The Benefits and Basics of Preschool

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The child’s lip trembles as she realizes that her mother is not coming with her. All of a sudden, the weeks of anticipation of starting kindergarten has become one of fear. One of the major moments in a child’s life is starting kindergarten. Kindergarten represents a major step towards a child’s independence. The experience is generally a positive one though some children struggle more than others in getting used to the school environment and academic expectations.

Parents can prevent children from struggling in kindergarten by enrolling them in a quality preschool program. Preschool allows children to be exposed to a range of diverse experiences, learning about others, and adopting the social skills and structure that are necessary to do well in school. There are several reasons why parents should consider a preschool education for their child.

First, brain development peaks during the first few years of life. Exposing children to a wide range of experiences will allow them to make those key connections in the brain that allows the child to be better able to learn new material in the future.

Second, preschools provide the structure which all children need so that they are able to focus their attention on learning new information. Structure in the preschool setting appears as classroom routines such as story time and clean up time.

Third, children are exposed to other children their age which requires developing the ability to get along with their peers. Social skills development is key to school success and is one of the main goals of preschool. Social skills include learning manners, getting along with others, learning compassion and empathy, and how to speak to a group.

Fourth, there is more emphasis on academics in both preschool and kindergarten. The expectations of what a child needs to know when they enter kindergarten has increased since parents and grandparents attended school. Most kindergartners are now expected to know their letters and numbers when they enter kindergarten. A preschool curriculum can expose children to these concepts and allow them time to master them before starting kindergarten.

Fifth, preschool allows space for children to separate from their parents for a period of time. This is good as it helps children develop an understanding of the world away from their parents which leads to feelings of independence and encourages the ability to trust others outside of the family.

While parents can offer an environment that has similar benefits as preschool, many may not have the time due to other obligations. Fortunately there are several preschool programs in the community that give parents options.

This article was published in the Richmond Register Health Beat Magazine in February 2012.

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