Is There a Right Time to Enroll Children in Preschool?

There are probably as many theories on how to raise young children as there are children themselves, and in the end only parents can know how best to approach each stage of their son’s or daughter’s life. The innumerable books, videos, classes, and plans available to new parents should be taken as sources of advice, ideas, and inspiration when it comes to child rearing, and taken together, these can be valuable tools that can help parents understand and respond to the demands of parenting. However, no one book can contain all the answers, and parental instinct is often just as valuable as theory in making parenting decisions. Any parenting advice, therefore, should be taken with a grain of salt and should be used to aid in a parent’s own responsible consideration.

Kindergarten

One of the topics about which parenting “experts” are the most vocal is the issue of when a child should be enrolled in a preschool or day care program. In many countries, children enter their first year of formal, obligatory schooling around age 6. Often, children enroll in a kindergarten program for one year before formal schooling begins. The concept of kindergarten was originally devised as a way to allow children to transition easily between home life and the demands and rigors of school. Although kindergarten programs typically contain educational elements, ample time is also made for play and socialization. Some kindergarten programs are only half the length of a typical school day in order to allow children to spend more time at home before requiring them to attend school all day.

The Stigma of Pre-K Preschool and Daycare

In the United States, kindergarten is not universally required, but in most places it is thought to be an acceptable time for children to begin school. Away from home programs that precede kindergarten are commonly called daycare or preschool programs. There is considerable controversy about the necessity and benefit of such programs. Society has long placed a high value placed on traditional two-parent families, one of whom stays home with the children. Possibly for this reason, parents who send their children to preschool are often stigmatized because they are thought not to be spending enough time with their children. However, early preschool programs can benefit children in a number of ways.

Socialization in the Early Years

Early preschool programs vary widely and can begin as early as infancy. Those in favor of early preschool may argue that children who are kept at home until they are 5 or 6 will be slow to develop social skills, which could potentially damage their social and academic lives for years to come. Although socialization is a complex topic, it is indisputable that children begin to talk and interact meaningfully with other people well before the kindergarten age. Being able to interact with other kids around their own age may indeed help speed their development. The famous psychologist Lev Vygotsky argued that children have a “zone of proximal development,” meaning that they will learn fastest by playing with children who are their age or slightly older and can challenge them in ways that are age-appropriate.

Independence, Self-Confidence, and Fun

Opponents of early preschool or daycare enrollment often argue that it is parents’ responsibility to ensure that their children are appropriately socialized and have adequate intellectual stimulation before they reach the kindergarten age. It may be possible, for example, for parents to introduce their children to other kids around the same age, and attentive mothers and fathers probably know what activities are too challenging or not challenging enough for their own sons and daughters. However, every school-aged child knows that there is no substitute for unstructured free play. Even if parents are lucky enough to have the financial and home life stability needed to stay home with their kids, enrolling them part-time in preschool may increase their quality of life and allow them to develop a sense of independence and self-confidence.

by Buzzle Staff and Agencies.

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