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The early years of childhood are filled with many significant milestones: the first taste of solid food, first steps, and first words. Starting preschool is another huge step in any child’s development.
As a parent, you’ll want to make the best decisions for your child and for your wider family. Attending preschool may well be the first “big kid” thing your child will do on their own, so it’s important to get the timing right.
So when do kids start preschool? Let’s explore this issue further so you can be fully informed on this important stage in your child’s education.
How Old Are Preschoolers?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines the preschool age range as being between three and five years old. However, there are no hard and fast rules.
Some preschools enroll children at three years old; others take children at four. The average starting age is between three and four.
The majority of kindergarten programs start at the age of five. However, some children may still be in preschool at age five, depending on when their birthday falls and when they are due to start at kindergarten.
Age and entry criteria will vary at different preschools. The best course of action is to contact your local preschool and find out what age children can enroll.
What Age Does Preschool Start?
There is no definitive answer to this question. As mentioned above, there is some variance between different preschools. But preschool-age is generally considered to be the two years before a child starts kindergarten.
Some preschools take children from as young as eighteen months, whereas others start at four years old. There is no exact right age; each family needs to make a choice on what is best for their child and what suits their needs.
There is a school of thought that says the earlier the better, and it’s true that children gain a lot of benefits from being in a preschool environment. Some families also need some childcare and want to get their child settled into a preschool environment early on.
There is no mandatory requirement for children to attend preschool and some children will gain the same benefits if they are in full-time daycare. However, preschool provides an opportunity for social, emotional, and intellectual growth. This is particularly important for children who have mainly been at home with one parent or caregiver.
What Are the Benefits of Preschool?
Even the youngest children who attend preschool will benefit from opportunities to develop their language and social skills. Going to preschool helps toddlers to feel part of a community outside of their home environment and builds confidence.
By the age of three, a child’s brain is developed to 90% of the size of an adult brain. Growth in each region of the brain is largely dependent on receiving stimulation, so it’s important to ensure that young children are exposed to stimulating environments early on in life.
The benefits of preschool which people most often think of are the academic ones. Children will learn their ABCs, basic counting, and maybe how to write their names. These skills help to prepare for kindergarten.
But preschool also provides children with structure. This is especially important for preschool-aged children who haven’t spent any time in daycare.
It’s important for children to learn how to follow a schedule. This includes being able to stop and start activities when asked, clear away toys, and sit down with other children for storytime.
Social Interaction and Independence
Learning social interaction is just as important as academic learning. Social skills are a key part of kindergarten and children learn to share, cooperate, and work together with others.
Preschool also teaches independence. Teachers will guide children, but they will not receive as much direct care as they would in a childcare setting. They’ll need to be more self-directed about going to the bathroom, getting their own snacks, and putting their things away themselves.
Preschool also provides ample opportunity for physical activity. Exercise and strenuous play are part of the everyday schedule. This is important in helping to prevent childhood obesity and also helps children learn how to play cooperatively and interact with their peers.
So while there is no mandatory requirement in the US for children to attend preschool, many experts believe that it’s a vital stage in children’s education.
Why Is Preschool So Important?
Children’s brains are sponges in the early years. There are significant advantages to learning numbers, letters, and shapes early on; this knowledge builds the foundation for later learning.
Children who attend preschool tend to have better pre-reading skills when entering kindergarten than children who have not. They also tend to have larger vocabularies and better math skills.
Attending a good preschool can also help to boost a child’s self-esteem. They will be exposed to things that they wouldn’t have been exposed to at home and this can boost their confidence. They will also spend time with children who are from different backgrounds, helping them to understand diversity.
Preschool offers more than just play. While children may often feel like they are “just” playing, their learning will be being directed through various activities to help them build their language and number skills.
Many preschools also offer a pre-K program to help children transition to kindergarten. It’s important to allow an adjustment period, particularly for children who haven’t been to daycare and who may not have spent as much time socializing with groups of other children.
Lots of preschools have hands-on activities and also take the children on field trips. The learning package offered is much more than just an academic program to teach young children their ABCs and 123s.
Socializing in groups contributes to a child’s brain development. And what could be more important than that?
What Do Kids Learn at Preschool?
While the emotional and social side of preschool is important, most parents will also want to know a bit about the academic curriculum their child will be following.
