Your child is preschool age, now what?
Parenthood is a never-ending journey filled with lots of “dos and don’ts”, “should(s)”, and “musts”. From the time your little bun is in the oven people will offer you advice, tell you what worked for them, and start putting the pressure on you in the name of child development, cognitive development, and raising your child to exceed society’s standards. Well, some people might be surprised to hear a veteran practitioner of childhood education say this, but, just because your child is pre-school age doesn’t necessarily mean they should or MUST go to preschool. And, although I am totally capable of producing a long list of the benefits of preschool, I am not going to wax poetic about the importance of a preschool education. The reality is, it’s not that important. Your child will learn and grow with or without preschool. They were designed that way. That said, I do believe that a high-quality preschool can be a lovely experience for children in the preschool age range (2-5.5) and their families. I believe also that there are indeed many benefits of preschool to be had if one is interested in providing that experience for their child.
Aiding the Transition to Kindergarten
In the history of child rearing preschool is a relatively “new” development. In the history of America, according to an article from the website Smart Start, “In the 1960’s only 10% of the nation’s three and four year olds were enrolled in a classroom setting”. Five years later President Johnson launched Head Start for preschool age children in low income families. From that point on preschools continued to proliferate and become more popular across the country. I’m not going to go into a deep dive of all the reasons why the majority of preschool age children in the U.S. went from staying at home until Kindergarten to attending preschool regularly, but it has a lot to do with women joining the workforce and attitudes about early childhood
transforming. I would also surmise that the decrease in the average family size in America made the preschool environment more popular; when you have a brood of brothers and sisters you have plenty of opportunities to practice “social skills” and play; play being one of the primary ways how preschool children learn. Generally speaking, when you’re an only child, or have only one sibling the opportunities for play-based learning becomes less varied. Studies do indicate that enrolling in preschool may enhance the transition to Kindergarten by fostering the growth of social-emotional skills in young kids. Kindergarten age in California is 5 years old.
Exactly what are social skills?
Wikipedia says: “A social skill is any competence facilitating interaction and communication with others where social rules and relations are created, communicated, and exchanged in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization. Lack of such skills can cause social awkwardness.”
I’ll accept Wikipedia’s definition. I would say that schools are one of the primary facilitators for teaching children the expectations of society (for better or worse). I would also say preschools give children the opportunity to practice skills important to their development at every stage. Motor skills, communication skills, language development, physical activities and daily activities are built into the school day. This allows more space in your brain for things like maximizing nutrition for your child’s health and immunity (for example) and more time for laundry, work, and reading articles about preschools and why communication skills are important. In short, while your child is in school you can focus on other important tasks.
Preschool children learn communication skills
This may be one of the leading answers to the question, “Why is preschool important?” This is one domain where I would say sending your child to preschool does give them an advantage over staying at home. At home, you have to communicate with a few people, all of whom are familiar with you and your habits. At school you have to communicate with a group of people you are unfamiliar with. You have to learn how to be in a group. You have express your wants and needs and you have to listen to others’ wants and needs. A competent teacher who knows early childhood will certainly support your child having effective communication skills. And a group of preschool age kids participating in play and exploration will support your child’s fun!
Evaluating preschool readiness
It may be difficult to know when your child is ready especially if this is your first. If your child is at preschool age, can follow basic instructions and verbalize their needs, you can start looking for preschools! In my opinion, a Forest Preschool is the best early childhood education since play-based learning is so varied in the natural world. Daily interaction with their peers while experiencing outdoor activities that vary greatly enhances the skills discussed above. It not only enhances the skills mentioned but it also teaches a skill often overlooked, adaptability. Children encounter the dynamic world of nature and must respond, this creates those adaptability skills. Also, promoting a love of nature early on can improve the health of the entire family since outdoor activities become something of a comfort zone for children. Imagine your child suggesting the family goes for a nature walk instead of watching Peppa Pig!
In conclusion, whether your child attends preschool is a personal decision for your family regardless of societal expectations. If you have decided to enroll your child, it is imperative you choose a preschool that will enhance their growth, where they are not only happy to attend, but excited. Forest schools, especially for children ages 1-5, should be a consideration for any parent looking to maximize the wonder and development of the “early years” and at LA Nature Kids, we take the time to meet with you and your child to ensure it is the best fit for your child of preschool age.