Your child may be old enough to go to preschool, but that doesn't mean your little one is ready for it. Preschool is different from day care — it places greater focus on academics and tends to be more structured. Carefully consider whether your child is ready for this new challenge by talking to other people who know your child well, like your partner, child's doctor, and caregiver. Ask yourself these questions:
- Has my child learned to be independent?
Most preschools require that kids do basic skills on their own, like washing their hands, going to the bathroom, sleeping alone, and eating lunch without help.
- Has my child ever spent some time away from me?
Kids who have spent some time with a caregiver are better prepared for preschool because they know it's okay to be away from their parents for a bit. If you haven't had any time away from your child, schedule some opportunities. Let your child stay with a grandparent for an afternoon every week or get a babysitter to care for your child occasionally.
- Can my child work on projects by himself?
Projects like drawing, painting, and completing puzzles require that kids stay concentrated on what they're doing and finish a task by themselves. If your child always asks for your help, slowly teach him to do things by himself. When you're making a meal, encourage your child to sit at the table and draw a picture or build a structure out of blocks. Give a high five and praise him when it's done.
- Is my child ready for group activities?
Kids under 3 are accustomed to playing separately from other kids, but in preschool, many of the activities require that all the kids do the same thing at once. Get your child used to group activities by going to story time at your local library. City and town recreation departments often offer low-cost classes for little ones, too.
- Can my child stay awake and be happy during preschool?
Kids need a lot of energy to keep up with all the activities offered at preschool. Think about whether your child likes moving quickly from one activity to the next without getting upset. Also, consider your child's nap schedule. Most preschools have naptime right after lunch for an hour or two. If your child still takes a nap in the morning or sleeps for a long time in the afternoon, it may not be time yet to go to school for a full day.
If you don't feel your child is ready for a full day of preschool, that's okay. Instead, try starting with a half-day program and then slowly build up to a full day as your child adjusts to this change.