Vail Daily column: Is your child ready for preschool?
It’s getting to be that time of year again — the time when parents of young children must begin to consider their options for preschool. And with that time comes a multitude of questions.
As the director of Mountain Montessori in Avon, I have been teaching the 2.5-6-year-olds for more than 20 years. A question that I am frequently asked is, “How do I know if my child is ready for preschool?” So I decided to place myself in the shoes of a new parent in 2015 and research this question, as I believe they might.
As I searched the Internet, many parenting sites had the same advice and the same questions for parents to ponder. The consistency was reassuring. The first question: Is your child potty trained? This seems like a simple enough question. But if you have a toddler with whom you have started this exercise, then you know it is a difficult question to answer with “yes” or “no.” For this question, I suggest parents talk to the director of the program in which they may enroll. It is my belief that potty training is a process that really takes some time. All 2.5-6-year-olds have accidents. It is a part of the process. But with loving patience and support, a child will find success. If your child has never gone without a diaper or a pull-up, then they are not potty trained and therefore not ready for most preschool programs. If your child is wearing underwear with success two out of three days, they are well on their way. This stage of the process should be discussed with the director. I feel these children should be welcomed with open arms by program directors as they usually find great success with our regularly scheduled potty breaks, small toilets and friends who potty. I also hear from parents who are concerned when their child does well during the day but wears pull-ups at night. Not to worry. Most programs will have them potty right before rest time and the children do well. But if you are worried, I always say just pack lots of extra clothes!
The majority of the other considerations offered by the parenting websites had to do with separation anxiety, socialization, taking direction, communication and independence. All of these are important considerations, but they are also the very things that are developed in a high quality preschool program. I would suggest to a parent that these are not qualifiers. Let the early childhood programs work with you in these areas. For example, I have had children enroll in our program that have never spent a moment in another’s care, but after a week or two of drop-off, they do beautifully with the separation from a parent.
In my opinion, the biggest factor on whether a child is ready for preschool was not mentioned on any of these parenting websites, newsletters or blogs. In fact, it has very little to do with the child. It is you. It is the parents. Are you ready? Do you believe that a high-quality early childhood program is what is in your child’s best interest at this stage of their development? Because if you have any hesitation, then there is a very good chance this is not the right time and it won’t work. Your child will sense your hesitancy and will have a hard time acclimating to the program. Subconsciously you will look for reasons why this is the wrong program as opposed to looking for all the good in the program. Instead of building anticipation, there is a good chance the child will build anxiety. Your attitude toward this transition is incredibly important. Consider your personal motivation for enrolling your toddler into an early childhood program. Research all the different types of programs in your neighborhood. Find a director that shares your values that you find easy to communicate with, as this is an important relationship as you work together in your child’s best interest!
The question should be changed. It’s not, “Is my child ready for preschool?” The question is, “Am I ready for my child to go to preschool?”
Martha Teien is the director of Mountain Montessori in Avon.