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A Preschool Readiness Guide

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | February 4, 2013 | Early Education & Literacy

Checklist for Preschool ReadinessShould your child start preschool at 2, 3, or even 4? Is he late-born, early-born, or right in between? Should he be one of the oldest in the class, the youngest, or in the middle? And what impact will this have on his eventual kindergarten start date?

If your head is spinning at making this decision, you’re not alone. More and more parents are strategically planning when to start their children in preschool. A common playground conversation these days involves a discussion of various schools and their cutoff birthdates for enrollment, plus all the supposed benefits of holding a child back to “buy another year” of maturity. So common, in fact, that it’s become trendy in many parts of the country to have your child start school as late as possible. As a parent of a late-born (October) 3-year-old, I’m in the midst of this decision myself.

The world of preschool isn’t immune to trends, and the issue of “redshirting” children (holding them back intentionally to help them gain a competitive advantage) is very trendy right now. But just like any trend, redshirting isn’t built on much substance. I hope I can help you sweep aside the parental peer pressure, and focus on the thing that’s most important here: Your child. Children should start preschool – or kindergarten – when they’re ready.

Preschool Readiness Signs

  • Independence. Is he comfortable working on projects on his own for a few minutes at a time?
  • Basic skills. Can she (more or less) take care of her hand-washing, eating, and potty needs? Can she – and does she – communicate her needs?
  • Separation. Has he spent some time in the care of other adults, and done reasonably well?
  • Groups. Will she participate in group activities like circle time?
  • Predictability. Does he have a fairly regular schedule of sleep, eating, and playtime? Does he handle transitions reasonably well?
  • Stamina. Can she handle the demands of the preschool you’re considering with the amount of napping and activity she’ll get there?
  • Environment. Are the classroom size and the specific teacher a good match for your child?
  • YOUR preference. Would it work best for your family for him to go to preschool?

For more, here are my suggestions on making tough parenting decisions, and here’s my kindergarten readiness checklist.

When did you start your child in preschool? Share your stories with us!