You can expect that your child will expand their vocabulary. They’ll be taught how to identify letters and their corresponding sounds and to recognize and write their own name and other meaningful words.
You can support this learning at home by incorporating letter sounds into your daily life, providing letter fridge magnets for your child to play with, and singing the ABC song with them. It’s also important to read to your child regularly, discuss the story, and to ask them questions about it.
Preschoolers will learn about shapes and colors and different parts of the body. They’ll also do cutting and drawing. These activities help with learning fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
They will learn how to use pencils, paintbrushes, and glue. If you can bear the mess, you can do these activities at home too!
In terms of numbers, children learn these first by memory and are able to recognize the numbers and name them. Counting in its true sense comes a little later when children begin to understand the relationship between numbers and actual amounts of objects in front of them.
These intellectual and practical skills will be coupled with learning about socializing and sharing, how to take turns, and cooperate with others. Preschool-aged children also need to know how to ask for help and how to follow directions. All these skills will be learned at a high-quality preschool, setting your child up for a lifetime of positive learning experiences.
Is My Child Ready for Preschool?
So, we’ve covered the benefits of early childhood education in detail. The big decision awaiting you is whether your child is ready for preschool.
How old are preschoolers? What’s most important is that they’re ready to make the most of the opportunity.
Every child is different and develops at a different speed. It’s really important to assess readiness properly, to ensure a successful transition. Your child may be ready well before the typical age of starting preschool, or it might be a good idea to wait a while.
You’ll need to consider how well your child can communicate with other adults. You may understand them just fine, but they’ll need to be able to let the preschool teacher know when they need to use the bathroom or if they’re feeling unwell.
If you have any concerns about speech, you might want to seek the opinion of a speech therapist before making a decision about preschool timing.
Potty training is another important issue. Some preschools require children to be fully potty trained before enrolling and have “no diaper” or “no pull-up” rules. Other providers are more flexible.
Your child may also not be quite ready if they need to have a long nap every day. Children need a fair bit of stamina and energy to get through a day of preschool. While there are often periods in the schedule for rest or quiet time, younger children who still need a long sleep might struggle.
A few self-care skills are helpful for children starting at preschool. While teachers will give some help, they won’t receive as much hands-on assistance as younger children would in daycare. So it’s good to teach your toddler how to put on their own shoes and coat and how to manage zippers and other fastenings.
Other Readiness Factors
While toddlers are not well-known for their listening skills, it’s important that children attending preschool are able to follow basic instructions too. They’ll need to be able to play well with others and cooperate with teachers. Many of these skills will be developed further during the preschool years, but a good baseline is helpful for the transition to be as smooth as possible.
How to Choose a Preschool
So now you know the age range of preschoolers, the benefits of preschool, and how to tell if your child is ready to make this big step. The next major decision is choosing a preschool provider.
Various factors are important here. Do you want the location to be near to your home, or to your workplace? Is it important to you that the school follows a particular philosophy or takes a faith-based approach?
You will also want to consider your toddler’s schedule. Younger preschool children tend to do shorter days or attend fewer days in the week. Then, as children get closer to kindergarten age, they may attend longer days and go every day of the week.
You will want to shortlist a few preschools and then arrange to visit them. You might want to ask about class sizes; a low pupil-teacher ratio will ensure that your child receives enough individual attention to really help them thrive.
You should also find out about daily schedules and the approaches teachers take to handling tantrums and conflict between children. You might also want to find out how potty accidents are dealt with and how much help children are given in going to the bathroom.
It’s important that the preschool you choose for your child is in line with your own parenting philosophies and provides a nurturing environment. Your child needs to feel safe and able to trust their caregivers. A supportive and caring environment is vital to enable your child to thrive.
When Do Kids Start Preschool? It Depends
There’s no definitive answer to the question, “when do kids start preschool?” There’s an average age range for preschoolers of between three and five years old, but some kids will be ready sooner, and some kids may need to wait a little longer.
There are many benefits to sending your child to a high-quality preschool. Academic input is just one of these benefits. Children need social and emotional skills too, to prepare them for a successful transition to kindergarten and onwards into their longer-term education.
Here at Kid City USA, we pride ourselves on the quality of our preschool education. Contact us now to find out more about our locations in Florida and Orlando. We can’t wait to hear from you and welcome your little one to our preschool setting!