As a parent, you already know that kids grow up in the blink of an eye. It seems like you were feeding them their first bottle just yesterday and now they can walk, talk, and do things all on their own. With the many milestones in your child’s life coming one right after the other, it can be hard to tell which ones indicate that it’s time to take yet another big step: enrolling them in preschool.
Many people assume that children start going to preschool at the age of four. In fact, the percentage of children enrolled in preschool programs was higher for five-year-olds than for four-year-olds in 2017. Every child is different and it’s often more helpful to gauge their preparedness by their behaviors rather than their age, as plenty of three-year-olds may be more ready than a five-year-old. Let’s take a look at a few key ways to know if your little one is ready to start preschool.
They Can Express Themselves
Expressiveness is an important trait that children should have before they go to preschool. By the age of two, about half of your child’s speech should already be intelligible. They don’t need to speak in completely coherent sentences by the time they go to preschool, but their communication skills should progress so that they can express themselves in a way that an unfamiliar adult can understand. Whether they use words, gestures, sign language, or assistive technology, they need a way to get their needs and feelings across to the adults who will be in the classroom.
With expressive skills, kids can also understand what other people are saying. They should be able to follow simple directions, such as being asked to sit down or follow the teacher. These communication skills are also essential in helping your child understand the basic feelings of the other kids in the classroom. Be sure your child is reaching certain developmental milestones so that their communication skills stay in line with their age.
They Can Spend Time Away From You
Many young children experience separation anxiety the first time they’re away from their parents for long periods of time. If that first time for your child is their first day of preschool, it can make for an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. However, if your child is willing and able to spend time apart from you, you’ll know that they’ll have an easier time adjusting to preschool. Without a meltdown every time you drop them off, they won’t distress themselves, upset the other children, or cause a headache for you and their teacher.
You can test your child’s preparedness for this mark in advance. Have them spend the day at a family member’s or babysitter’s home. Whether or not they become upset at spending an entire day away from you is a big indicator as to their readiness for preschool.
They Have Some Independence
A preschool isn’t expecting your three- or four-year-old to solve their own problems or do everything on their own, but they do need to have a bit of independence in the classroom. They should be able to play games with other children or do projects for short periods of time without needing an adult’s constant direction.
During playtime at home, see if your tot can initiate their own activities or confidently choose an activity they want to do on their own. Start practicing independent skills as well. Have them start brushing their own teeth, which helps rid sticky plaque that turns into tartar within the first 24 to 72 hours, and feeding themselves. All of this practice will help your child embrace independence when in preschool.
They Have The Stamina For A School Day
Preschool can require a lot of mental and physical energy from children, especially if the school day has a different schedule than what they’re used to.
You can often tell if your child is ready for preschool through their nap schedule. If they still take a morning and afternoon nap, they likely aren’t ready. Try changing their schedule so that they take one longer afternoon nap. Once they can successfully make it through an active morning to an afternoon nap, you can be more assured that they will do well with the preschool’s midday nap schedule.
All of these elements are important in ensuring that your child has a wonderful time at preschool. When you rush past the signs, they can easily be overwhelmed with the demands of the new environment. If you’re concerned that your child can’t do these things or isn’t meeting their developmental milestones, talk to their doctor. About 93% of children have seen a doctor in the last year, but these visits aren’t strictly for physical check-ups. Doctors can also check that your child is developing mentally and emotionally at an appropriate pace and can advise you further about their preparedness for preschool.