Deciding to send your child to preschool can be a difficult choice. Take a look at these preschool pros and cons to help you make your decision.
Should you send your child to preschool?
Let me start by saying I’ve enrolled all three of my kids in preschool since asking myself that question—and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
Still, if someone were to ask me whether they should send their child to preschool, I wouldn’t give a definitive “yes.” Instead, I’d say it would depend on many factors.
After all, each family has their own unique circumstances, each child his own needs. So even though I went the preschool route, I’m also not blind to many of its downsides.
Preschool pros and cons
To help you decide whether to send your child to preschool, below is a list of preschool pros and cons. These are the actual points I considered as I was trying to make that decision myself.
Let’s say you do decide to go the preschool route and need help narrowing down your choice. I also share nine questions to ask yourself about each preschool you visit. Hopefully you’ll find it as useful as fellow mom Laura did, when she wrote:
“Thank you, Nina, for this article. Trying to decide about preschool and this was helpful.”
First, let’s start with the positive aspects of preschool:
Pro 1: A learning environment that can be difficult to do at home
I’m all for downtime, free play, and the value kids get from tinkering right at home. At the same time, preschools offer children a learning environment and curriculum that can be pretty difficult to mimic at home.
Even if you have a routine in place, you’d need to intentionally teach your child the skills other kids are learning at school. He can learn so much at school—lessons you may not have thought of teaching or introducing yourself.
Perhaps he starts to read and write much earlier than you were planning to teach him. He can learn interesting lessons, from states and capitals to daily art activities to singing and dancing. While these are activities you might do at home, you may not do them as consistently as a preschool does.
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Pro 2: A place to practice social skills
While occasional play dates or even daily trips to the park offers your child a chance to socialize, sometimes it’s not enough. He can’t always practice social skills when parents and adults interfere often. We in too quickly before letting the children resolve their own conflicts.
But at preschool, he’ll be with the same kids, developing friendships and practicing social skills without an adult’s hawk-like supervision. And this is a good thing! He’ll be able to experience and practice what it’s like to interact with his peers, all on his own.
Pro 3: Relationships with other trusted adults
Is your child extra clingy with you? Having you—and only you—as her daily caregiver can make it difficult for her to be with other adults, even your family and friends.
Enrolling her in preschool gives her an opportunity to develop relationships with other adults. She’ll begin to trust others in your place, and feel reassured that she’ll be okay even without you nearby.
She’ll talk and listen to other adults more often, from voicing her concerns to complying when the teacher needs her to. She’ll also learn to wait, especially when she realizes she’s not the only child calling for her teacher’s attention.
Pro 4: Exposure to new experiences
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“We went inside a police car!” my son told me after school one day. Not only did a police car visit their school, but so did a fire truck, complete with presentations from the officers and firefighters.
Events like these expose your child to new experiences that you may not be able to offer at home. They might grow caterpillars into butterflies, put on a holiday performance, and learn gymnastics and yoga.
Even though I introduce my kids to new experiences and places, I still liked how their preschool did so as well, and in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do at home.
Experts also find that the preschool years are important for upward mobility later in life. As author and professor Robert D. Putnam writes in his book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis:
…[T]he biggest increases in parental spending are concentrated in the preschool and college years: the two periods of development that we now know are especially important in determining upward mobility. Parents who can afford it are privately investing in these stages, providing their kids with great advantages in life—but as a society we have yet to invest adequately in those years, and instead devote most of our public resources to the K-12 years.”
Pro 5: Preparation for school
At its roots, preschool is an environment that prepares your child for kindergarten and regular school. Daycare staff and nannies don’t always provide this kind of preparation—things like:
- Following the teacher’s instructions
- Playing with other children
- Waking up to get to school on time
- Eating lunch away from home
- Listening and learning in class
Preschool bridges the gap between home and big kids school, so that once she’s ready for regular school, the transition will be much smoother.
Now that you’ve seen the benefits of preschool, what are a few downsides you might run into?
Con 1: Difficult schedule
Some preschools may be less flexible with schedules, from how many days they want your child to attend, to the hours they’re open.
For instance, one school I visited needed my son to attend four days in a row. They were pretty inflexible with allowing just the three days I wanted. Other schools were only available from 9am-12pm, with expensive before and after school options.
Even a 6pm dismissal can be difficult for some parents to meet, especially if they work late hours or drive long commutes.
Con 2: High costs
As you might guess, preschool doesn’t come cheap. In some cases, enrolling your child in preschool can be more expensive than hiring a nanny or asking a relative to care for him.
Besides a monthly tuition, you might be responsible for registration fees, deposits, or school supplies. You might need before and after school care, or want to enroll him in enrichment classes like acting and dance. Some preschools also increase tuition every year that a child attends.
Con 3: Kids getting sick
My eldest hardly got sick before going to preschool. In fact, he didn’t get sick at all his first year, and only a handful of times after that.
But within his first month of preschool, he got sick so often that he only attended half of that month.
If you decide to enroll your child in preschool and he hasn’t been exposed to other kids regularly, be prepared to take days off to care for him at home. It’s not uncommon for kids to get sick often once they’re with other kids every day.
Con 4: Challenging drop-offs
As with any transition, those initial drop-offs in the morning can be tough for both you and your child.
This is a huge change, especially for her. She may be harboring separation anxiety, isn’t certain when you’ll come back, or feels unsure of her new teachers and classmates. These emotions can make for difficult mornings and drop-offs.
