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Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

Experts agree that preschool helps kids socialize, begin to share, and interact with other children and adults.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Your three-year-old is out of diapers and seems to enjoy playing with peers. But is he or she ready to start preschool? Are you ready? And just what are the benefits of preschool? For most kids, it's an experience that should not be missed, experts say.

"I believe that all three- or four-year-olds should have the opportunity and advantages of attending preschool," says Anna Jane Hays, a child development expert in Santa Fe and author of several books, including Ready, Set, Preschool! and Kindergarten Countdown. "It's just too valuable of a beginning, now that we know children are capable of learning at such an early age. The consensus is 'the sooner, the better' in regard to a structured opportunity for learning."

The Benefits of Preschool

A landmark study of the benefits of preschool by the Carnegie Foundation concluded that children who began education in early childhood got more out of school in every grade -- and were more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. The children who participated in early education programs were also healthier and wealthier than their peers who did not.

"I really can't think of any disadvantages, and I can't express strongly enough how I think that the foundation that preschool provides is invaluable," Hays says.

Kindergarten teachers will tell you straight out, Hays says, that there are numerous benefits of preschool. The bottom line is that kids who attend preschool are better prepared to succeed. "Children who went to preschool already knew how to get along with others, and came prepared with more language skills and a broader knowledge base," Hays says.

The value of preschool is not strictly academic, says psychoanalyst Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell School of Medicine in New York City. "Preschool is really for socialization, to introduce the idea that learning can be fun, and to teach kids how to share, compromise, and get along as a group," she says. But parents shouldn't choose to send their child to preschool thinking it will push them along, Saltz says. "A lot of people send their children to preschool because they think that, academically, it means their kid will get ahead. But there is no correlation between how early a child learns to read and how good a reader they are," she says.

Psychoanalyst Leon Hoffman, MD, agrees. "Some of the most important benefits of preschool are helping kids to socialize and begin to share and interact with other children and adults," says Hoffman, the executive director of the Bernard L. Pacella, MD, Parent Child Center in New York. "Certainly by age three most kids are in a place where they can start spending more and more time with groups of peers, and if they have the ability to spend more time away from their parents, preschool can be beneficial."

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