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 depends on many factors.
Because each family has their own unique circumstances, each child has 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 or not, below is a list of preschool pros and cons. These are the actual points I brought up myself as I was trying to decide whether to send my son to preschool.
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 what I love about preschool…
Pro #1: A learning environment that can be difficult to replicate at home
I’m all for downtime, free play, and the value kids get from tinkering right at home. At the same time, I found that preschool offers children a learning environment that can be pretty difficult to emulate at home.
Preschool is structured with a curriculum. Even if you have a routine in place at home, you’d need to be intentional with teaching your child the skills other kids learn at school. My kids learn so much at school that I would never even think of teaching or introducing to them myself.
For example, they’ve learned to read and write much earlier than I would’ve expected myself to begin teaching them. They’ve also explored states and capitals, do daily art activities and sing and dance to songs. While these are things I might’ve done at home, I certainly wouldn’t do them as consistently.
Pro #2: A place to practice social skills
While occasional play dates or even daily trips to the park offer kids a chance to socialize, sometimes it’s not enough. At preschool, your child will be with the same kids all the time, allowing them to develop deeper friendships and practice social skills.
Play dates and park outings also include too much adult interference. We often make the mistake of stepping in too quickly before letting kids resolve their own conflict.
But at preschool, kids are more likely to interact with one another without the teacher’s hawk-like supervision. And this is a good thing! Your child will be able to experience and practice what it’s like to interact with her peers, all on her own.
Pro #3: Relationships with other trusted adults
Is your child extra clingy with you? Being the primary caregiver can mean your child has a difficult time being with other adults. Even family and friends can feel foreign to her, especially when she has grown so used to being with you and only you.
Enrolling your child 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.
Your child will 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 four-year-old 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.
Events like these expose kids to new experiences that I wouldn’t be able to offer on my own at home. They’ve also grown caterpillars into butterflies, held performances, and learned gymnastics and yoga.
Even though I try to introduce my kids to new experiences and places, I like how their preschool does so as well, and in ways I may not be 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 schoolPreschool bridges the gap between home and big kids school, so that once they’re 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 can be in school.
For instance, one school I visited needed my son to attend four days in a row—they were pretty inflexible with allowing three days. Others were only available from 9am-12pm, with expensive before and after school options.
With a 3pm dismissal, I had to rush to leave work early enough to pick them up on time. 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
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 a monthly tuition, you might be responsible for registration fees, deposits, or school supplies. Some preschools also increase tuition every year that your child attends.
When you’ve got twins like I do, preschool costs can come steep!
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 the 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.
Thankfully, we didn’t run into this problem when the twins enrolled in school. They’d already been exposed to the germs from their older brother, building up immunity long before they entered preschool.
Con #4: Challenging drop-offs
As with any transitions, those initial drop-offs in the morning can be tough for both you and your child.
This is a huge change for both of you, but especially for her. She may be harboring separation anxiety, or isn’t so certain when you’ll come back. She’s unsure of her new teachers and classmates, and that 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 your child will cope.
Even after your child has adjusted to school, she still might have those days when she doesn’t want to go to school. She might throw a tantrum right when you’re already running late for work, or put up a fight and insist on staying home instead.
Thankfully those are rare, and the initial adjustment is temporary. But be prepared to handle your child’s behavior and possible regressions during this period.
Con #5: Packing school lunches and toiletries
One of the things I loved about having a nanny is 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. You might be limited to packing thermoses of hot food or cold meals 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.
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 for your child can seem daunting, especially as you consider all the factors in making a good decision. You’ve found some good options but don’t know how to narrow them down. You want all your bases covered and to feel confident with the school your child will eventually attend.
But which factors should you consider when making a choice?
Here are questions to ask yourself about what to look for 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 that I can pick him up in the mid-afternoon.
Depending on your schedule (whether due to work, school or other obligations) consider the hours when choosing a preschool.
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.
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—a factor I didn’t think would benefit 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 its premises will you be able to determine whether you can see your child thrive in that school.
4. What’s the teacher/student ratio?
Consider as well how many students each teacher will have, as well as whether the teacher has an aide to help.
You want a good balance: not too many that teachers are too busy to give each child ample attention, but also not too little that, depending on your child’s personality, she might feel like she’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 run like regular schools, complete with 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 general philosophy regarding education, child development, discipline and learning methods among a few.
You may find that you favor one preschool over another simply because they follow similar values and philosophies you already have.
7. How is the preschool rated?
In addition to 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 is like to 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 gut feeling is, sometimes it’s much more telling than any “pros and cons” list (because truly, 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 also need to feel good and confident about sending your child to that particular preschool. Nothing will ever be perfect—there might be a few annoyances to overlook—but if you generally feel good about the school, there’s a good chance your child will too.
After this summer, the boys will have one more full year of preschool before entering public school. Preschool will be a smaller community than what I know will face them when they leave.
They’ve excelled so much, from learning to read and write, to making good friends. I already know it’ll be a bittersweet moment, more so than when my eldest left. Because this time, it’ll be final—we have no other kids to enroll, and goodbye will really mean goodbye.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I enrolled all three kids in preschool, so you know where I stand—this was the right choice for me. Hopefully you’ve gathered a balanced view nonetheless and can decide whether preschool is the right choice for you, too.
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
- Top Ways to Help Kids Remember What They Learn
- Easy! 12 Ways to Teach Preschoolers about Money
Source: Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam
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