Is My Child Ready for Preschool? Common Signs of School Readiness
As parents, it can be difficult to know when it's time for your children to move on to the next developmental stage in their lives, especially when you're considering whether they're ready to enter preschool. There are no hard and fast rules for school readiness in young children, but there are some signs that your child may be ready for the new challenges of preschool.
Desire for Independence
You may have noticed that your child doesn't want your help nearly as often as they used to. Perhaps you're even getting into frequent power struggles with your once sweet, accommodating child. This new independence signifies that your child is ready to explore more of their world. Still, they also need to learn how to harness that independence by learning how to work with others in a group, follow directions, and finish activities they've started.
These are all aspects of life that your child will begin to learn at preschool. They will get to express their independence by choosing what they want to work on, but they will have boundaries to channel their need for control into productive activities. Learning the full work cycle of selecting a task, completing it satisfactorily, and cleaning up is the next step for these newly independent young people. Preschool is the perfect conduit for their blossoming self-reliance.
If your child always wants to help you with your tasks or be in the middle of any activity you or others in the household are doing, they are looking for purposeful engagement. They enjoy helping with "big people" jobs because it makes them feel smart, strong, and grown-up. Preschool can foster this desire to help by giving them responsibility for their classroom. All activities at preschool are done with purpose, allowing children to take pride in their accomplishments.
Preschool teachers use children's natural desire to teach them valuable life skills like setting the table, watering plants, preparing snacks, and wiping down tables and chairs. Each new challenge allows children to discover they can independently accomplish new tasks, thereby building self-confidence and preparing them for kindergarten and beyond. Their hard work will not go unnoticed either, as acknowledgment is a cornerstone of children’s personal growth.
Children who are ready to move on to preschool display the ability to concentrate on one task for a longer period of time. Additionally, if they become distracted while in the middle of an activity, they're able to recover and return to the task more quickly than children who may not yet be ready for the next step. This shows that the child finds the activity so compelling that they want to see it through to the end.
This sign of being ready for preschool is important because, at this level, a child's learning will be more self-directed. As they'll be in a larger group with fewer adults, they will need to have the ability to stick to their activities even in the face of potential distractions. As mentioned before, part of the preschool curriculum promotes prolonged concentration, which allows this learning to take place more easily.
Preschools provide children with dozens of opportunities each day to collaborate with other children their age. Therefore, your child should be beginning to develop enough social maturity to want to observe and work with their peers. While they are still learning how to take turns, wait patiently for their turn, and be interested in watching others when it's not their turn, these emerging behaviors of respect and curiosity are hallmark signs that they will successfully transition to preschool.
This is a part of being independent, but it warrants its own section because preschools vary on their policies about whether a child must be fully potty trained. At some schools, like Richmond Montessori, potty training is part of the curriculum for ages 18 months through 3 years. Other preschools, however, may require that a child is fully potty trained and able to change their clothes by themselves in the case of an accident.
Regardless of the preschool’s potty training policy, if your child is not yet toilet trained, this is a skill you can help your child with to help them gain self-confidence as they prepare themselves for the new challenges that await them at preschool. Plus, it'll free you up to do more of your own things at home!
Minimal Separation Anxiety
Some separation anxiety is completely normal, but if your child cannot be away from you for any amount of time, they may not be ready for preschool, where they will need to be comfortable spending several hours separated from you. You can prepare them for this eventual separation by leaving them in the care of others for increasingly longer periods of time until they can separate from you with minimal stress or anxiety.
Keep in mind that if your child becomes severely upset when you leave them at the preschool, it can be unnerving for the other children in the classroom. To help with the transition, you may want to pack an object that comforts them so they can look at it during the day if they become anxious about the separation. Most schools are understanding about the need to connect with something familiar when kids feel out of sorts.
Most young children do well with routines, but if your life has not been conducive to set routines for some reason, your child may not understand why preschool follows predictable patterns each day. When a child begins to want routine and becomes frustrated when they can't follow a schedule due to unforeseen circumstances, they are probably ready to start preschool, where routines are vital for keeping kids calm and engaged with learning.
Fortunately, you can start to prepare your child easily by implementing small routines throughout your day. Even if you're not able to have a set routine all day, you can have one to get up in the morning or go to bed at night. Or perhaps, you can have your child follow a routine that begins when you get home for the day, regardless of what time. Following routines will help your child adapt better to preschool.
Your child will need some communication skills when they enter preschool. If your child is already asking questions based on curiosity, such as "what's this?" or "why?" they are already communicating their desire to learn more about the world around them. Of course, they also need to be able to communicate their needs, including having to go to the bathroom, being hurt, or needing help from a teacher. These skills will only improve with school.
As mentioned above, there are really no set guidelines as to when your child will be ready for preschool, but if they are exhibiting many of these characteristics, you can bet they are either ready to attend preschool or they will be soon. Contact Richmond Montessori School today, and we'll discuss the next appropriate steps for your child.