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Registering your child for Pre-K? Hold that thought! Preschool programs in the United States can start for kids as young as 2, but the truth is, age ain’t nothin’ but number when it comes to determining your child’s readiness. What other indicators should you look for to see if your little one is prepared to take this big step?

Early childhood education isn’t about facts and figures; it’s about friendships, and learning through play. Parents assume that when their child can count to 10 they’re ready for preschool, however, as Kiddie Academy director Renee Thompson explains, “It’s social readiness, not academic readiness parents should be observing.”

In order for your child to get the most out of their preschool experience, it’s important that they first meet certain social milestones.

  1. Does she show interest in playing with other children?
    A child who’s isolated and doesn’t engage with their classmates won’t gain as much from a preschool program as a child who easily interacts with others and is able to reap the full benefits of directed and free play.If your child is on the shy side, get her accustomed to being around other kids her age by taking her to playgroups, parks, or participating in other activities that allow her to meet new friends in a safe, comfortable environment.
  2. Can she complete self-care tasks?
    The preschool day is full of routine activities: playtime, storytime, naptime, snack…. In order to keep up with the pace of the day, your child should be able to show signs of independence through their ability to handle “self-care tasks,” like handwashing, feeding themselves, and using the restroom, if being pottytrained is one of their preschool’s prerequisites.
  3. Can she communicate simple needs?
    If your son or daughter needs to use the restroom, will they let an adult know? Are they able to tell someone if they’re hurt or need help? Many times, as parents, we do the talking for our kids, but the independent preschooler must have the freedom and the ability to communicate on their own. “Your child needs to have speech and language to express upsets, needs, and wants prior to entering school without you, as her advocate,” says The Self Aware Parent author, Dr. Fran Walfish.
  4. Can she follow simple verbal commands?
    (That’s “can” she; not “will” she!) Throughout the day, your child could be asked to do any number of tasks; from helping to pick up toys to getting in a straight line to walk from one activity to another. Being able to follow these commands isn’t only necessary for the learning process, but it also helps keep them safe.
  5. Is she comfortable being separated from family?
    “Good preschools will not accept a child before age 2 years and 9 months,” Dr. Walfish, tells MommyNoire. “That is the youngest age when a child can begin to comprehend and trust that mommy leaves and will always come back.” While it’s expected for kids to show some signs of anxiety when starting school, most of those fears subside soon after the day begins. However, if your child has shown in the past that they don’t do well away from you, it may be in their best interest to wait until they’ve developed more independence.

Remember, the choice to send your child to preschool is yours, but do your homework! Teachers and administrators at prospective schools are a great resource to help you determine what’s best for your son or daughter, so you can get their educational career off to a good start.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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