When to start thinking about preschool

Education   |   Age: 1 year 3 months

When to start thinking about preschool

At what age will your baby be ready for preschool? Just divide her height by the number of hours she sleeps every night, and...sorry, there's no formula for this one. Some children start preschool at 2 1/2 years old, and others aren't ready until 4. Whether or not your baby is ready for preschool all depends on the two of you. If she is showing signs that she is ready, you just need to make sure you are too! Some signs that your baby is ready for preschool might include:

she is independent

It's amazing to watch your baby transition into a tiny little grown-up with opinions, desires, and personality. your baby is becoming more and more independent by the minute, but how much is she really doing without your help? If she can (and does) play independently, wash her hands without too much prompting, eat meals without your assistance, and sleep alone, she could be ready for preschool. It's also important to assess how much time your baby has spent away from you. If she is used to having one-on-one attention most of the time, preschool could be a major adjustment.

she is potty trained

Most preschools will require that children entering their program be toilet trained. This is because the teachers need to spend their time with the children teaching them new things, helping them learn how to play together, and generally supervising them. The ratio of teacher to student is lower in preschool than it is in daycare, so there simply aren't enough adults to change diapers and clean up after toddlers all day. This often goes right along with children being independent enough for preschool. If your child has special needs, there's an exception for her in this area as a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

she has a schedule

It's not crucial that your baby is currently on a set schedule - that's one of the things she will learn in preschool - but it's a good indicator that she might be ready for more structure. She doesn't need to be keeping an agenda or anything, but if she is comfortable eating at the same times every day, napping regularly, and following cues to move on from activities, preschool might be around the corner!

she is interested in other children

When children are around 2 years old, they're often not quite interested in sharing with others or participating in group play. This is totally normal, but it's not conducive to most preschool settings. If your baby enjoys sharing, playing in groups, and interacting with other toddlers, it's a positive sign toward preschool preparedness.

There aren't hard rules about what age is appropriate for toddlers to start preschool, but most preschools start accepting children at around 2 1/2 years old. The typical range is about 2 1/2 to 4 years old. Some parents choose to transition their children into preschool by starting at around 3 years old for two days a week, moving up to three days a week at 4 years old, and then moving into kindergarten. Most preschool programs are half days, so your baby will be able to ease into it regardless.

If you're not sure that half-day preschool is the right option, there are some daycares have modified preschool programs within full-day care. And while the cost of preschool can be high, some states offer public preschool programs.

In addition, remember that while it can sometimes seem like preschool mandatory, it's not a requirement for kindergarten. If the best fit for you and your baby is to go to playgroups, learn at home, or start kindergarten early, those are all possible options.

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