How can parents determine what preschool program is best for their child? Furthermore, is it even necessary?

Many studies support that the first five years are the most important years in a child's life. Therefore, establishing a positive attitude toward learning during these early years is critical. However, this may occur either in a quality preschool program or in the comfort of your own home. Is preschool right for your child? Here is some information that may help you through the decision process.

Pressure

Formal education classes for young children have gained popularity as a way to give children an extra edge in a highly competitive, technology-driven society. However, many physicians, child psychologists, and child development experts disagree. In fact, they believe that rushing your child in the area of formal academics can actually lead to stress, anxiety, or depression. In some children, overscheduling can lead to school avoidance and physical illness.

Children aren't the only ones feeling the pressure. Parents often feel pressure such as:

  • Fear that missing early educational opportunities will leave child at a disadvantage
  • Worry about getting your child into an exceptional university
  • Messages that only "bad" parents don't follow certain paths
  • High demand to balance work with fast paced scheduling of child's time

The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care has emphasized that a child’s early experiences affect both the structural and functional development of the brain. Early experiences, whether positive or negative, can have long-term consequences for both the child and the family. These effects are magnified for children from disadvantaged situations. It turns out that the quality of early experiences is most important; high quality experiences can be provided in the home or outside. So what steps can you take to make sure these early experiences are positive?

Playtime or Schooltime

In children, playtime is learning. Your child does not have to be involved in multiple classes or groups to learn. Activities during your "downtime" can be as effective for your child's development as organized classes. Some activities that can help include:

  • Talking to your child about anything
  • Working on a hobby
  • Including your child in meal making
  • Exploring outdoors
  • Playing some sports or just playing around.
  • Exploring neighborhood like stores, fire station, and parks

Keep in mind that children have different interests. If your child finds it easier to play an instrument than throw a ball, find ways to develop that talent.