unfortunately, most children from poor families lack of these services and are at a permanent disadvantage when having to compete with affluent children at all level of education and life. I would like to see comparisons of the educational level of countries that do have formal education programs for children 0 - 5."
"excellent! i found the solutions of many of my questions"