Meanwhile, you might be flooded with guilt, asking yourself if you’ve made the right decision about preschool. Your whole day can feel heavy with your own anxiety of how she’ll cope.
Even after she has adjusted, she still might have those days when she won’t want to go to school or doesn’t think it’s worth it. She might throw a tantrum right when you’re already running late for work, or put up a fight about getting into the car seat at pick up.
Thankfully these are rare, and the initial adjustment is temporary. But be prepared to handle her preschool behavior problems and possible regressions during this period.
Con 5: Packing school lunches and toiletries
One of the things I loved about having a nanny was that everything was already at home. From meals to diapers, she had everything she needed when she came to our house. She even had all the tools at her disposal to prepare their meals, or could heat leftovers to eat.
With preschool, you’ll be responsible for packing your child’s lunch every day, including utensils and ice packs. And not all preschools are willing to heat school lunches, so you might be limited to packing thermoses of hot food or cold lunches like sandwiches.
Besides meals, you might also need to pack pull-ups (if your child isn’t potty-trained yet), spare clothes, blankets, and sheets—every day.
Things to consider when choosing a preschool
Let’s say you do decide to enroll your child in preschool, or at least take a look at a few nearby ones. How do you start?
Choosing a preschool can seem daunting, especially as you consider all the factors in making a good decision. You’ve found a few options but don’t know how to narrow them down. You want all your bases covered so you can feel confident with the school he’ll eventually attend.
But which factors should you consider when making a choice? Here are questions to ask yourself when choosing a preschool:
1. Do their hours coincide with your schedule?
Some preschools only function a few hours of the day—9am to 2pm for instance. Others offer morning and afternoon care.
As a working mom, I needed a school that would accommodate a variety of schedules. One that would allow my husband to drop our son off before going to work, but flexible as well so I can pick him up in the mid-afternoon.
Depending on your schedule (from work, school or other obligations) consider the preschool’s hours.
2. How much does the preschool cost?
No matter how much we love a preschool, if its fees are out of our budget, we simply can’t afford to enroll.
Consider how much you’re willing and able to pay for preschool. Ask if they have different fees for different hours. For instance, most preschools charge less for half days (9am to 12pm), or for three days of the week instead of five. See if they also have sibling discounts, and ask about tuition increases in the future.
3. What’s the energy of the preschool?
Sometimes the deciding factor when choosing a preschool is simply the energy or vibe you get from the place. For instance, I visited a well-rated preschool but found its environment too boisterous for my son’s temperament.
Visit preschools before making a decision. The school might look impressive online or through word of mouth, but only in visiting will determine whether your child can thrive.
4. What’s the teacher/student ratio?
Consider how many students each teacher will have under her watch, as well as whether she has an aide to help.
You want a good balance: not too many children that teachers are too busy to give each one ample attention. But also not too little that he might feel like he’s “on the spot” without the benefit of blending in.
5. How many times a year does the preschool break for the holidays or vacation?
Some preschools are off two weeks in December and another two during the spring, not to mention a few more breaks during the summer. For many working parents, too many breaks may not be feasible.
I was grateful my son’s preschool offered child care year round (with the exception of one week in the summer). If your preschool breaks frequently, arrange your schedules to coincide with the breaks. For instance, you can schedule your vacation days during those weeks.
6. What’s the preschool’s philosophy?
Read the preschool’s website and speak with its director to understand their philosophy on education, child development, discipline and learning methods.
You might favor one preschool because they follow similar values and philosophies you want to encourage with your child.
7. How is the preschool rated?
Besides word of mouth, research potential preschools online to see what other parents say about them.
I used greatschools.org and Google to read other parents’ reviews and get an unbiased sense of what the school was like for others. Testimonials on the school’s website, while reassuring, exclude less-than-favorable reviews.
8. How convenient is it for your child to attend the preschool?
Sometimes simple convenience can be a deciding factor. Conveniences to consider include:
- How easy are drop offs and pick ups?
- Is the school located near your home or work?
- Does it offer a lunch menu or are willing to heat up your child’s lunch?
- Is the school walking distance so that grandma or another caregiver can walk to school?
9. How do you feel about the school?
As irrational as a gut feeling may be, sometimes it’s much more telling than any preschool pros and cons list. After all, the brain can argue a side indefinitely, while your heart usually tells you what’s right.
How does the school feel to you? The director, the teachers, the classrooms?
However important technical factors may be, you need to feel confident about that particular preschool. Nothing will ever be perfect—there might be a few annoyances to overlook. But if you generally feel positive about the school, there’s a good chance your child will too.
With all three of my boys having attended the same preschool, I’ve been more than happy with my decision. They’ve excelled so much, from learning to read and write to making and being good friends. Leaving preschool for the last time was a bittersweet moment, where goodbye really meant goodbye.
That said, I was also in the same shoes as you might be: unsure whether this is the right choice, and considering all aspects of sending your child to preschool. I also understand that, given these insights and considerations, you might choose not to send him, after all.
And that’s okay—do what works for you.
Whether you decide to go the preschool route or not, hopefully you can now make a better-informed decision moving forward.
Get more tips:
- Help Your Child Transition to Preschool (and Calm Your Nerves as Well!)
- Creating an After School Routine for Preschoolers
- How to Create a Math Rich Environment at Home
- How to Make Learning Stick
- Easy! 12 Ways to Teach Preschoolers about Money
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