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What's the Right Pre-School Age for Children?

Preschools and Kindergartens

Three years old seems to be the pre-school age of choice for most parents, but the fact is that not all three-year-olds are ready for pre-school. At that age, most children have started to enjoy the company of kids their own age, and they need some social activities. However, some may need an extra year of unstructured play to develop their social skills before embarking on the structured regimen of an academic pre-school. So how do you determine if your child is at the appropriate pre-school age or not?

Pre-School Age Considerations: Previous Experience

Has your child been in daycare or cared for by a relative before? This will give you an indication of how easily he or she will separate from you. If your child has participated in other structured programs, such as story time at the library, consider his or her behavior during the experience. Is he or she capable of sitting still and participating? Does your child like to be in the group, or off playing by him- or herself? When deciding if your child is of proper pre-school age, you need to honestly decide if he or she would benefit from the structure or social aspects of the pre-school program.

Pre-School Age Considerations: Personality and Interests

How active is your child? Will he or she sit still for a short period of time if interested in the task at hand? Does your child like to share? Does he or she enjoy looking at books, singing, or engaging in pretend play? Has your child begun recognizing shapes and colors? All of these activities will be an important part of any structured pre-school program.

Pre-School Age Considerations: Level of Development

Is your child's speech understandable to people outside of the family? Does he or she suffer from any developmental issues (such as ADD/ADHD)? If you have concerns about your child's development, your pediatrician can evaluate your child and help you find an appropriate pre-school program.

Many children benefit from enrolling in pre-school at an early age. However, some children may not be ready for the structured academic environment of pre-school. Ultimately, it is up to you as a parent to decide if your child is of pre-school age, or if waiting another year might prove more beneficial.

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