Pre-schools will generally take children of around the age of two and a half to three. However whether you child is ready will depend on the ethos and expectations of the pre-school and how your child is developmentally, physically, socially and cognitively, and their ability to participate in a structured environment and an educational program with other children. There is no one answer and spending some time thinking about your child, speaking to those who know your child well such as your partner, your child’s caregivers and the proposed pre-school will best asses the suitability of your child for this next step.
Key considerations are:
Do you want to send your child to pre-school?
It can be tempting to feel pressured to send your child to pre-school because family members think you should or because your friends are sending their children. It may be because you crave some time alone to get other things done or to focus on some work. There is nothing wrong with feeling like this and it can be valuable to listen to the opinions of others and it is certainly not wrong to be content to spend some time away from your child and focus on other things as long as you are confident that your child is thriving.
Has your child spent time away from you and is your child showing signs of independence?
If your child has spent some time away from you already with babysitters or relatives outside of the home and playing with other children or at nursery then they will be better able to separate from you when it comes to starting pre-school. If your child has barely been separated from you then it may be time to schedule some in readiness for the next step. Can your child use the potty (not all pre-schools insist on this but many do) and can they take care of washing their own hands and feeding themselves at lunchtime for example, as these skills will help the adjust to pre-school life much more quickly.
Can your child play and do activities on their own and can they also play in a group and join in group activities?
Children who are happy to entertain themselves in solo play and draw and paint on their own or absorb themselves in puzzles are developing skills which will stand them in good stead for pre-school as they will be expected to be able to focus on some activities without one on one attention. Likewise being ready to participate in group activities such as story-time and outdoor activities with other children is important as this too will be expected at pre-school.
Is your child physically ready for pre-school?
Pre-schools will likely offer a nap time after lunch but if your child struggles without a mid-morning nap it may be too soon for pre-school. Pre-school offers quite a lot of mental and physical stimulation so if your child is at a stage where they are on the go most of the time they may well be ready for pre-school.
Consider carefully why you want to send your child to pre-school. There are undoubted benefits for children to attend pre-school but it is important that they are ready. It may be that another option such as a good play group or nursery will be an ideal stepping stone into the playschool if they are not quite ready. Take your time to decide and speak to the pre-schools you are interested in who will be able to give further advice.