Many parents might question whether or not they should enroll their child in a preschool program. They are only 3 or 4 years old, right? They should be learning at home through free play and outside experiences, right? Well, maybe, but research continues to show that the first 5 years of a child’s life is one of the most critical in that they develop the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. They also develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that will predict their behaviors later in life (Trawick-Smith, 2014; Woolfolk & Perry, 2012). Children who do not enroll in early childhood programs are at a disadvantage as they are limited to which activities, books, educational games, toys and learning experiences that they can benefit from (Liang, 1998).
Speaking of benefits, here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider enrolling your child in a preschool program:
1. Preschool is an opportunity for growth.
Preschool may be the first structured experience in a child’s life. It gives them the opportunity to learn and follow instructions.
2. Preschool prepares children for kindergarten.
While some preschools may focus strictly on academics, more and more preschools integrate both academics and play within their curriculum. High quality staff are trained to understand how children develop and learn, so syncing academic and play time activities are seamlessly integrated.
3. Preschool promotes social and emotional development.
Preschool can be a scary place for a 3 or 4 year old. It may be the first time that they are away from their families. Spending time away allows the child to build relationships with their peer and other adults outside of their family. Social and emotional self-control skills are learned in “real time.” High quality teachers make the time for those teachable moments when managing a child’s frustrations or anger and whether the child can work out their own problems or intervention is needed.
4. The preschool environment is structured, but is it really?
Yes. While you might walk into a preschool classroom and think, “Wow! This room is busy!,” classrooms are organized to encourage social interaction and minimize congestion and conflicts. Depending on the preschool’s licensing or quality requirements, classrooms may have different layouts, educational toys, games, etc.
5. Children learn to take care of themselves and others.
Children are given the opportunity to help out in the classroom, for example, by picking up toys or feeding the classroom fish. Children are always expected to wash their hands and practice good hygiene in the classroom. High quality teachers are also aware of the “veteran” children who may be of more assistance to the teacher and other children.
6. Children get to make choices.
Choices, choices, choices! Children are always given choices in the classroom to allow for them to express their interests and creativity.
7. Preschool promotes language and cognitive skills.
Did you know that a child’s vocabulary grows from 900 to 2,500 words between the ages of 3 and 5? No wonder they are so chatty! Sentences also become longer and more complex, allowing for more conversations with others. In the classroom, children are given many opportunities to sing, talk about their favorite books and act out stories. With the wide range of hands-on activities (Thanks, Pinterest!), children are able to challenge themselves cognitively to ask questions, test ideas, or solve problems.
8. Preschool teachers nurture a child’s curiosity.
High quality teachers are constantly observing and asking questions to learn more about their students and their ideas and interests. Activities are generated from children’s interests and are turned into opportunities to learn. A child’s imagination is also encouraged, for example, costumes and props may be used in the imaginary area of your child’s classroom to engage in role play activities.
9. Preschool activities boost pre-math and literacy skills.
In preparation for kindergarten, preschool classrooms offer a wide variety of games and activities that assist in children acquiring math and literacy skills. For example, singing the alphabet song, playing matching and sorting games, puzzles, and sequence and pattern activities keep the child interested and supports their later math and literacy skills.
10. Preschool helps develop motor skills.
As a child grows, their physical coordination improves. High quality early childhood programs provide several opportunities throughout the day for children to run, climb and engage in active games. Fine motor skills are also practiced such as cutting with scissors and participating in hand-eye coordination activities.