Is My Child Really Ready for Preschool?

Every child develops at his own pace, so preschool readiness and social readiness can blossom at different rates. Some children are more than ready at 18 months, while other children need to be 3 or 4 years old before they pick up a mini-backpack or lunch box.

Is Your Todler Ready to Start Preschool?

As you ponder whether to start preschool, take the following into consideration:

  • Can your child work on his own for a brief period? He should be able to focus and complete a puzzle, a drawing, or a block construction by himself without direct supervision or support from an adult. If he can't, try to help him develop this skill at home, working toward the completion of a 5- to 10-minute activity without you in the room.
  • Can he do basic self-care? Most centers want kids toilet-trained or at least showing strong signs of readiness. (If a child is on the verge, the example of the other kids often works as a motivator.) Can he wash and dry his own hands? Can he eat a snack sitting quietly in a chair or on the floor without constant supervision?
  • Can he participate in group activities? While this is a skill he'll be developing in preschool, he has to be ready to start. He should be able to sit in circle time listening to the teacher and the other kids, and to follow stories and activities presented in a group. Library programs, play groups, and organized "moms' morning out" activities are examples of settings where you can observe whether your child can be a part of a group.
  • Can she separate from you for a few hours at a time? If your child accepts babysitters or goes readily to day care, there's a good chance she will be ready to separate for a preschool experience, although all children will need some support and time to adjust. However, if your child still clings and screams without letting up, you may want to get her used to shorter separations first. You'll also want to work with the preschool in developing a gradual transition plan.
  • Can she manage a preschool schedule? Preschools are busy places, usually with activities, a snack, outdoor play in the morning, and a quiet time or nap in the afternoon. If you have a child who is still a morning napper or has trouble with several activities in the morning, she may not be ready for preschool. Work on the sleep schedule first, keeping her awake through lunch, which should be pushed back every four to five days. Shift her nap to the early afternoon, with a regular nighttime bedtime.

Your Child's Schedule

Your child's schedule should be pretty regular from day to day. If it isn't, get things more consistent so she'll adjust more easily to the regularities of preschool. Check out this article for advice on how to find a good preschool.

Preparing for preschool

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