How to know if your child is not ready for preschool? Find out what the 7 signs are here.
What can you read in this article?
- Preschool readiness qualities
- How to know if your child is not ready for preschool
- Tips on preparing your toddler for school
As much as we want them to be our babies forever, we have to let our children go out into the world and the first step in doing this is enrolling them in school.
But how do we know if it’s the right time for them to start school? How do we know that we’re not rushing them and getting ahead of ourselves?
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Preschool readiness qualities
Preschool readiness is a term that refers to whether a child is ready or able to easily transition to school. It involves
“My child knows his ABCs, and can count from 1 to 20. Does that mean he’s ready for school?”
Contrary to popular belief, preschool readiness is not all about academic skills like reading and writing.
According to Leon Hoffman, a psychoanalyst and executive director of the Bernard L. Pacella, MD, Parent Child Center in New York, the best indicator of whether a child is ready for preschool is socialization.
“If he or she really loves to be with other kids, has the capacity to socialize and separate from Mom, your child may well be ready.”
According to Kid Sense.org, here are some skills that a child should possess to determine that he is ready for school. Parents, you can ask yourself these questions to assess if your child is indeed ready for preschool.
- Self-regulation: Is he able to control his emotions?
- Receptive language (understanding): Can he understand or follow simple instructions?
- Expressive language and articulation (using language): Can he express his emotions and communicate what he wants?
- Executive functioning: Can he pay attention, follow a routine and organize his thoughts?
- Emotional development/regulation: Can he tell when a person is sad or happy?
- Social skills: Can he play well with other kids? Does he know how to share?
How to know if your child is NOT yet ready for preschool?
According to Hoffman, it’s important that your child is ready for preschool because starting school too soon can be stressful (even traumatic, if his parents force him to go) for a child.
Here are some signs that might tell you that your child is not yet ready for school.
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1. He’s having trouble being separated from you.
Separation anxiety may very well be the most common problem among kids who are about to start school. I remember sitting in my daughter’s nursery class for a few days because she would just cry the moment I leave the room.
Hoffman said that if the child feels anxious about being away from his parents, then it might probably do more harm than good.
“If your child is uncomfortable separating from you at age two or three, you should not force the child to attend preschool,” he added.
Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell School of Medicine in New York City agrees.
“If your child is not ready for separation, preschool will backfire.”
How do you know if your child has separation anxiety? If your child is in distress each moment you leave the room or say goodbye to him, then he probably has it.
2. He’s not yet potty-trained.
One policy that most preschools have before accepting students is they have to know how to use the toilet, or at least, should not be wearing diapers anymore.
Accidents happen and preschool teachers expect that, but if your child still doesn’t know how to use the bathroom, maybe you should work on that first before sending him to school.
“In my opinion, it creates anxiety for kids, because other kids aren’t in diapers — and teachers don’t want to change diapers.”
3. He can’t follow simple instructions.
Another important quality in preschool readiness is the ability of the child to understand simple instructions. If your child cannot respond to two-step instructions (For example, “Get your book and sit on the floor”) yet, then maybe he needs more practice in this area before you enroll him.
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4. He can be easily overwhelmed.
The first few days in preschool can only be described as chaos. There will be a lot of noise, activities, and mess as some kids are still trying to get used to having a routine.
If you feel that your child won’t be able to adapt or control his emotions in this scenario, then it might mean that he needs to learn how to self-regulate first before starting preschool.
“If you have an easily overwhelmed kid who is uncomfortable with music, laughing, and transitioning from one thing to the next, you just might want to put them in some classes — and not have it be an all-day experience like preschool,” said Saltz.
5. He’s not used to interacting with other kids yet.
Preschool is where kids practice sharing, taking turns, and cooperation. Sure, there will be moments where they will have some trouble with sharing or have a “This is mine!” phase, but if your child is still having a hard time getting along with other kids (like pushing, hitting, or grabbing toys without permission), he might need to practice his social skills at home first.
6. You think he won’t be able to handle the school schedule.
Here in the Philippines, preschool classes usually last for 2 to 3 hours long. If you feel that your “baby” will not be able to wake up early in the morning to go to school, then that could mean he’s not yet ready to follow a more rigorous schedule or routine in class.
7. He’s not yet able to communicate clearly.
While kids do not have to know a certain number of words to be accepted into preschool, they should at least be able to express themselves and communicate with others.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, between ages 3 to 4, kids should be able to answer simple who, what and where questions, put four words together in a sentence and can be easily understood when they talk.
If your child is still having a hard time communicating, you can consult your pediatrician first and ask if your child needs to be assessed for speech delay before enrolling him in preschool.
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Help your child get ready for preschool
If you feel that your child is not yet ready for preschool, don’t fret. Here are some tips that can help you and your child have a smoother transition to school.
- Establish a simple routine at home a few weeks before school starts. For example, waking up around the same time every day, eating breakfast, and getting dressed before she can play.
- Help your child become more independent by encouraging him to get dressed by himself, fix his own breakfast (he’ll manage if it’s just cereal and milk), get his own glass of water or go to the bathroom by himself.
- Play pretend school. Set up a mini-classroom at home where you can be the pretend teacher. You can also switch roles sometimes and you as the pretend student can model positive behavior to your child.
- You can also sign her up for preschool readiness classes or trial classes before enrolling her in preschool.
- Teach him responsibility by giving him some tasks at home such as putting his toys away after playing with them or watering the plants in the afternoon.
- Let him play and socialize with other kids in your area. Arrange play dates with other children (you can do this online if physical play dates are out of the question).
- You can also do some play-based learning activities at home to stimulate your child’s curiosity and eagerness to learn.
- To ease separation anxiety, try leaving your child for short periods of time with friends or relatives while you go out. Assure him that you will return and that he is safe with others.
- Get your child excited about school. Tell stories about when you went to school and how much fun you had.
“I advise parents to talk to their kids about what will happen in preschool, what they will do, how much fun it will be, and how many friends they will make,” Saltz says. “It’s about getting your child to have a positive attitude about preschool.”
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Remember, kids thrive when they are ready. Ask yourself if your child is really ready to start school. If not, waiting one more year won’t hurt, as long as you commit to preparing him while staying at home.
And the best way to prepare your child for school is by teaching him skills that will enable him to be independent, patient, and adaptable.
WebMD, KidSense.org , NAEYC, Romper