Preschool Pros and Cons: Should You Send Your Child to Preschool?

Deciding to send your child to preschool can be a hard choice. Take a look at these preschool pros and cons to help you make your decision.

Preschool Pros and Cons

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 its own unique circumstances, and each child has his own needs. So, even though I went the preschool route, I’m also not blind to many of its downsides.

To help you decide whether to send your child to preschool, below are the points I considered as I was trying to make that decision myself. Hopefully, you’ll find these insights as useful as this parent who said:

“Thank you, Nina, for this article. Trying to decide about preschool and this was helpful.”

Advantages of preschool

Let’s start with the advantages of preschool and some of the reasons you should consider enrolling your child.

Pro 1: A learning environment that can be difficult to recreate at home

I’m all for downtime, free play, and tinkering at home. At the same time, preschools offer an early childhood education 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 that kids are learning at school. He can learn so much at school—lessons you may not have thought of teaching or introducing yourself. After all, teachers have years of experience doing this that you and I may not have.

At preschool, he can start reading and writing much earlier than you were planning to teach him. He learns interesting lessons, from daily art activities to singing and dancing. While these are activities you could 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 daily trips to the park offer your child a chance to socialize, sometimes it’s not enough.

For one thing, he can’t always practice social skills when parents and adults interfere often. Their activities are also often centered around play, whereas preschool offers other environments like exposing them to potty training or learning to take turns.

He’ll also be with the same kids for long stretches, allowing him to develop friendships and practice social skills. He’ll be able to experience what it’s like to interact with his peers—the same ones every day—all on his own.

Pro 3: Relationships with other trusted adults

Is your toddler too clingy to 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. And 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

“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. He might grow caterpillars into butterflies, put on a holiday performance, and learn gymnastics and yoga.

Even though I introduced my kids to new experiences and places, I still liked these preschool programs that I wouldn’t have been able to do at home.

Pro 5: Upward mobility

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Experts 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.”

It turns out, investing in preschool (and later, college) is key to giving your child a great chance of doing well in adulthood. So much so that experts believe we ought to devote resources and give access to both, just as we do to the other years of schooling.

Pro 6: Preparation for school

Preschool is an environment that prepares your child for kindergarten and primary school. Daycare staff and nannies don’t always provide this kind of preparation, given that their main purpose is childcare, not so much education.

For instance, at preschool, she learns to follow the teacher’s instructions and play with other kids. She develops the discipline to wake up and get to school on time and the experience of eating lunch away from home. And of course, she practices how to listen and learn in a group setting.

Preschool bridges the gap between home and school. Once she’s ready for kindergarten, the transition can be much smoother after having had the preschool experience.

Disadvantages of preschool

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of preschool, what are a few cons of preschool you might run into?

Con 1: 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 your child.

Besides 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.

Even if you have the option of returning to the workforce, sometimes it can feel like your whole paycheck goes toward preschool costs.

Con 2: 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 required my son to attend a minimum of four days in a row and was 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 pick-up time can be difficult for some parents to meet, especially if you work late hours or drive long commutes.

Con 3: High likelihood of getting sick

It’s not uncommon for kids to get sick often once they’re with other kids every day.

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. My son attended play dates from time to time but that was no match to being with other kids all the time.

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 have separation anxiety, isn’t certain when you’ll come back, or feels unsure of her new preschool teachers and classmates. These emotions can make for difficult mornings.

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 about how she’ll cope.

Even after she has adjusted, she still might have those days when she doesn’t want to go to school or think it’s worth it. She might throw a tantrum about getting into the car seat right when you’re already running late for work.

Thankfully these are rare, and the initial adjustment is temporary. But be prepared to handle these issues during this period.

Con 5: Packing school lunches and clothes

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.

With preschool, you’ll be responsible for packing your child’s lunch every day, including utensils and ice packs. 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.

The bottom line

Even though my kids went to preschool, the decision to send them wasn’t always clear. My husband and I had to consider many factors before finally making that choice. Whether you go the preschool route or not, hopefully reading these pros and cons has helped you feel confident about your decision.

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